Did you watch the Superbowl? I didn’t. But the next morning there was a big hubbub about Carolina Panthers cornerback, Josh Norman, weeping over the team’s loss.
What I found interesting was that the article didn’t offer a hint of man-shaming for Norman’s moment of emotion. Rather, it lauded him for helping “put a nail in the coffin of an old stereotype—the backward idea that “real men” have “no feelings.”
This gave me great hope. It also inspired me to ask why men’s tears are still—at least in the general public—considered verboten. It’s the 21st century. We as human beings are beginning to awaken to our interconnectedness—to feel is to be fully human.
It’s time for men to own their sadness again.
No more “stiff upper lip.” Forget “boys don’t cry.”
What benefit is there in suppressing emotions on a regular basis? I can’t think of a single one, but I can tell you about the damage it does. Repression of feelings creates a build-up of unexpressed emotions that over time, bursts forth in unpredictable and often undesirable ways. Sudden and wild rage, for example. Or war. Or cancer.
The mind-body connection is inescapable. Emotions that have no outlet turn inward, causing the body to enter sympathetic mode—our “fight or flight” response. As a result, our immune system is triggered, and cortisol levels rise. If not checked, the resulting inflammation becomes out of control, which in turn causes a host of physical ailments from skin disorders to high blood pressure to heart attacks and worse.
The strong-and-silent thing wasn’t always the way.
In his article, “Why is it So Hard for Men to Cry?”—Derek Whitney reminds us that historically, a weeping man was seen as strong and trustworthy. Whitney writes: “World history and literature are filled with male leaders who cried publicly. Tears meant that a man lived by a code of values and cared enough to show emotion when things went wrong.”
Maybe, just maybe, we’re returning to that mindset—remember President Obama’s public tears over gun violence? That was a broad step forward. Then again, Obama’s genuine act of humanness was followed closely by Donald Trump referring to Ted Cruz as a “p*ssy” for not condoning waterboarding.
What will it take for men to trust that the times are, in fact, a-changin’?
I can assure you, there will be no backlash from women—at least no women worth being in relationship with. Here’s the deal, guys: We women want to know that you are in touch with your heart—that the world touches you. We want you to trust us enough to know that if you break down, we will hold space for you, as you have for us since—well, forever.
Of course, no one is saying break down every time you can’t find parking or when your favorite shirt gets eaten by the washing machine. What we want to see is that you have evolved past the expectations of society that you must freeze the flow of your feelings. And it appears society is starting to be ready to see that as well.
When I say take your tears back, I don’t mean hold them back. I mean take them.
Own your sadness—claim your tears as part of the power that makes you a unique being on this earth.
If we want to evolve as human beings, we must finally accept that the full spectrum of emotions belongs to all of us.
There is nothing weak about being fully human.
To help you laugh about crying:
(Are you getting the point?)
Author: Rachel Astarte
Editor: Yoli Ramazzina
Photo: Flickr/Harold Navarro