Sunday, July 30, 2006

Men given to tears are good.

There has been a traditional image of western men as macho "John Wayne type" characters swaggering dry-eyed through life with weeping frail women clinging to their strong arm. In fact pioneering women in the Old West were probably as tough as old boots with little time for copious weeping.

So, is crying for men sissy, or just a natural phenomenon that has its place and purpose? As little children, boys cry as much as girls in order to alert their parents to hunger, discomfort and pain, but as we grow we begin to get criticism. "Don't be a cry baby". "Big boys don't cry". We come to regard ceasing to cry as being grown up. But is it a good thing to stifle tears? Medical opinion would appear to be that over-repressing emotions can lead to stress and heart attacks.

It seems that it really all depends on the type of crying - babyish whining in a grown man or woman is unbecoming, but real emotion expressed in a few tears communicates genuineness. Most adult males are moved to tears by severe emotional onslaughts such as the death of a close friend or relative, and, generally speaking, women are probably more given to expressing their feelings with tears.

Does this mean that a man who cries more easily than average is effeminate, or even cowardly, as some might imply? Well, this blog was inspired by Sir Winston Chuchill and he was regularly in tears. Now, who would say that someone who was involved in most of the wars of his century, took part in cavalry charges, rescued wounded soldiers from the Boers, escaped single-handedly from prisoner-of-war camp, and finally became the great hero who defeated the Nazis, was effeminate?

Strong men can have strong emotions and a few tears show how genuine they are. The important thing is that tears should not stop a man from doing his duty. Who cares if a hero's eyes are full of tears as he saves the day - better a wet-eyed saviour than a dry-eyed skulk.

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