CRYING accompanies us from the day we are born. One expert explains that as babies, crying became our “acoustic umbilical cord,” because we cry to have our emotional and physical needs cared for. But why do we shed tears as we grow older, when we can communicate in other ways?
Emotional tears flood our eyes for a variety of reasons. We may cry because of grief, frustration, or physical or psychological suffering. But euphoria, relief, and achievement likewise provoke emotional tears—in this case, tears of joy. Tears can also be contagious. “If I see someone else weeping—whatever the cause—I can’t help but feel moved to tears,” says María. Maybe imaginary situations in a film or a book have also made you cry.
Whatever the reason, crying is a powerful nonverbal language. “There are few other ways to say so much in such a brief interval,” explains the book Adult Crying. Tears provoke reactions. For example, most of us find tears of sadness difficult to ignore because they alert us that someone is suffering. In response, we may try to comfort or help the one who weeps.
Some experts believe that crying provides a useful outlet for our emotions and that systematically holding back tears may damage our health. Others argue that the physical or psychological benefits of crying have not been scientifically verified. Nevertheless, surveys estimate that 85 percent of women and 73 percent of men reported feeling better after crying. “Sometimes, I know I need to cry,” explains Noemí. “Afterward, I can take a deep breath and see things more clearly, in their true perspective.”
Surveys estimate that 85 percent of women and 73 percent of men reported feeling better after crying
But this feeling of relief may depend not only on tears. The way others respond to our crying also plays an important role. For instance, when our tears move others to comfort us or to help us, we feel relieved. But if the response to our tears is not good, we may feel ashamed or rejected.
Clearly, mysteries about crying remain. What we do know is that shedding tears is one of the intriguing emotional responses God has given us.