“Men don’t cry.”
Most men, young and old, have heard these words at some point in their lives. Maybe it was from their father, an elder brother, a friend or acquaintance.
What they are, or rather what they’ve become, is an example of what’s been called “toxic masculinity,” a belief that traditional values considered “manly” are inherently damaging to society at large.
It’s something I’ve heard many an individual–man and woman–bring up often in the last few years, often to to say how we need to purge it from our cultural consciousness, and move on from something so obsolete and unquestionably wrong.
But I don’t buy that.
I’m a guy that usually takes charge, enjoys a competition, and generally keeps his thoughts and feelings to himself. I own guns, drink whisky, cuss, and greatly enjoy working with my hands.
But I’m also a guy that owns plenty of pink shirts, is soft-spoken, drinks green tea, and enjoys the arts.
People don’t generally describe me as a Manly Man, who does Manly Things because I Am A Man, and it doesn’t really bother me that they don’t either, but while I’m not described as manly I am frequently described as acting like a man, and that’s something I agree with wholeheartedly.
But would that make me toxic? Are my masculine traits damaging to the people around me?
Why don’t we get back to that horrible, toxic tenant of masculinity that “men don’t cry.” Though the wording gives me pause, I find a lot of value in it, since I am a man that cries!
…but not in public. Never in public, and especially not around strangers.
Why? It’s simple: I’m strong, and I want people to know that.
But like I said, I don’t agree with how “men don’t cry” is worded while agreeing very much with its sentiment.
So what IS the sentiment?
Well, let’s break down why we might cry; it’s long been thought of that crying is a sign of weakness, and while I think that’s partially true, if we only cried in moments of weakness we wouldn’t have instances where we cried tears of joy–just one of hundreds of examples.
Crying is so much more than just having weakness, it’s joy, it’s release, it’s despair, it’s pain. Quite simply, it’s pure tangible emotion, and men as human beings feel these emotions, and there is absolutely no shame in that.
But if I saw someone, man or woman, crying so hard in public that they’re an unintelligible, blubbering mess, I’d think of them as weak.
So let’s go back to “men don’t cry” and modify it to “men don’t cry because they’re not weak.”
But that raises a new question, does lacking weakness equate to not crying?
To be a man does not mean becoming an emotionally barren machine whose sole purpose it is to make money, so while they can’t control the emotions they can’t help but feel, they can control their reactions.
That is called strength, and to be a man you must be strong.
So now “men don’t cry” could be thought of as “men don’t cry, because they must be strong rather than weak.”
That’s a bit of a mouthful, but it’s close to that sentiment that I hold to be so true. But to fully grasp this essential tenant of masculinity it’s essential to know what it means to be strong.
I’ve seen the strongest, toughest men I know cry, who are Manly Men that Do Manly Things because they Are Men, but were no less strong than I thought and knew they were, despite having a moment(s) of weakness.
They were strong because despite feeling weakness in the face of adversity, they pushed it aside and carried on to better days.
Strength is not the absence of weakness, it is the power to continue forth despite feeling weak.
Now we’ve arrived at the virtue I hold so true, and while this article has been written in the context of applying to men, it’s something that can apply to anyone.
But maybe these people decrying “men don’t cry” as toxic have a point. Maybe we could pivot on the thought while still retaining the value.
“Men can cry, but they can’t keep crying.”
I like that. It’s encouraging and most importantly optional, so if you are someone that doesn’t like to put your emotions on display, that’s fine too.
You don’t need to be infallible, you just need to be strong, strong for the ones that need you to be.