by Pamela Maringa

If I received a Rand each time I heard the phrase, “Men don’t cry”, I would probably be rich by now.

Crying is something that most of us do to release our feelings and it’s a normal part of our lives. However, if you are a man, there are different standards that are likely to be applied. Society unnecessarily associates a man who cries with being weak, effeminate, or gay. Somehow, a man is seen as less than whole, if any, or too much emotion is displayed.

I come from an environment where men have to pretend to be strong because the society demands it from them. Often, boys are taught never to show weakness, never to show fragility and above all, “never to let them see your tears”.  This is because tears are believed to be markers of failure.

Over time, we find that men are not able to share their feelings. They often resort to other ways of dealing with their problems such as drugs, alcohol and the abuse of women. I see this in my township, Daveyton. A young man would lose a parent and everyone would expect him to go on as usual. In black communities, things like depression are seen as a “white man’s disease”. When a man shares a problem with others, you hear response like “uzoba strong”, which means, you will be strong. Your peers will advise you to smoke little bit of weed to deal with it. These young men grow up with anger. Some of them even commit suicide when its gets too much.

In January 2016, there was plenty of commentary about President Obama’s public display of emotion (shedding a tear) while discussing gun violence in the United States (U.S.). The questions that immediately emerged were related to whether it’s appropriate for a country’s leader to display emotion.

These comments inferred that being emotional would somehow diminish the power and respect for the man in this office. An alternative view is that crying represents caring and compassion, along with a display of a lack of ego, strength, confidence, and self-awareness.

Research has shown that crying can be therapeutic for a person and it can it be a way of flushing out negative toxic chemicals out of the body.

In the Bible we read about strong, great men such as Joseph, Jacob, Job, David and even Jesus, who all shed tears. Each of these men were leaders. Crying didn’t degrade who they were, but instead it made them better. The book of Ecclesiastes 3:4 says “There’s a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance”. Just as much as we have time to laugh out loud, there is also time to cry out loud. There’s a season for everything. Sometimes crying is the only available emotional response to a situation. Resisting the urge to cry may lead to mental health issues.

Surely we have a wider responsibility as a society to examine how we implant and enforce the damagingly rigid, insular stoicism that underpins our understanding of what it means to be a man. If more men would cry out for help and show their emotions, I believe we wouldn’t have some of the social problems we have today. We wouldn’t have some of the crimes taking place in our societies. Men would be able to communicate and seek help to deal with their problems instead of resorting to substance abuse.

Parents can’t continue to turn their sons into hard stones. The world needs more caring and warm hearted men.  A boy should know that crying is a normal part of life. Raise your children in a way that they will be a representation of you, not of the world.