Humans have a complicated relationship with tears. Some people—perhaps because of how they were raised or because they’re naturally inclined to stoicism—hold them in at all costs. Others seem able to cry on command. But whatever our preference, we all must admit that there is no shortage of weeping in Scripture. Consider Psalm 6:6, where David tells God, “I am weary with my sighing; every night I make my bed swim, I dissolve my couch with my tears.” If David could have a good, ugly cry, so should we.
The Japanese people consider crying good for us, so much so that they’ve created something called rui-katsu, which means “tear seeking.” Members of these “crying clubs” come together to watch sad movies and have a good bawl—all with the goal of staying balanced and mentally healthy.
And He isn’t the only one. Abraham mourned over Sarah (Gen. 23:2). Hannah “wept bitterly” over her childlessness (1 Samuel 1:10), and Job, well, Job cried out to God on more than one occasion (and for good reason). Peter wept (Mark 14:72). Jesus wept (John 11:35).
BASAL: Our eyes constantly secrete these protein-rich, antibacterial tears, which moisten our eyes whenever we blink.
REFLEX: These tears are prompted by things like smoke, wind, or strong smells. (Think onions!) They flush out irritants and protect the eye.
EMOTIONAL: These tears, which contain a higher level of stress hormones, are triggered by our feelings and reactions. The ones most commonly associated with weeping actually benefit humans in both body and mind. Perhaps this is partially why the apostle Paul tells us we should “rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep” (Rom. 12:15). For example, such tears help us …
Believe it or not, a person produces 10 ounces of tears per day. (That’s roughly 30 gallons a year!)
• Self-Soothe—Researchers discovered crying activates the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). Emotional tears also contain higher amounts of manganese, potassium, and hormones such as prolactin—all of which are essential for physical and mental well-being.
• Dull Pain—A lengthy cry releases oxytocin and endorphins, which relieve physical and emotional distress.
• Reduce Stress—Weeping allows stress hormones like cortisol to leave the body, thereby reducing tension.
• Improve Mood—Sobbing involves taking in large breaths of air, which helps regulate brain temperature and overall attitude.
• Restore Emotional Balance—People cry for many reasons, often because of extreme emotions such as sadness, joy, or fear. According to researchers at Yale University, crying restores emotional equilibrium.
• Enhance Communication—Crying lets others know something is wrong and naturally inspires them to help. This is called attachment behavior, and it allows people to be transparent and build social support networks.
Detail of A Stirring Letter, Unknown, 19th century