For a lot of women, a lot of the time, crying is a lot like sweating.
I don't remember where I heard that analogy, but it rings true for me. Sometimes when I (and other women I know) cry, it's not because I'm upset. And they aren't necessarily tears of joy, either. It's just a kind of physical release. Like sweating when you exercise, it's an outward sign of some good, healthy work happening on the inside.
But not everyone understands that, even among the female population. Whenever we see someone cry, our first thought is that something is wrong with them. If you are a compassionate type, you'll probably go up and put your arm around them and ask if they're okay, in that sing-songy sweet voice we use in such situations -- we may even call them "honey", or some such endearing, motherly term, because it just feels right to act like a mama right then. And when they protest that they are fine, we assume they just need more coaxing to let it all out and feel better, so we hug them some more and call them "sweetie" or "sister" or something else, hoping to project ourselves as a safe repository for all the deep secrets and emotions that are troubling them.
And this brings me to last weekend. I spent Thursday, Friday and Saturday in St. Louis with my two sisters attending a Joyce Meyer women's conference. A conference I really enjoyed, more than I thought I might. I've read some of Meyer's books and appreciated a lot of her teaching as very valuable, but I've always had some misgivings about her, and I wasn't sure how I would like a weekend full of her. But it turned out to be a great conference.
Yet, the crying issue came up. The women at this conference leaned toward the charismatic Christian tradition and were very vocal and demonstrative, particularly during the "praise and worship" (read: music). Didn't bother me . . . in fact, I found myself at times feeling the urge to raise my hands as I sang as well. But I didn't. Why, do you ask?
Because I knew that if I did, I would start crying. Sweat-type crying. Just an emotional release that probably would have been good for me at the time. But I was with my sisters (who are not used to me crying) and one sister's two friends (who didn't really know me at all), and I didn't want to start the hugging/mothering/oh-honey-just-let-it-all-out cycle. Mainly, it would have disrupted the good worship that was going on -- they would have been worried about what was wrong with me, I would have been frustrated at not being able to convince them nothing was wrong, the women around us would have been distracted by wondering if something serious was going down here that they should be praying about . . . you know.
Need to figure out a brief, simple answer to give to that question, "Are you okay?" Something that frees the inquirer and myself both to just let me do some healthy crying when the occasion calls for it.