Surely physical pain can and does cause great suffering and tears because of its intensity. Women especially know agonizing pain because of childbirth or disabling, long-term problems with their reproductive system. Migraines or cancer or severe injuries can drop either gender to the floor. And the list goes on. Yet when it isn’t physical pain, why do we cry?
Outside of bodily pain, we cry because our eternal spirits have been touched, often in joy but more often because they are wounded, even devastated by someone else’s cruelty: heart-rending actions by the evil among us, inward rage turned outward, callous neglect, lack of compassion, self-centered decisions, or no evidence of a conscience at all.
So many mortal events drive a spear through our eternal spirits. We grieve when bereavement hits us personally, whether the loss is of a beloved friend, a delightful pet, or even a crotchety family member. We cry out in bewilderment at the senseless loss of a community. Yet telling their families, “God doesn’t make mistakes – He knows what He’s doing” is barely consoling and is often the wrong thing to say in those raw, early hours. All true Christians know deep down that what you’re saying is true but rubbing their faces in it just makes the internal screaming worse. The survivor perceives that you weren’t even paying attention to their agony, let alone comprehending their suffering. They are in denial that the death(s) even happened.
We shed floods of tears and pray with all our hearts for a child who has lost their way and is trying to find his or her way home. We grieve over loss of a career, especially when we are “let go” by myopic management focused solely on the bottom line. We mourn for the lost opportunities that went, often unjustly, to others. Those will never come around again, because age precludes them. All of these events can leave horrible emptiness in our lives, a sense of being totally alone in our sorrow.
Unless we’ve been living our lives in a hermitage, we probably know both kinds of tears only too well, both the physical, pain-driven, and the spiritual wipe-out. Time does heal but rarely does it heal quickly. Neither should it.
From the psychological perspective, crying today exposes the underlying wound from earlier times:
- We may have felt abandoned as a child when our parents divorced and (usually) dad moved away. Now here is abandonment again, as our spouse announces he or she is moving out.
- We may have suffered years of rejection, starting with elementary school, on through college and into the world of work. Either we didn’t fit in or others were jealous of us. Now we’ve been rejected again as a potential friend.
- We may have been bullied repeatedly, again starting in school or at home and then it found us in the workplace. Yes, there are young adult and adult bullies, female bullies as well as male bullies. They are everywhere! The more power they think they have over you, even throwing office supplies and furniture at you and your associates, the more despicable the behavior of their inflated ego becomes.
Sometimes professional therapy is a good source of helping us understand our emotional and spiritual injuries, providing the way to sort things out in our heads. Sometimes we cannot heal until someone else has sincerely apologized and we have accepted their apology, thereby forgiving them. This can take time. Forgiveness need not be and often cannot be, instantaneous, depending on the gravity of the offense. If offered too soon, forgiveness can be seen as insincere because the victim is still in shock. Every situation is different.
At other times, as President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said in the 2018 Christmas Devotional (“A second gift the Savior offers…” section), we can forgive those who have hurt us and move on because some people may never accept responsibility for their cruelty to us.
The Savior is our only sure source of peace through these sorrows. There is no other place to turn when others have disappointed us. He is the only One who can heal our wounded spirits, so that the hurtful acts of others can no longer canker our souls.