Shedding tears has health and emotional benefits for men too
Tigers don't cry, you've probably came across this asinine, archaic and toxic saying in your life. It has always surprised me why we have not challenged this oppressive man-unfriendly phenomenon.
I recently read the Medical News Today report by Lana Burgess which in fact spoke about the eight benefits of crying and why it is good to shed a few tears.
The report said: "Crying is a natural response humans have to a range of emotions, including sadness, grieve, joy and frustration."
The report went on to ask a question which in my view is fundamental: Does crying have any health benefits?
What are those benefits? Researchers have found that:
Crying has a soothing effect.
The report goes on to say that self-soothing is when people regulate their own emotions, calm themselves, and reduce their own distress.
When crying one gets support from others and it helps people self-sooth
It says that crying can help people get support from others around them.
Crying helps to relieve pain
It went on to say that sharing emotional tears releases oxytocin and endorphins these chemicals according to the report makes people feel good and may also ease both physical and emotional pain.
In this way the report goes on to say that crying can help reduce pain and promote a sense of wellbeing.
Crying enhances one's mood
It may help lift people's spirits and make them feel better.
As well as releasing pain, oxytocin and endorphins can help improve moods. These two chemicals, according to the report, are known as feel-good chemicals.
Crying releases toxins and relieves stress
When humans cry in response to stress their tears contain a number of stress hormones and other chemicals.
Crying helps with sleeping.
After the calming, mood-enhancing and pain-relieving effects of crying, it does help a person fall asleep more easily.
The seventh benefit of crying is that it fights bacteria
It keeps the eyes clean as tears contain a fluid called lysozyme. This report says that lysozyme has some powerful antimicrobial properties that according to the report it can even help to reduce risks presented by bio tera agents such as anthrax.
Finally, the report says that crying improves vision
There are basal tears released each time a person blinks which according to report help to keep the eyes moist and prevent mucus membranes from drying out.
So, there is a scientific evidence that shows that indeed crying does have health benefits for all of us. There is no evidence that says that crying is bad for men.
The question I therefore ask myself is: Why do we find it unmanly for us men to shed tears when we are vulnerable or when we are in pain?
The simple explanation is how we were raised to believe that when men shed tears they are weak and less of a man. The sad thing about this narrative is that we never stopped to ask ourselves as to why is it that women find it easier to cry and to articulate their fears.
Once again it all must do with how patriarchy imprisons all of us men and frees women from these prison walls called patriarchy. But there is hope out there when powerful men in powerful positions are not afraid to openly publicly shed tears and remain powerful.
Remember former deputy chief justice Dikgang Moseneke during the Life Esidimeni saga? He cried because he felt the pain that the people he was listening to were going through.
I sat there admiring his strength of character and courage. Our own former president Nelson Mandela history tells us that there were three occasions on which he cried, the loss of his son Thembi who he was not able to bury, losing his mother who unfortunately he was also unable to bury and when he announced his separation from Winnie Madikizela-Mandela.
Then there was former president Kgalema Motlanthe who, during the burial of Oom Beyers Naude, cried uncontrollably because of a sense of loss. I admire him and have a deep sense of respect for him.
Former US president Barack Obama shed tears during his inauguration while listening to the late queen of soul Aretha Franklin. I deliberately mentioned these men to make my point, which is that there is absolutely nothing unmanly or being a sissy or being less of a man when as a man you feel emotionally low, frustrated, hurting and without answers to cry.
In fact, I think that crying is cathartic. So next time you feel like crying remember that there are benefits in doing so as a man and as a human being.