Shouldn’t Tears Come with a Gift Receipt?

When I was a teenager, my older brother brought his lovely, poised new girlfriend home to meet us. He introduced me by saying, “And this is Diane; she can cloud up and rain at a Hallmark commercial.”

Dear God. It was – and still is – true. And it remains something about me I would change in a heartbeat if I could.

In Christian circles we are fond of saying, “tears are a gift from God”. The idea is that the ability to feel deeply and express ourselves openly is something God values and has given us out of His abundance. Someone will usually quote John 11:35: “Jesus wept”.

Scott Robinson via Creative Commons

I appreciate gifts, I really do. But this is one I would love to exchange.

No offense, God, but even at this late date maybe I could switch it out for something like a more robust and uninhibited sense of humor; perhaps a penchant for effortless hospitality; or maybe a slightly longer fuse when things don’t go my way? Heck, I’d be happy if I could just multitask a little better.

Understand, I chose a career in law enforcement.

This is not a field where one can or should get all bound up in feelings, especially a woman in what has traditionally been thought a “man’s job”.  I spent 21 years exposed to cruelty and unfairness. There was a lot of sadness.

But the way I handled it without tearing up or breaking down was to redirect my emotional energy into a white-hot desire to see that justice was served. (A lot of the guys I worked with handled things the same way; it wasn’t necessarily a gender thing.)

I memorized verses like Micah 6:8:

And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

                and Amos 5:24:

Let justice roll on like a river and righteousness like a never-ending stream.”

(I like it when things are spelled out clearly in Scripture, especially in list form. And those nature images work for me every time, too.)

As I drove the government car to and from work or around the community working cases, I kept the radio tuned to a Christian station, just to keep me grounded in the reality of Who was really in charge.

Oh, I occasionally had to do multiplication tables in my head or bite the inside of my mouth till it bled, to keep from visibly succumbing to emotion. I mean, the last thing I wanted was to be seen as weak. But for the most part, re-framing my deep feelings as a source of energy for the job I did worked pretty well for me in my career.

On a personal level, it’s something I haven’t mastered.

There are people in my life (and yours, too) who are not moved by tears; they’d rather we extreme feelers would just get over it and do something. I get that.  Me, too.

So I strive to “man up” and redirect my emotions in a tangible direction in my personal life. I’m all about the cause of social justice now and I passionately support organizations that pursue it. I get angry about modern day slavery and child abuse and gender inequality.

Pray. Give money. Sponsor a child. Write.

And all these things I care about, that matter so much? Yep. They make me cry.   

Tears are like an underground spring. You might cap it in one place, but it’s going to bubble up somewhere else eventually. Trying to plug up all those fissures in the rock is exhausting. I’m exhausted.

Stop trying to stuff it. Let the tears flow. Embrace the gift. Accept who you are. I’ve heard all that. And I’m working on it. I know I’m supposed to ask God to break my heart for the things that break His. I do.

But I keep looking for the gift receipt on this package. I figure if God values tears so much, they should be worth something dandy in exchange. And then I could stop crying at those emotionally manipulative commercials, too.

Any ideas?

About Diane Rivers

Diane is a native Floridian whose career as an FBI Agent got her transferred to the North. She's retired from that gig now and "repurposed" as a freelance writer, author, and sometimes poet who blogs about the bumpy, bone-jostling ride of her “workaround” life. She loves Jesus, her family, black coffee, kayaking, biking, and hiking, and she looks forward to eternity with the One who will make all things beautiful. (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

116 thoughts on “Shouldn’t Tears Come with a Gift Receipt?”

  1. I cry a lot too… In the movies, at commercials, when I see a maimed animal on the side of the road, weddings…any day between thanksgiving and Christmas are hard for me since my parents passed away.

    I use at johns watt herb tablets when o feel like my emotions are getting the best of me. A friend told me about it. The stuffs works, it really does!

  2. Thanks for the post, and congrats on the Freshly Pressed – it’s nice to see a Christian blogger get notice. I, too, am an off-the-charts “feeler.” Finally learning to embrace it, cause what’s my choice? Plus, if I let it flow, then when other people are feeling they need a shoulder for their tears, they feel comfortable using mine. Blessings!

    1. What a great insight – thanks for sharing! You’re right, what’s our choice? It’s how God made us. I like the perspective of feelers being able to increase the comfort level of others; I’ll keep that in mind!

  3. I’m the same way. I’m beginning to think my default emotional setting is “cry”. Most of the time, i have no idea why I’m crying, but I am. My daughter does the same thing. She cries about everything. I was starting to think it was an autism thing, until I realized neurotypical people do this too. At least we aren’t alone as we all cry over greeting cards and commercials with kittens in them.

  4. ha ha hello from an emotional fool!! 😀 i too cry a lot!! at anything!! the worst is when u want people to take u seriously but u feel so emotionally about few things u cant just stop getting all choked and teary eyed!!!!! errrrrrrrrr has happened so many times to me!!

  5. Oh I cry a lot too. I usually distract myself first if I can’t afford to express myself at the moment.. then when I find the right time, I just let it flow. You’ll go insane if you don’t release it. 🙂 I hope things work out for you.

    1. I’ve used that same tactic; it’s something I heard about in a grief support class after my mother died years ago. One of my friends refers to it as “bracketing” (but some people still “bracket” better than others. I’m in the latter camp.) Thanks for your input!

      1. Why should tears be humiliating? Because we live in a society that fails to notice and accept that true feminism is being a women a about being proud of our beauty as women; in part being our great since of feelings and emotions. Tears are great, they remind us that we are not as strong as the one who created us, yet are as strong as He needs us to be.

  6. I, too, can’t seem to stop the tears when they feel they must come. I blame it on the hormones. Haha, no, I’m just kidding, but it is difficult, I’ll admit. But I suppose you could say that He’s maintained our ability to feel, knowing it’s infinitely better than being numb to it all. I’ve never seen a Christian blogger Freshly Pressed before and am so glad that I did for the first time when I read your post today! God bless!

    1. So glad you checked out the Freshly Pressed site today! I can’t tell you how pleased I am to be here and meet all these thoughtful, interesting people like yourself. Yes, feeling is infinitely better than being numb to it all. Thanks for weighing in~

  7. Great post! I mean if those are the feelings that come naturally to you then I would just go with it. We are programmed that way so it would be unnatural to go against it. So let it be your guilty pleasure once in a while and enjoy the release! 😉

  8. I always cry at the coffee commercial when the son comes home from college. I cried at even before my sons went to college. And now that they are in college? I cried at Toy Story 3 when the boy is packing up to go to college! There I was sitting in the movie theater behind my son who was about to go off to college…and the tears started flowing!

    1. I used to really lose it when I would see music videos for certain country songs, especially the one where the mom is “letting go” as her daughter goes off to college. Waterworks! And, like you, that was WAY before I was faced with the actual farewell. Funny. Thanks for weighing in, Delana!

  9. Diane, I can sympathize! I am a softy too, and I’ve resented that part of myself for a long time. I also try to focus my energy and emotions on the things I’m passionate about, but you can’t fight it forever. Like you wrote (so eloquently):

    “Tears are like an underground spring. You might cap it in one place, but it’s going to bubble up somewhere else eventually.”

    Spot on. Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed, it’s well deserved!

  10. Another feeler here!! It’s taken me a long time to accept that the tears are usually there for a reason. Not so much the commercials or soppy films, but then I’m not usually in public for those, so I just think of those tears as good cleansing ones that don’t have the accompanying pain of others.
    As for the “real” tears? While in your line of work you obviously needed to combat those (I can’t imagine how hard that must be!!), in mine as a parent of special needs kids, I’ve come to see them as an expression of real existing pain that must be visible to others if any change is to come about. So I let the tears flow because sometimes (a lot of the time, actually), words don’t seem to cut the mustard…
    After ten years or so of leaking all over school offices, doctors’ offices, friends’ shoulders, the accompanying embarrassment seems to have largely diminished. You see me smile when I am happy, it’s ok for you to see me cry when I am sad… Thanks for a lovely post, and congrats on the pressing!!

    1. I really appreciate your perspective – a parent of special needs kids is a hero in my book. I love your line, “you see me smile when I am happy, it’s ok for you to see me cry when I am sad.” What freedom! Thanks for your comment (and for the congrats!)

      1. It’s a hard fought freedom, and I still find myself trying to hide negative emotion sometimes… but how tiring that is!! And so long as that emotion is real and true, and therefore valid… well then somewhere deep inside I feel it should be seen. It may well play a part in this that two of my children are autistic. For them to react appropriately to me, my emotional signals need to be clear. And I hope that in seeing me sad they have permission to feel sad too… 🙂

        1. This is such a thoughtful response and poignant observation. Never thought of how valuable this could be for a child with autism and how the clear expression of valid emotion could be freeing (and less tiring) for all of us. Thank you for sharing!

  11. fantastic blog post. As a veterinarian who grew up on a small farm and was a daddys girl who helped butcher the family “pet,” I was much devoid of emotion for most of my life. Then one day God came after me and brought me back to the fold where He spent several years “shearing”off the old wool of the world. As the new godly wool started to grow, I sought to be more compassionate not only for the people I encounter but for the animals that I treat. It is hard, it requires so much more emotionally but God is so faithful to replenish and pour out His perfect love and compassion on me as I give of myself to everything that I come into contact with. It has been a fantastic thing even though I shed tears frequently now, I love them all because I know that they are a gift from God and proof of His work in my life!

  12. “I figure if God values tears so much, they should be worth something dandy in exchange.” Your humanity is pretty dandy. My tears, happy and sad and angry, are very close to the surface. I don’t study the bible, but if more of it were like:
    Micah 6:8:

    “And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

    I think I might be tempted to start. Thank you.

    1. The Bible is pretty awesome – I recommend starting with the book of James (toward the end of the New Testament) or one of the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke or John). So glad you took the time to respond. Thank you.

  13. I believe God gave me weak tear ducts. Well, that is the story I’m sticking to! I totally agree with your underground analogy, if you’re upset and suppressing them, then next time you are ever so slightly upset, the dam bursts! Great piece of writing.

  14. Hi Diane, It took me over 36+ yrs. to be able to cry at small things like Hallmark cards and their commercials…I was abused as a child and I learned to NOT cry. I know now that it is okay to let the feelings out, even if I feel week. Your gifts WILL come, but maybe not here on earth…In Heaven. 🙂 Jesus has a lot stored up for you, I just know. Thank you for sharing such a wonderful post. I am now following your post. 😉

  15. I can usually hold the tears back but when it rains…it pours. I may have a long crying spell that may last hours, then dry it up and move on. usually a good night’s sleep will do wonders! great post.

  16. Its important we all have feelings. Can you imagine a life where people didn’t feel. It drives me insane to hear someone tell their child not to cry that it is weak and they need to be strong… crying is a form of release would one rather they through fists in anger and hurt someone. Crying is a way to release ones feelings and feel better for it. Some times i wish i could just cry it out. I do cry though at stupid parts of movies as in the latest movie on netflix freedom writers… then i think to my self really i am crying ahhahaha. So I am glad you do and can write about it. If everyone cried in place of other actions they may have to their feelings we might be a different world all together. 🙂

    1. Very interesting observations! Thanks for sharing – I think you’re right, if we defaulted to tears rather than anger, it might make a huge difference. Glad you stopped by!

  17. Hi, Diane. I know the gift of tears might not seem that great sometimes, but from someone who lives at the opposite end of the spectrum, I sometimes worry that I don’t feel enough. Emotional stability is one thing, but sometimes I feel like I’m stuck in emotional neutral; experiencing neither highs nor lows. I wept when I was saved, but that’s about it. Be blessed.

    1. Matt- perhaps you don’t experience tears in the same way. You don’t have to “boo-hoo” all day to feel. Feeling is simple. Go out and walk around nature. Do not bring your phone. Walk around and observe. Practice meditation. Write a list of things that really fire you up in your gut.

  18. As someone who also cries at EVERYTHING (like Kleenex and COTTON commercials) I understand the need to reign it in because sometimes it looks extreme to others who do not well up at basic sweet or tender, or heart-tugging moments that we see and feel. Why try to change who you are? Also, is RIVERS really your last name? If so it was meant to be. You and water are connected in ways others are not, embrace it. We need more tenderness in the world.
    Well written, loved it, bravo.

    1. Funny! I never thought about the water connection to my name quite that way before! Guess maybe you’re right, it was meant to be. Thanks for your kind words and for joining the conversation.

  19. I have been given many nick names over the years…this one you may like “WATER WORKS” ; ) For the most part now a days I cover my tears with my smile, people can handle a smile ; )

  20. i have different opinion on crying, which i often say to people crying around me, “your tears are precious than pearls of deep ocean.” yea, sometimes crying helps to ease our mind, sometimes it feels good to be vulnerable, but i would rather ask you to smile at those things, smile because they happened. life would be a waste if there were not some bumps and we need to feel good about it because we know to expect good after that.. and what i feel is smile is a gift of god rather than tears…

    1. Neither my grandmother nor my father was ever able to cry. Just would get a lump in their throats and not be able to speak, but never teared up. I always thought they were the lucky ones. Maybe not?

  21. Oh yes! Did you know that David wrote that God puts all of our tears in a bottle? If we sow in tears, we’ll reap righteousness. God turns our mourning into dancing, etc. 🙂 That gift receipt? It’s gonna come in handy one Day.

    1. I love that! Thank you for reminding me of that! I used to keep a tiny empty bottle on my dresser just to remind myself symbolically that my tears were so precious to God he was saving them and would redeem them someday as gladness. Bless you ~

  22. Once I read an old aphorism about the tender pine surviving the storms while the rigid tree snapped in the tempest. Your experience is well taken. Please continue speaking truth as only you can.

    Didn’t good ‘ol George Bailey teach us that we cannot know more fully our meaning here unless we were granted the wish to never have been born and see what the lives of our loved ones would’ve been like without us? And so “It’s a Wonderful Life” turns out not to be so trite or hallmark after all because created existence in which we are interrelated is what it is.

    And yet I think most of us never get the advantage of having a Clarence walk us through a world where we were not created.

    1. What a wise perspective~ Thanks for sharing. We don’t have Clarence, but we can have faith that all of this means something and none of our experience is wasted. Thanks for joining the conversation.

  23. I hope I am not being too familiar, but hello cosmic twin…I have battled this ‘gift’ for most of my adult life, and thank you for reframing it as a gift, as I have always thought of it as a burden and embarrasing!

  24. Compassion is applied to anyone who has feelings as misnomers. Feelings, are not weak- they are, in fact evidence that you are putting your God given intuition to the playing field, or practice. Anyone who perceives their feelings as “weak-minded” are double minded and exemplify their fears of exposing their feelings. Adverse reactions to feelings are learned behavior. We tend to project what we are shown in life, “Monkey see monkey do.”

    There is a distinct Continental Divide between ‘drama’ and expressing feelings and emotions. Anyone who lumps both in the same knee-jerk reaction advice, ‘get over it,’ i respond this way: “My feelings are nothing to get over, under or around- they are to get through.”

      1. Thanks so much.. If I had a $1.00 for every time I heard, “You’re so sensitive..” as if that was leprosy.. I’d be a millionaire!

  25. Just imagine being pregnant and crying at EVERYTHING EVER.
    (I haven’t been pregnant. But I hear thats what it’s like. Among other things. Like having a human grow inside you.)

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