I loved watching Kelly Clarkson sing “Piece by Piece” on American Idol earlier this month. It was a moving, emotional ballad; Kelly struggled with tears through the whole song, at times even losing her voice to tears as she pushed through to the end.
The audience—and America—wept with her, as she sang about how her father abandoned her as a child, but now that she is a mother, she knows that her children’s father will never leave their children…or her. Piece by piece, her husband’s love slowly put her heart and hope back together.
When Ryan came up to conclude the show with her, she apologized for crying over and over. “I’m really pregnant!” she laughed.
There was something profoundly familiar about her tears and her response. So often, our knee-jerk reaction as women to our own sudden tears is to say, “I’m sorry! I don’t know why I am so emotional!”
Our second response is to look for a scapegoat, usually a hormonal one:
“Stupid PMS!” “Pregnancy hormones! They get you every time!”
We even use the hormonal excuse when there is no hormonal excuse:
“I don’t know why I am so emotional. It isn’t even that time of the month!”
We believe that our tears, sudden and uncomfortable, always need to be explained away. And if they can’t be easily excused, we make jokes about the emotional weakness of being a woman.
The thing is, emotions or tears aren’t right or wrong. They simply are. It’s how we act in response to our feelings that is right or wrong.*
We shouldn’t have to apologize for feeling.
But so often, as women, we do.
I have a friend who is a passionate and vibrant person. She also cries very easily—about seeing her daughter learn and grow, about her passion to help women in our community, about the beauty in the world. Her tears and apologies flow freely.
Though I know she often is embarrassed by her strong emotions, I find her tears refreshing and honest.
Crying often expresses emotions in a way that words cannot.
It can reveal truth about our deeply felt experiences.
So instead of apologizing for our emotions,** what if we looked a little deeper and asked “Why am I crying?”
Hormones may be an easy answer but, the thing is, hormones don’t give us emotions; they simply highlight or emphasize emotions that are already there.
Kelly’s song was deeply emotional on its own. It would have been difficult to sing even if she had not been pregnant and it had not been the final season of American Idol. Adding all that together made her performance even more impressive. The reality is, her tears were what made the song even more beautiful, raw and relateable to listeners.
I wish she didn’t feel like she had to apologize for crying.
But if I were in her shoes, I would have done the same thing. Somehow it’s the socially acceptable thing to do as women.
It is a lot harder to simply let our tears be, without explaining them away ( It really is easier to blame our hormones, isn’t it?).
But owning our emotions is a part of embracing what it means to be a woman, a women who was created with God-given emotions, God-given hormones, and yes, even God-honored tears (Psalm 56:8).
When we stop apologizing and dismissing our tears, and start asking “Why?” about our emotional experiences, it helps us to build self-awareness. Owning our tears helps us to realize that our stories are real, valuable, and worth telling.
And when we can own our stories, we can more readily empathize with the emotional experiences of others.
We are able to “ Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15).
Our tears don’t need an apology or a hormonal explanation. Embracing our emotions and our tears is actually an act of love and respect. When we embrace our emotions as part of being a woman, we can more freely respect our own tears as healthy and normal.
And in loving and respecting ourselves, we can also more freely respond to the emotional needs of others with love and respect as well.
*Sadly, I often respond to my emotions with negative actions. When I choose to hurt others because I am angry or upset (or whatever), an apology is needed in order restore my relationships.
** I’ll admit, saying “I’m sorry!” is my first response when I cry unexpectedly! Instead of apologizing, here are a few suggestions for an alternative way to respond to our tears:
“Thank you for listening. I feel really emotional right now.”
“As you can see by my tears, I’m really passionate about this.”
“This always make me cry.”
“Hang on. I need a minute to collect myself.”
“I am so overwhelmingly happy!”
“This reminds me of my grandma. I miss her.”
“This makes me really sad/angry/upset/overwhelmed.”
“Darn you, Hallmark!”
Why do you think we feel the need to say “I’m sorry!” when we cry?
Why it is hard to accept our emotions, even our tearful ones?
What would we gain by accepting our tears as normal and part of “our story”?
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