I’d say “Don’t judge me on this” but it’s probably too late anyway.

As a young man I remember watching NFL Hall of Fame nominee coach Dick Vermeil tear up at a press conference multiple times and I remember thinking, ‘What the heck?’ Just like “There’s no crying in baseball” (A League of Their Own) it seemed ludicrous in the tough, macho sport of football that a coach, the leader of a team would so openly weep. I wondered how in the world he kept the respect of his players.

In my thirties I witnessed some older men in my family, at fairly innocuous times, tear up and choke up and have to excuse themselves from family gatherings. I recall an uncle of mine, a man who I regard as one of the toughest men I know, explaining how restoring and having a simple single stroke engine got to him. He half apologized, even admitting in a roundabout way that this made him sort of odd. His admission of how this got to him might have been the first crack in unlocking what the deal was with these men.

As young adults both men and women are taught to be tough in business and not show weakness. For many, that weakness is nowhere more clearly exhibited than in the act of crying. To be fair it doesn’t begin there, I mean who can remember being told to “Stop your crying or I’ll give you something to cry about!” Of all the visible emotions, crying seems to be the most vilified. And why? We feel joy, we smile. We are amused, we laugh. Why then, if we feel sad or are touched, can we not cry?

I used to think that those older men had gotten sort of “soft” in their old age. Not to disparage their character nor lessen who they were but this was just something that happened. I was a much older man before I saw a documentary on Coach Vermeil and realized the level of passion and caring that the man had for his team and his players. I realized then, that far from losing face with his men, his tears confirmed what he told them every day in practice, the locker room and on the sidelines; that he cared for and loved them. Coach Vermeil was a man not to be held as an oddity but someone to whose emotional station I should aspire. I think Coach Vermeil and the men in my family, in their later years, reached a level of wisdom we should all aspire to obtain because the older I get the more I’m convinced that the only worthwhile things we accomplish are wrapped in emotion.

Surely the word “passion” is overused to the point of cliché these days however I don’t know that “care” gets thrown in there enough. The emotional investment in whatever we do is critical and I think that those men in their later years realized just how long and how hard and how much work is required to accomplish what they set out to do when they were young, tough and driven. Now, with the wisdom of years of experience, I believe they’re humbled and rightfully moved to tears. I think they have become more whole and I admire their willingness, if sometimes begrudgingly, to show their emotion.

Recently our church broke ground at our building site. As the members of our congregation circled the outline of what would be the building, shovels in hand, and our pastor talked about our journey I felt that familiar lump in my throat and the wetness came to my eyes. I understood why because I knew what a journey it had been. Ten plus years of dedication of a group of wonderful people through volunteering, serving the community and giving had brought us to the next step (a big one) in our congregation’s journey. This was no Willie Mays Hayes scoring from second on a sacrifice bunt to win the pennant (Major League) bringing tears to my eyes. (I never have understood this phenomenon) Nor was it Old Yeller having to be put down because of rabies. This made sense to me. This was real.

So, this Thursday I have resolved to quit holding back those tears and let them go when I am touched or saddened or humbled or moved deeply. While I don’t expect to blubber like a baby I know that there’s a great chance I’ll be wiping my eyes and sniffling much more often than the younger version of myself and I’m okay with that. I realize some may not understand and some may even view that as weakness but I’m okay with that too. Perhaps my tears will be illustrative of what it means to commit, invest and serve a greater cause. If they can instruct in that manner, as I have been taught over the years, then I will have contributed to a greater understanding of this wonderful thing called life, something in which we all should be deeply engaged.

We all fight tears and emotion at times and I’m not sure why. I hope this examination of the former helped you feel better about releasing those tears. Please share this with your friends, especially if they tend to hold back to their own detriment. I hope that it is helpful.

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