Lots of times we as men as told “crying isn’t manly.” It is a stereotype taught to us as men from the time we are small. Not through words necessarily, but many times by the way we are allowed to express our emotions & how emotional interactions are modeled for us.
Crying is a natural reaction to grief.
The Prophet cried when his son Ibrahim died. Someone said “You cry and you’re God’s messenger?!” He replied “The eyes shed tears, the heart grieves, yet we only say what pleases our Lord.”
Crying is praiseworthy. It’s a natural reaction to awe & inspiration. “Those given knowledge before, when it is recited to them, fall prostrate saying Glory to Our Lord His promise indeed comes to pass. They fall prostrate, crying, & it increases their devotion.” Quran 17:107-109
Crying is a natural reaction to God’s remembrance. The Prophet said “There are seven shaded by God’s shade on the day there is no shade but His…” He mentioned from them “a man who mentions God while all alone and his eyes burst with tears.”
Think about this last one. Think about being so full of emotional charge that the mere mention of God brings you to tears. A person who gets to this level has to be not only contemplative but also acutely in touch with his emotions.
Ibn Masūd was asked by the Prophet to recite the Quran. He said: I’m supposed to recite to you & it was revealed to you?! He said: I like to listen to others. So when he recited “so how will it be when we bring from every nation a witness & we bring you as a witness against them?” He said: The prophet then said “that’s enough” and I looked up and he was weeping. Narrated by Bukhari & Muslim.
Here the prophet was man enough to not only listen to others recite, but to cry when he himself was overcome by emotion.
Another instance, he walked up to some of his companions who were digging a grave. He asked why and they told him who had died. He walked to the edge of the grave, started to cry, and said with a sigh “Yeh brothers, for the likes of this you need to prepare.” Narrated by Ibn Majah. Muslim narrates the Prophet visited his mother’s grave. He cried & all those around cried as well.
Crying because of the loss of a loved one whether a child or parent, whether alone or in the presence of other men is prophetic character. Who is to say that’s not manly?
Abdullah b. Rawaha was sitting with his head in his wife’s lap. He cried, then so did she. He asked why? She said I saw you crying. He said I remembered the verse “Not one of you but he will pass by it” (i.e. hellfire) & I don’t know if I’ll survive or not. ~ alMustadrak
Look at how beautiful this narration is. A husband & wife spending time together. He finds a moment of vulnerability; because he trusts & loves her he shows it. Because she cares for him she cries as well. She doesn’t grill him as to why or chastise him for being weak. She mirrors him.
Allowing our boys to express their emotions naturally is the only way that we will raise boys who will act with empathy, chivalry, and honor instead of lashing out or acting belligerently. Honor your sons, husbands, & fathers’ authentic emotions and they will honor you.
When we let our sons cry, vent, and get it out, it builds resilience and strength. When we tell them to suck it up and chastise them, we bottle up that pressure, suppress positive emotion, and can only wait for that to explode one day.
Suppressing emotion is not prophetic. The prophet kissed his grandson. A Bedouin said I have 10 sons and I’ve never kissed any of them. He replied saying “What can I do if God has stripped mercy from your heart?”
To combat the toxic expression of emotion we have to have a holistic understanding of how that toxicity is created. Boys don’t grow up into men with toxic emotions simply because they are male. It’s not a function of genetics or gender. It’s a function of conditioning.
Both men and women, mothers and fathers, need to encourage boys and young men to express their emotions naturally without stigmatizing them or calling them toxic, weak, effeminate, or lacking. They shouldn’t stifle them by holding them to a standard of resilience and perseverance that is beyond the human condition.
Next time a boy or man comes to you, regardless if he is in trouble or is simply not feeling well, do this:
1- Listen to what he has to say.
2- Ask if he feels sad or down.
3- Give him a hug & tell him it’s ok.
4- Tell him to cry if he wants to. Say: Just let it out.
By allowing the men in our lives the ability to pass through the crucible of difficult emotions we allow them to rewire their brains for more positive interactions and the level of resilience that we want to see from them so that they can pass it on to others.