As a young girl, I was molested. It was certainly not the worst abuse I’ve ever heard of, but it was enough to tie me up in knots inside.
In college, I visited a counselor who told me to keep a daily journal of my feelings. Honestly, I told her that I couldn’t. I didn’t feel anything. Everything inside me was numb.
I knew I was supposed to have feelings. I just didn’t. I never cried, rarely felt happy and couldn’t drum up much anger, even about the abuse.
Although I hadn’t truly met God yet, I decided to pray. I prayed that I would feel some emotion, anything.
Nothing came. For many years.
When I gave myself to God, He started a restoration program in my heart and soul. The emotions came in a flood. Now I can cry at the drop of a hat, I can feel real joy and love and even anger (although I’ve long since forgiven the abuse).
But emotions can sometimes be overwhelming. Some days, I have to remind myself that this is what I prayed for. On those days, I cry like this:
Did you know humans are the only creatures who cry for emotional reasons? Of course, many animals produce what is called basal tears (the kind that keep your eye from drying out) and reflex tears (the kind that clear out irritants like smoke), but none produce emotional tears.
Turns out, emotional tears are made up of different stuff than the others. One study collected and compared reflex tears with emotional tears. The reflex tears were almost completely made of water, but the emotional tears had chemicals such as prolactin, andrenocorticotropic hormones and leucine-enkephalon. Andrenocorticotropic hormones can indicate high stress levels and leucine-enkephalon is an endorphin that reduces pain and works to improve mood. Prolacatin is a hormone known to control breast milk production, which could explain why women cry more (4 times more) often than men since women naturally produce more of this chemical.
Many people have speculated as to the evolutionary reason for tears. Theories range from the aquatic ape hypothesis that says we evolved tears because we lived near the ocean, to the early communication hypothesis that claims tears communicated emotion before we evolved language.
Of course, I believe that God gave us tears for specific reasons. He knew that with our higher brain capacity we would experience emotion on a level that no animal could.
Tears are a gift from our creator—a kind of pressure release valve.
So, if you see me at the movie theater crying because of a sad scene or in church tearing up at a meaningful song, no need to worry about me. I’m just using one of God’s gifts and trying to remember … this is what I asked for.
What do you think? Do you feel better after a good cry? Or do you think it’s better just to push through the emotions without crying?
Hoyt, Alia. “How Crying Works” 02 July 2008. HowStuffWorks.com. <http://science.howstuffworks.com/life/crying.htm> 21 January 2015.
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