Parents today are at an impasse.
We want to help our boys- our sons- to express themselves without rising up a crew of feeble cherubs who bawl indiscriminately.
That’s not easy. However, parents should face it that growing the human race up strong and straight includes tears. It always has.
Big Boys DO cry:
Case in point: Joseph.
Joseph is renown for a lot of things. There’s his Technicolor coat that inspired a Broadway musical. There’s his super famous, “You meant it for evil, God meant it for good” line that’s run its course on the sermon circuit ever since.
There’s the fact that he cried. A lot.
Hadn’t you heard that before?
Joseph was an Old Testament character with a sound mind and more fortitude, tenacity, and strength of character than most people of the Bible. Still, the author made Joseph’s tears a healthy, maturing piece of Joseph’s story.
Here’s how we can make it the same for our sons’ journeys as well.
TIP #1: “SUFFER IN SILENCE” ISN’T A THING.
Joseph was the tenth son of Jacob, with a Technicolor coat that annoyed his nine older brothers and dreams that bugged them even more.
So they shoved him in a well and left him for dead.
After being plucked from the well, sold off to strangers and subsequently thrown into jail, the tides turned for Joseph, whereupon a powerful Pharaoh gave Joseph a signet ring, a nice gold chain, and said, “I hereby put in you charge of the entire land of Egypt.” (Genesis 41:41).
That was Joseph’s condition – he was practically a king – when his life’s initial heartbreak came full circle and he wound up face-to-face, once again, with his nemesis brothers.
Which made him cry (Genesis 42:24).
Over (Genesis 43:30).
And over (Genesis 45:2).
This was not a guy who pretended that the worst of times were not so bad. He was a poster child for acknowledging the raw truth about hurt.
Suffering does not go away if we shove it down with both hands or train our eyes to omit waterworks. There’s a time and place, sure. Joseph used discretion too.
But full-fledged attempts to subvert feeling our feelings will derail the thing that comes on the other side of crying. It’s something so rare and great that it calls on tears of another kind. But, first, there is tough love.
And then, just Love.
TIP #2: “MAN UP” IS A REASONABLE REQUEST.
We’re talking about boys here, so can we say that? We may need a new phrase, but suffice it to say that the author who included all the crying also unapologetically included a hefty dose of “buck up, buddy.”
However, it comes in a package that’s light on brawn and heavy on…humility.
When Joseph faced his brothers, he threw the whole crew in jail, then yanked them back out, kidnapped one of the brothers and sent the rest home with plunder in their packs that made them look like thieves.
What’s that they say about a woman scorned? A Joseph scorned comes with repercussions as well, it seems.
Were the repercussions meant to humiliate the brothers? Or invoke humility in them?
Humility and humiliation are not the same things. Humiliation is diminishing. Humility, however, is a tool that, at least in classic literature, is a surgically precise jolt that actually strengthens a character to fight harder for what is right & good.
Joseph’s brothers had acted like Class A jerks. They could use a dose of humility. But it got on Joseph as well.
He had all the strength of the strongest nation in all the world at that historic moment, and: it wasn’t enough. Even if Joseph brought all that power to bear on his family, eliciting their mea culpa’s, what piteous human remorse could possibly compensate for the havoc they’d wrought on Joseph’s life?
It was a humbling juncture. Neither climbing the corporate ladder to king nor avenging the situation solved Joseph’s problem. He needed a different balm to dry his tears.
He needed Love.
TIP #3: WHAT MAKES US CRY MAY STILL BE LOVE.
The human journey is a jagged one, yet we are largely untrained in how to walk through its roughest parts. Our human condition pendulum swings between Pollyanna positive and gut-it-out brute force.
To train our kids out of that, we will have to tell them that tears do not indicate the absence of Love. Tears bear witness that hurt is not a place to stay, but a circumstance to walk through because something of meaning awaits on the other side. That’s a platitude that takes…proof. The kind that is personal.
Joseph caught on to this via his relationship with God. It was a relationship that gave Joseph power to see things about others (Genesis 41:39). Then, it gave Joseph power to see something about himself.
Joseph saw that God used his brothers’ betrayal to grow and groom Joseph, to ultimately save a nation through Joseph’s leadership. It was a balm stronger than the strength of being king and more satiating than his appetite for vengeance.
It is a balm we want for our sons – one that reinforces in them a strength that makes them more secure, more themselves. God wants to offer our shorties an ironclad perspective on life lived with the guidance and comfort of a God who loves them very much and expects them to walk out a life of purpose.
In Joseph’s case, that made him cry even more. “…Weeping with joy, Joseph…kissed each of his brothers and wept over them, and after that they began talking freely with him.” (Genesis 45:14)
Only time will tell how that plays out with our kids. We can start with the understanding that, while indiscriminate bawling will not do, we need not universally snuff out crying as if that solves a problem. God didn’t.
The Bible tells us so…
Janelle Alberts writes pithy Bible synopses and is a regular contributor to Christianity Today’s Gifted for Leadership. For info on her upcoming book, “How Can I Answer My Kids’ Questions About God? (…since I barely know what I’m talking about),” email email@example.com