In my last post I discussed the therapeutic process of revisiting childhood trauma and mourning the things that might have never been fully processed at the time. In many cases this means finally shedding the tears that had been bottled up for far, far too long.
But I’ve been in therapy groups, and I’ve certainly seen a resistance to this process, particularly among the men who feel like openly weeping is unmanly. Is there a validity to this sense of stoicism, or is it a misalignment in our society? Well, today we will address this question by looking at the example of the greatest man that ever lived: Jesus Christ.
Become as a Little Child)
The primary reason why many feel ashamed to show their unbridled emotion is that they want to be mature and composed. They don’t want to appear as a little child. But what was it that Jesus said to his disciples about little children?
And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, and said, Verily I say unto you, except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. - Matthew 18:2-4
Humble yourself as a little child. Give up your pride and your show of false strength. Stop trying to prove that you’ve got this all taken care of and let yourself admit that you were really hurt.
And in case you aren’t sure that Jesus’s declarations applied to matters of showing one’s weakness and hurt, let us consider another example that he gave in a moment of great distress. In the Garden of Gethsemane, when he was bowed under the pain of the atonement and the anxiety of the coming crucifixion, this was his response:
And he went forward a little, and fell on the ground, and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt. - Mark 14:35-36
Jesus feels scared and hurt, and he falls on his face and calls to his “Abba.” Abba is a Hebrew word for “father,” and it denotes both intimacy and submission, something like “daddy” and “sir” all rolled into one. “Daddy/sir, you can do anything, will you take this hurt from me? But I’ll go through with it if you ask.”
Jesus has been many things to his followers. He has been called “master,” and “teacher,” and “prophet.” But to his God, Jesus is “as a little child.” Vulnerable, open about his pain, asking for help, and submissive.
Later still, when Jesus was upon the cross, he cried out in a moment of agony:
And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? which is, being interpreted, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? - Mark 15:34
Previously, when raised upon the cross, Jesus had been magnanimous to his killers: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” – Luke 23:34. He had been considerate to the well-being of his mother: “He saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son! Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home” – John 19:26-27. But to his God, once again, Jesus was a little child, crying out and asking why he was alone.
To Every Thing There is a Season)
To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; - Ecclesiastes 3:1, 4
The words and example of Jesus Christ perfectly line up with these words of wisdom in Ecclesiastes. Yes, there is a time for stoicism. There is a time for power. There is a time for projecting strength and not weakness. One has only to consider Jesus chasing out the vendors in the temple with a whip to see that there is even a time for anger!
But also, there is a time for weeping, mourning, and being broken. One of the great examples of Christ, which too often goes overlooked, was how he filled the full measure of human emotion. He showed all of his feelings, at the appropriate time. Reserved when he ought to be, confident when he ought to be, distraught when he ought to be, and pained when ought to be. He assured his disciples that there was nothing to fear (Mark 4:39-40), but he also wept at the death of Lazarus (John 11:35).
To claim that you ought not feel or show an entire sector of the emotional spectrum because you are a man, is to claim that that you are more of a man than Jesus. God did not give us our feelings with the intent that we would ignore half of them, all of them were given for our good. Yes, they need to be governed and managed at times, but that does not mean suppressed out of existence!
Previously, I presented the mourning of old trauma as a matter of emotional therapy, and it is, but it is also a matter of spiritual significance as well. We cannot be the full person that God intended for us to be until we truly embrace the full person, broken inner child included.
I know by experience that Christ calls each of us to step into the hurts of our past. Not only that, he asks us to step into those places with him. He goes with us into those defeated places, he asks us to open up the hurt and let the tears flow, and then he applies his healing balm and saves the lost soul within. Mourning our old wounds, with our Savior by our side, is arguably the most sacred act that we will ever do. May we all go through this beautiful process, so that every lost child can be healed and be saved.