How I Learned It Was Okay to Cry

I didn’t cry much when I was a young teenager. I only remember crying a couple of times. Once when I got dumped by a girl one Sunday afternoon in the spring of 1975, and another time when I did really poorly at a horse show in Klamath Falls, Oregon. Both times I hid my tears and did my crying in private—in the cab of my pickup, in an empty horse stall.

I had been taught to “John Wayne” it by my stoic father. Back then, tears were a shameful thing that you kept hidden. That’s what I thought. Until.

I joined the Church the fall of my senior year in high school. I lived on our family ranch then. We lived a long way from town and I was much the loner bumpkin. Just south of our ranch, on the other side of the Little Luckimute River, was a dairy farm, a farm owned by an active Mormon family, the Gillians. They visited us once at our home on the ranch. I hid out in my bedroom. But that wasn’t my last chance to get to know them.

Lee Gillians was a kind, honest, genuine man, a dairy farmer with a crushing, bear-claw handshake. He had his “milk-parlor words”—he was as tough a man as I ever knew—but his testimony ran deep.

One testimony meeting, shortly after I’d joined the Church, Lee got up to the pulpit. His daughter Faye had just called him from Ricks College where she was going to school. Right there, at Church, at our little two-phase country Church, she called him. Minutes before he got up to share his testimony.

He told the little congregation that Faye had just called to tell him how much she loved him. That was it. She just told her dad that she loved and appreciated him, then she hung up. Lee’s tears came. Pure, honest tears, the likes of which I had never seen before. It was, at that time, the tenderest story of family love I had ever witnessed. Tears came to my eyes too. I’ve never forgotten that moment. It was the day I learned that you can be a tough old buzzard and still cry. In public. And it was okay.

Tears that come from hearing and feeling truth are precious. I accept them readily and openly. I still do most of my crying in private, but I am not ashamed when they spill out, wherever I happen to be.

When your spirit trembles and tears come because you are hearing an eternal truth or seeing a tender scene, you are making a shift. You are taking a step up the staircase. It is a denial of who you are as a child of God to always suppress those tears. Let them come. Let your Father in Heaven talk to your heart. Let yourself be who you really are. 

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