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I don’t cry much.

I used to cry a lot as a kid. I was very emotional, but somewhere along the way it got stifled. Now, I rarely cry.  It takes a huge emotional blast of surprise to get me to shed a spontaneous tear.

When something less forceful but sentimental crosses my path I feel the choked up emotion of crying, but it is only fleeting and tears rarely appear so I don’t consider that crying.

I don’t make a conscious effort to not cry, but it certainly doesn’t come easily or naturally to me anymore.

None of this really bothers me until I watch one of those crime shows on TV or a big public trial.  There’s a lot made of what a spouse’s, or a lover’s, or a father’s reaction SHOULD be to bad news… and it almost always entails crying.  If they didn’t cry, then they must have had something to do with the crime. The problem is that I don’t know if I would cry either when presented with tragic news especially if it were in public. I’m certainly not a potential felon. I just tend to handle tragedy and emergencies with stone-cold determinism.

Unlike the general public apparently, I’m actually highly suspicious of crying. I’ve seen it used successfully as a tactic to  manipulate others and so it makes me uncomfortable.

I hated when my ex-wife would cry during a disagreement. It was like her throwing down the gauntlet saying, “You’re making me cry. If I’m more emotional over this than you are, there must be a reason. Therefore you’re probably wrong and I’m probably right!” Because I hate crying so much I almost invariably gave up at that point and all my efforts went to stop the crying. I simply don’t understand the uncontrollable aspect of it for others so it seems manipulative.

Or maybe I just distrust crying because I have also seen it blatantly used to falsify the strength of an argument. You see politicians do it.  You see religious leaders do it. You see actors do it … every day. Many people can create tears and an emotionally powerful aura at the drop of a hat. Even I can fake cry … and make it appear real.

When the crying is genuine, it still says nothing about the truth or power of the case or opinion in question. Crying doesn’t strengthen an argument;  It actually weakens its power in my opinion. Crying tells me that all reason and logic have been overpowered by feelings.

Attend any the first Sunday of the month meetings in a Mormon congregation and you’ll witness lots and lots of crying… some genuine and some fabricated I suspect. The monthly occasion is what’s called “Fast & Testimony Meeting”. Congregants have supposedly fasted for 2 meals and come together on this day to share witnesses and stories of  what and why they believe (Even though the word “believe” is rarely spoken).

More often than not it’s awkward. You end up with a lot of uncomfortable pauses when nobody voluntarily stands up, or you get a lot of blundering tears by people who should be crying on a therapist’s sofa. Of course there’s some sincere crying going on too, as there is in many a Christian worship service. But Mormons especially are real hardcore believers in society’s unspoken claim that crying publicly signals some sort of spiritual/emotional purity and that their tears are more indicative of truth than, say, a Baptist’s tears.

It just doesn’t seem convincing to me given the fact that crying in church is so obviously a human experience and a human tactic employed globally by so many.

It can be fabricated or sincere and we aren’t really good at figuring out which is which.

Personal, intimate crying as a natural reaction to tragic events I get.

But publicly?

Experience tells me to respect the experience of others tearing up but to place very little personal weight on the validity or significance of others crying. At best, communal crying merely means, “we’re all in this together.” At worst, it is a tool of manipulation. I’ve actually had several experiences when I’ve seen LDS peers overtly put “cry during testimony” on their lesson or talk outlines to punctuate their point.

My crying skepticism used to bother my mother, but she’d still laugh when she told the family anecdote of me as a pre-teen listening to some leader drone and blabber on long past the meeting closing time.  Through teary eyes this “brother” declared among other things, “I love each and every one of you so much.” Whereupon I leaned over and whispered in my mother’s ear, “If he truly loved us at all, he’d stop crying, sit down and shut up.”