The Crying Poll

Shedding a tear with or about a friend, during a movie or a testimony or a beautiful scriptural or musical pericope is pretty common. Everyone knows of President Eyring’s near boundary to tearful expression. Occasionally I’ve heard the odd Church leader remark that the shedding of tears (usually by men) is a mark of spirituality (maybe they’re thinking: “Jesus wept”). When I’ve sat through such speech, I have felt a little inadequate (maybe only Idaho farm boys cry – kidding, I’m kidding). I don’t cry. Not that I have never cried. I have. Three or maybe four times since childhood. Once I cried for days on end. But that seems to have used up the tears and it was decades ago. Does this make me an aberration? Do serial killers cry? (You can’t trust filmography for this.)

Some of the medical literature suggests that people on certain psychoactive drugs don’t cry. Sometimes depression manifests with this kind of thing. All interesting ideas, but they do not apply to me. I have nothing against criers. My wife cries and my son currently at home will shed a tear now and then. Other people crying does make me a bit nervous now. I’m not sure how to identify with it. Like I’m outside the pale of the crying humans. The Venn diagram: Things that cry, things that don’t cry. I find myself in the circle with the space aliens and mountain lions. Don’t get me wrong, this is not something I think about much, but Mark Brown’s post on, of all things, the Tab Choir, made me think of it enough to pen this.

I’ve observed women crying way more often than men. I realize there are cultural and biological issues at work here. But when a woman (no guys have done this) comes into my office and starts to cry about her troubles (or bad grade on the last test) I don’t render any judgement about it. It sort of bothers me that I don’t feel much empathy about the crying itself I guess. I certainly don’t belittle the process (I can’t claim that I haven’t ever done this). But it occasionally bugs me just a bit that I don’t belong to the club. Am I Spock? Some of my friends, even family have accused me of having Vulcan blood I’ll admit. Perhaps I’m simply an unsympathetic person. But I do try to help when I see the need. I offer personal help. I even help students. And I do get emotional about things, you know, love, anger, sorrow, etc.

Cry much?

In the poll, select the answer that most applies to you. If more than one applies you can select “at the drop of a hat.” Or complain in the comments. In any case, diagnose me, or talk about yourselves, or something. I want to hear all about it.


  1. I’m not sure how to answer the poll. I cry at funerals if the person meant something to me, so I marked that. When I really cry is when I’m praying, alone. I don’t cry around people very often.

    On the other hand, my ex cried at the drop of a hat, so maybe he stole all the tears, didn’t leave you any.

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with you. I have issues with men who cry “all the time” I guess, because of my experience with my ex.

  2. Chris Gordon says:

    I’ve become a complete and total sap, especially since I had kids. I recently re-watched much of the Wonder Years on Netflix and quivered or trembled, near tears, about every other episode. Worshipful music regularly gets me dusty. Rarely do I fully break down, but very often I’ll well up.

  3. I dunno. I guess I’m sort of a sap (sometimes), but I’m almost always able to keep it in check enough that tears don’t actually fall. That said, weird things can do it to me. I came close to tears while singing in a temple dedication choir, but then again, I had the same experience performing Beethoven’s 5th in college. On the other hand, I once almost choked up when I saw a clip of the GI Joe opening credits (the cartoon from the ’80s, not the new movie). I guess that one could be chalked up to an overabundance of nostalgia, but still. It seemed really weird at the time, and still does.

  4. I well up quite easily, but I also have almost no “burning in the bosom” experiences. I’m perhaps more emotional than the stereotypical male, but I’m not traditionally spiritual – although most people who know me would say I’m very spiritual, especially since my eyes tear up so easily. I think the conflation of the emotional and spiritual is strong in the Church – except when we are complaining about it in religious services that are over-the-top emotional in our eyes. (Surely, youth testimony meetings at camp aren’t reinforcing emotionalism; surely they are spiritual – not like those silly evangelical revivals.)

    When Laman and Lemuel answered Nephi’s question about whether they had asked the Lord for a vision or for some other obvious confirmation of their father’s visions (which is how I interpret his question), I kind of understand their answer and feel for them, since, as far as visions and that type of manifestation are concerned, “The Lord maketh no such thing known unto (me).”

    I would have voted “at the drop of a hat – but that’s not accurate. It’s more like “all of the above except when I see others cry + at other times” – but not at the drop of a hat.

  5. I cry all the time. My sister almost never does. It was a concern for her in the MTC (she was surrounded by weeping sisters) buy as we wrote back and forth, she seemed relieved that emotion and spirit are not necessarily linked. (I do believe that the spirit can make some people more likely to be emotional, but one is not necessarily indicative of the other.)

  6. I haven’t cried for emotional reasons for years; WVS’s explanation of his views on the matter could easily be describing me as well. That said, the other day my son punched me in the groin–you know, the unprovoked, out-of-nowhere kung fu chop six-year-old boys are known for–and I cried a little then.

  7. I’m a weeper.

  8. Some particularly touching music, like Vaughan-Williams “The Lark Ascending” will bring tears to my eyes.

  9. poll should allow for multiselection

  10. I tend to cry at things that hit home with me personally. So sometimes during a testimony, but usually not. Ditto romantic movies. On the other hand, I never made it through an episode of “Friday Night Lights” without crying, and I literally had to put down the last Harry Potter book and walk away at times because I was sobbing so hard I couldn’t see.

  11. I’m a crier and my husband is not. I sometimes am glad for tears- they can be refreshing or show empathy- but most of the time I am frustrated with myself for crying. Next to my husband, who feels things as deeply but keeps a calm face in either happy or sad situations, I feel like I’m being overly-emotional, childlike, or even manipulative. It is natural for me to cry but I wish it wasn’t quite so easy.

  12. I’ve become more of a weeper as time goes on. Since I’ve had kids I’ve become very weepy.

  13. It’s not quite at the drop of a hat, but tears are often close when I think or talk about family, good friends, or when I see others in real emotional pain. Certain music often sets it off as well. Like the theme from the original Star Trek. Wait, that’s supposed to be a secret!

  14. Yay, I’m finally in the majority. Now I feel a little creepy.

  15. Bradley. Think of the mountain lion.

  16. StillConfused says:

    My husband is a crier. I am a Souther farm girl so I had never seen a man cry before. (We were in the “walk it off” camp) I can remember once being exasperated and saying “Grass?! You are crying about grass!!??”

    I am not a cry-er. Pretty much only found one thing that makes me misty — seeing my husband abused by others. For some reason that gets to me. But I can say I am glad I wasn’t alive 2000+ years ago, I don’t think I can handle seeing a crucifixion.

  17. I’ve thought about this one a lot because when I was in high school we buried one of my brothers. I didn’t cry then, or at any time in connection with the events of his death, and I felt horrible about that fact for several years. I remember wanting desperately to cry, but seeing my father and everyone else completely broken down and feeling like I had to “be strong.” I spent hours and hours praying for the ability to cry over him, and I finally managed a single tear. That was enough for me. That was how I understood things back then.

    Now, after mission and marriage and children, I cry most often during movies that depict sacrifice, or when a particular situation I see depicted fictionally or hear discussed seems particularly relevant to whatever I’m struggling with at the time. It’s usually movies, but it’s barely crying. It’s more like my eyes getting wet. I almost never actually let a tear fall, although that correlates negatively with how much sleep I’ve gotten recently.

    I also cry – I mean really weep – from frustration. Exhaustion helps, but it’s the feeling of being overwhelmed and getting pressure from unexpected angles that puts me over. Several times as a student I’ve done just what WVS mentioned male students not doing – cried in front of a teacher or professor about things that were going on that impacted my schoolwork. Notably, I cried explaining to my machining professor about skipping a week of his class to go on my honeymoon. He was angry, but I knew I’d made the right choice. I cried because the feelings involved were so personal and I felt frustrated at getting in trouble for that decision – even though I expected it.

    Anyway, I almost never cry, and I can hardly stop myself when I am on the verge, but I actually kind of like crying. I want to know that my life has some strong emotion associated with it – that I can feel things powerfully even through the many walls I put up.

  18. Almost never cry. There have been a few, but very rare times.
    And never during testimony meeting. It’s kind of uncomfortable.
    Might have blinked back some from a few movie lines,
    But emotional?

  19. Edit: just watched this. Gosh dang it, BCC.

  20. I cry when other people cry or at a loss, even imagined ones. It’s gotten worse since I had a kid.

  21. Kevin Barney says:

    I cry pretty easily, mainly in two situations. First, I cry readily at movies, even when I know intellectually I’m being manipulated. And second, I get emotional easily when speaking over the pulpit.

  22. Mark Brown says:

    Tears all the time. Three of four times per day, happy or sad. I’ve given up even trying to understand why. Sometimes I cry from laughing.

  23. Like Chris and Steve, I’ve noticed I’m more of a crier since I’ve had kids. I think it just makes me feel more vulnerable (and not just in the way jimbob describes).

    I cry at beautiful music and at beautiful writing. Speaking of the latter, reading the bloggernacle occasionally makes me cry. I think part of it is just the unexpectedness of it; I read blogs every day and most posts and comments are interesting or conversational but not particularly emotion-laden. But then I’ll read something like this piece of brilliance and feel weepy (in a good way) for hours afterward.

  24. Yeah, when I watch or hear stories about losing or nearly losing kids, that does me in now that I’m a father. Also at weddings, if they are particularly touching (I usually don’t try to hide crying, but being a wedding photographer means I do sometimes have to hold them back.). I think it makes me a better photographer, though, to be connected to them in the moment, despite constantly drying my eyes so I can still shoot.

  25. I cry all the time since my wife died. There have been times when I start to worry I may get dehydrated. Before that, I would cry at things that touched me personally. Sometimes, that would be in movies and books, too. I bawled like a baby when Dobby died in the last Harry Potter, and my wife made fun of me the way I cried at the end of the last Lord of the Rings movie when Aragorn told the hobbits, “You bow to no man.”

    I think part of it is genetic, too. My uncle used to say that my mom’s family had our tear ducts connected with our bladder. My wife’s passing certainly strengthen that connection.

  26. Joshb, now I’m on a watching soldiers come home to their family binge crying my eyes out!

  27. Josh B., Dusey, you’re welcome.

  28. doodlebug says:

    I cry all the time, it’s my #1 emotional response. Sad? Cry. Tired? Cry. Angry? Hungry? You name it, I cry. It is actually very frustrating and has been embarrassing on many occasions. I can’t get through a parent/teacher conference without a box of tissue.

  29. I tend to cry when I see greatness in others. It’s a joyful cry.

  30. My wife says she doesn’t remember me crying even once before we had kids. Now she says it seems like pretty much anything gets the tears flowing. Offhand I can remember crying this past years while watching my oldest child’s ultrasound video, having her tell me about some kids at school being mean, my youngest turning five, a friend telling me about her dog dying, thinking about my dog dying, thinking about my grandpa who passed away three years ago, thinking about my daughter starting Jr. High, having a dream that my wife passed away, hearing a Peter Gabriel song that I used in an anniversary video that I made for my wife a couple of years ago.

    Whew, that’s a lot of tears. And I have absolutely no explanation why they flow so easily now.

  31. For me, this poll should’ve allowed multiple answers… and I would have clicked most of them. I don’t express emotions very often or well, but I feel them ridiculously strongly, and then I cry–probably because they don’t get any other outlet. I cry at funerals, sometimes even if I didn’t know the person, and sometimes way too hard for how much I did know them–usually because I’m thinking of how the left-behind loved ones feel. I cry when I’m angry. I cried when Dobby died, too (and Dumbledore and Sirius). I cried in The King’s Speech, during the speech. I cry when I see parents be too harsh with their kids, and I watch the kid’s face and just can’t stand it. I sometimes cry, and always get seriously choked up, when I listen to beautiful music, particularly in a minor key.

    I usually don’t, however, let people see me cry, except my husband. If I’m around other people when one of the above happens (except funerals), I swallow it and blink a lot until it goes away.

  32. My tears cure cancer. Too bad I never cry.

  33. I certainly wouldn’t say I cry at the drop of a hat, but I do occasionally tear up at all of the above mentioned choices. Right after I had my kids, I would cry whenever I saw a TV or even commercial where a child was in “danger.”

    But this is interesting, because the other night, for maybe the first time EVER, my non-member husband accompanied us to a church (YW in Excellence) meeting. Everyone who got up to talk about their daughters shed some tears (except me – so I seemed particularly hard-hearted, I guess). Anyway, my kids always come home complaining about how they don’t like the “cry-fest” at church and now here it was happening again! My husband likened it to “emotional abuse” on the children and felt it was a bad example to see such an unhealthy outpouring of tears from adult role models. He felt it was awkward and put the non-criers in sort of a victim position where they couldn’t leave and had to be subjected to others’ crying.

    As you can imagine, I took tremendous offense to this. Crying at the pulpit is practically part of Mormon heritage, even if I’m not a testimony/pulpit crier myself. What do you think?

  34. It’s a necessary evil. Who ever got pleasure from seeing someone cry at church? Croiky.

  35. I cry all the time, even for hokey things. I remember some golf champion saying he cried at Supermarket Grand Openings, (I think in reference to his crying when he won something) and I totally identified. If any animal is ever hurt in a movie, I can’t take it. Something about their innocence and inability to understand why they’re hurting just gets to me. I don’t subject myself to that stuff, cause I really can’t take it. I’m still traumatized from reading Old Yeller in the 5th grade. In church, I tear up when we sing hymns I like, and almost any time I’m touched by the spirit, or when others cry at the pulpit. I have to be sure to take plenty of tissue to church with me. I cry in a different way when frustrated or angry. I’ve cried at work several times, though I hate that because it’s always when I’m really mad and I need my words to pack a punch and instead I dissolve in sissy tears, hah. =’D

    I cried a river at the Disney movie Beauty and the Beast, and I loathe Disney. Something about the beast’s redemption really touched me, though I warned my tiny nieces never to date abusive guys like that, and said I bet he would have trouble with his temper for the rest of his life. (We analyzed all the Disney movies for what we would have done instead (in the old ones with very passive heroines). It was all I could do to protect them from those sinister influences. I’m still sick about how The Jungle Book was ruined for them forever by that horrible movie.)

    At a concert of St. John Passion by Bach, the first time I heard it since I became Christian, I dissolved into tears so much I had to restrain myself from sobbing out loud. Suffering of the innocent again, I guess. I didn’t even try to go see Mel Gibson’s movie of The Passion because I felt pretty sure I couldn’t even begin to hold it together.

    Crying can be a red flag for my depression returning. If I cry more than 2 or 3 times in a day, it’s a signal for me to be more careful with diet, exercise, sunlight, and sleep so I don’t get into a downward spiral. During one bad bout, I described myself as an empty shell leaking at the eyeholes.

    I think it would be a good thing never to feel like crying. Be glad of it. I wish I didn’t.

  36. I will cry in private or just with DH, but rarely in public. Unfortunately, I’m most likely to cry in public when I’m very angry. I try to keep the absolute rage in control so the emotion comes out that way.

    There are probably less than 10 times I’ve cried in church and 2 were at convert baptisms. I have gotten emotional when speaking, but never to the point of crying.

    Meems (#33): That does seem like a lot of crying for a YW in Excellence meeting. I would probably feel the same way as your kids. I doubt it’s intentional emotional abuse, but it would make me uncomfortable because it just doesn’t seem appropriate.

  37. I rarely cried until after my Mission. Getting married has changed me and I am not sure why. I have cried at Church, or been close to it, a few times and I can cry at suffering on TV or in films.

  38. I cry when Samwise walks into rivers, waxes poetic, and carries people up mountains.

  39. AbuMiriam says:

    Yeah I read in an article or journal somewhere that men crying in Mormonism is a taken as a sign of spirituality. I don’t think it is totally unique to Mormonism but it seems to be prevalent and nearly expected from leadership. To be honest it kind of bothers me unless the reason is compelling (to my subjective self, of course). President Monson sometimes shares devastating stories that really move me and I can understand why people would cry. At the BY I had a counselor in the bishopric who basically commanded us to cry. That made me uncomfortable. I don’t believe that crying = spirituality. Someone feeling the spirit may cry and that is fine, but neither should be interpreted as pre or co-requisite.

  40. doodlebug, I’m the same way. Every strong emotion usually turns into tears. It’s been very embarrassing at times, and it does make me feel like a child, especially when I’m trying to talk to a boss or colleague. Even in those situations, if it’s something I feel stongly about, I cry. Other times, though (movies, books, music, commercials, talking to friends and family) I don’t mind it at all. Usually I find it quite refreshing.

    As to the original post, I just want to add that I’ve really appreciated professors and others that can simply hand me a tissue or let me cry without getting distracted by it. I don’t want sympathy for the crying, and it almost never means that I’m emotionally distraught about what we’re talking about.

  41. Some years back, at an institute in Southern California, a group of us were left in the institute building one class session without a teacher. He was a very dependable fellow, so we were all surprised at his unexplained absence. Wanting those present to get at least some benefit from their attendance, a friend and I went into the instructor’s unlocked office and pulled a DVD off the shelf for the class to watch. It was talk by Gordon B. Hinkley to CES, and he spoke on the subject of recognizing the spirit. His comments were very direct, and my memory of the talk is that emotional displays and crying in particular not necessarily being demonstrative of feeling the spirit was the clear emphasis. None of us were crying–all in all, it was quite a sober experience…

  42. Sharee Hughes says:

    I cry when I am moved, either by beautiful music, something I’ve read, movies (I bawled out loud in “Schindler’s List”) or talks in church or at firesides, and sometimes by testimonies. I don’t usually cry when I speak in church (although I did at my mother’s funeral) , and I’ve only done so a time or two when bearing my testimony. I have also been known to cry when I am angry. When the University of Utah’s Pioneer Theatre did “The Diary of Anne Frank” not too long ago, I cried at the needless persecution of people who had done nothing except be born Jews. I cried when Oprah Winfrey showed portions from a film on the Freedom Riders and I wanted so much to shout to all those bigots, “What difference does it make what color a person’s skin is?” And I cried both reading and viewing “The Help” for the same reason. So I do cry a lot, but I wouldn’t say it is at the drop of a hat.

  43. I think excessive and/or frequent crying is a character flaw not all that different from any other emotionally-driven biological response such as anger, euphoria, etc. It represents a loss of control over the natural man.

  44. I think crying is not in the same category as anger, etc. I have noticed a trend in the comments though. Those who cry are by far in the majority of commenters, though the poll suggests that non-cryers are the largest single fraction of readers for this post. Anyone care to make a hypothesis?

  45. Seminary teacher training, a few years ago: “We don’t want students leaving, and their parents ask ‘How was seminary?’, and they say ‘Oh, Mom, the teacher cried again.'”

  46. WVS, I assume it means that the dead husks of men who never cry can’t bring themselves to care enough about the thread to comment (although clicking the poll was sufficiently easy to garner their participation)

  47. I’m a crier and I HATE it. You guys can blubber all you want, but me, I’m going to figure out how to stomp it out of me if it kills me. It’s not spirituality, it’s weakness. The non-criers don’t have this weakness, therefore don’t think about it often, and probably think WVS expressed all their thoughts in his post.

  48. WVS,

    What distinguishes crying from anger? They are both a biologically induced emotional responses to a stimulus and both cloud the individual’s judgement. We’ve been conditioned to treat crying with more sympathy because infants cry to communicate but that socialization does not by itself make the act of crying more acceptable from a purely rational perspective. We are here to learn to overcome the natural man. Crying is just another of those biologically induced states we have to learn to control and overcome.

  49. I want to say that my comment #38 above probably reveals a certain deficiency in myself. People crying at the pulpit and elsewhere in the church shouldn’t really “bother” me. It is possible that the spirit moved them in such a manner. Far be it from me to judge these people. I’ll work on this.

    Today we had quite a few tears during sacrament meeting (I live in the Middle East where church in many countries is on Fridays). It’s interesting that I saw this post right after. I thank you all for your opinions and comments.

    Abu Miriam

  50. I’m not sure crying is part of the natural man. Doesn’t the Pearl of Great Price state that God cried too?
    Nevertheless, I don’t really care for it. Maybe its one of those things that the DSM-IV (and we) could treat as a symptom, not a cause. But I digress into another’s territory…

    WVS, Everyone started as a baby. So everyone has cried. The question might be better asked about the frequency of the crying.

  51. Well, either being a compulsive crier is a character flaw, or I’m deficient because I find it SO irritating to listen to people who blubber all the time. Probably the latter. I can’t listen to President Eyering, I have to read what he said later minus the sobs.

  52. I seldom cried growing up..then I got married and miscarried and cried for the next 6 months.. As my cousin states it “Little house had never been so good”. Hallmark commercials made me cry. It was pitiful.I banned country music for a while… so add to the list hormones make me cry.

    Other than that I cry for really sad things and beautiful music…and every time I read Les miserables . I seldom cry when I’m happy (just had a baby, a wedding, feeling the spirit…)

    I don’t really understand the concept of no tears in heaven…or jesus never cried as a baby as the Christmas song goes…poppycock. Jesus wept as an adult..surely he communicated normally as an infant. Surely God feels our pain an dsorrow now and cries with us.

    With all the show we complain about at church, I would hate for criers to feel like they shouldn’t cry..that ilt represents some sort of lack of self control or weakness. It’s just a different way of expressing emotion. It is not the only true and living way of expressing spiritual feeling..but with some people it is correlated.

  53. I rarely cry. I’ve had too many people be belligerent to me inside & outside of the Church, so I guess that’s part of the reaction to that.

  54. I cry frequently for the silliest of reasons sometimes. I think it’s not a bad thing to be sensitive like that, but sometimes I wish I could make it stop by an act of will. I can make my voice calm, my face calm, when I want, but still the tears spill over sometimes when I’m sad, frustrated, angry, or when I feel the spirit, or really any strong emotions at all. More often since I adopted my son, too. What is it about parenthood that makes us cry more easily? Is it stronger feelings or maybe just lack of sleep? =)