In 1982 Bruce Feirstein, an American author, published ‘Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche,’ a book satirizing stereotypes of our masculinity (or lack thereof). In his book Quiche eaters were characterized as being wimps, pantywaists—less masculine. Although it was meant to be tongue-in-cheek, it caused many of us alleged macho men to examine our own images—did we fall into that category? Did we possess some wimpy traits? Even so, the book was a huge hit. According to Wikipedia, it was on the ‘New York Times’ Best Seller list for 55 weeks, and sold over 1.6 million copies
Adding insult to injury, two or three years ago I was enjoying the ‘Tonight Show with Jay Leno’. He was interviewing an attractive young single lady and was querying her about what type of man would be her ideal. One surprising ‘deal-breaker’ for her was any man who drank through a straw. Jay seemed somewhat startled and asked, “Why is drinking through a straw such a deal-breaker”; to which she replied, “Real men don’t drink through a straw” and then quickly added, “John Wayne would never drink through a straw”.
As you might well imagine, a rash of other ‘Real men don’t….’ phrases popped up during that era. ‘Real men don’t hold purses’; ‘real men don’t shop’; ‘real men don’t need power tools’; ‘real men would never order ‘what she’s having’. Then, perhaps the most poignant of all ‘don’ts’ was, ‘real men don’t cry’. That’s a tough one—really tough. As young lads we were encouraged to ‘keep a stiff upper lip’. If our upper lip began to tremble, we were indicating first signs of weakness—an absolute ‘no-no’ for any upstanding young man! We were taught that real men can control their emotions—real men can remain strong in the face of adversity. The implication is that if a man sheds tears, he is automatically considered a ‘wuss’.
And yet, in some ways the phrase, ‘Real men don’t cry’ has a Scriptural basis. In the King James Version of the Bible, the words, ‘be strong’ appear in 72 verses, and the words, ‘good courage’ appear in another 20 verses. In all those verses we are admonished to be strong in the face of adversity. And with good reason! God is on our side. An example of that is found in 1 Chronicles 28:20, “Then David said to his son Solomon, “Be strong and courageous, and act; do not fear nor be dismayed, for the LORD God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you nor forsake you until all the work for the service of the house of the LORD is finished (NASB)”
But even in the Bible there are noted exceptions, evidently approved by God. One such exception would be Hezekiah, one of the greatest kings in Judean history. We read about him in the book of 2 Kings. When the prophet Isaiah told him to get his house in order because he would soon die, he wept bitterly. Then in the 5th verse of chapter 20 we read, “Thus says the LORD, the God of your father David, “I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; behold, I will heal you (NASB).” King David, Judah’s greatest warrior and king, who as a youth killed lions and bears with his bear hands, and slew the notorious Philistine giant with a sling shot was known to cry a number of times. One example is found in Psalm 6:6 where he prays to God, “I am weary with my groaning; all night I make my bed swim; I drench my couch with my tears (NKJV).” But then, in Psalm 56:8 David acknowledged that God puts our tears in His bottle. He was consoled by the fact that our tears do not go unnoticed by God! Tears did not diminish their manhood.
And if that is not convincing enough, in John 11:35 we read that even Jesus wept. No one in his right mind would dare to say that Jesus was not a ‘real man’. He was the ultimate man’s man—afraid of nothing—even submitting to death on a cruel cross.
Hmm, in surveying instances such as those, you might say that when we are overcome with grief to the extent that we cry, we’re in good company. I feel better now. .