I think many would say that my husband inherited his sensitivity from his mother. He is a grown man who has never been afraid to express how he feels, even if it involves crying a little. He cries at appropriate times-when his heart is overwhelmed with joy, gratitude, or pain. His brother is much the same way. And although I would agree that he received his mother’s tender heart, I think that the confidence and courage that allows him to feel secure in expressing what is going on in his heart, he learned from his father.
Lately, our six year old has been crying a lot. As parents we try to discern when his heart is hurting and when he is being manipulative; when we listen and when we tell him to man up. Many times tears flow as a result of not getting his way. This is not an appropriate time to cry, we tell him. Sometimes we see tears in order to exaggerate an offense against him. Stop crying, we say. With all our boys, when they get hurt, they receive hugs and care and kisses, and then we usually say, “I think you’re ok, it’s time to calm down and be brave.”
The truth is that most of the things that the boys cry about are not worth the tears. We know this is part of the stage they are in, that they will cry over unfair games and lost races. At this age, the sensitivity is there, at the surface and ready to pour. It is our responsibility as parents to slowly teach them that tears are for injustice and pain and sin and even for men, joy.
He came into our room a while back, tears in his eyes. He recognized his bad habit; our words, by the Grace of God, finally reaching his heart. “It’s an idol in my life,” he said. We prayed together and reminded him of the One who wipes tears away forever, and the tears of sorrow turned into tears of joy… Appropriate tears.
We want to teach the boys how to be men–how to be honest leaders, courageous warriors, and noble defenders. We know that these characteristics aren’t always easy to obtain, so we want to be intentional as we disciple them. However, my heart is at peace. I’ve heard it said that children learn what they live, but there’s more to it than that. I know that the way they express their feelings is being shaped by the confidence and courage that has been passed down from their grandfather to their father, and now to them.