Sorrow is better than laughter, for sadness has a refining influence on us. Ecclesiastics 7:3
Waiting in line at the Atlanta airport for my turn to check in, I noticed the young woman in front of me. Behind her dark glasses, tears trailed down her flushed cheeks. As she put down her suitcases to brush them away, I wondered at the story behind her pain…leaving someone she loved? Going somewhere she dreaded? Lonely? Afraid? Sick?
She briefly caught my eyes before turning away embarrassed. And I was struck with the question. Why do adults always feel so embarrassed about letting others see us cry? Why do we turn away, hiding our tears and sadness from others? Why are we so private about this common human emotion when we all feel it sometimes?
I think I understand. As adults, we've become masters at covering up true emotions—or squelching them altogether. For instance, I can put on masks of happy or mad as cover-ups for other primary emotions lurking below the surface, but not sadness. A display of sadness is when the real me floats to the surface of my life. On rare occasions, the ocean of pain is too raw and too big, and it escapes in the form of tears rolling out with the tide, blowing my cover. Sadness is the one, true, pure emotion that puts my bare-naked heart on display. And this is a scary thought, indeed. It inclines me to run for cover because I'm embarrassed for anyone to see what's hidden away in the deep. But I ask, why? Why am I afraid to be real?
The Bible says that sadness is good for us because of its "refining influence." What does that mean? I think it means that we become more ourselves—more real—in sadness than any other emotion. It causes us to think about the rich meaning of life and not to get so caught up in the trivial. I think it also means there is a miraculous healing effect brought on by tears that cannot be found in any other remedy on earth. It's as if life has thrown mud of hurt and injury on the window of our hearts, and only through our tears is that mud washed away so we can see our way again.
There are common benefits as well. When we feel sad, we're more in tune with others and the burdens they carry. We become connected to each other in one of the purest forms of human fellowship when our facades are removed through sadness.
Next time you feel sad, instead of trying to cover it up and hide it away, live on the edge a bit—share your sadness with a close friend. Even if you are a guy, talk to your wife, a close friend, or your accountability partner. Get real. Get human. Wear your heart on your sleeve for once and notice how it connects you to others in a way that is all but lost in our busy, mask-wearing society. I guarantee you'll feel more real and more alive than you have in a long while.