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On this planet, psychic numbing has been raised to high art. This people avoids pain and misery, in others as well as in themselves, at all costs. This is not a people who braves grief in the face and stares it down. No, this people dedicates itself to the elimination of pain—its own—and the aversion of pain—everyone else’s. But grief comes nevertheless.

Tears fall despite the fact that we resist them so strongly. Weeping and wailing are heard everywhere in the land of milk and honey—from the unemployed and underemployed who want basics they can’t have; from the sick and lonely who feel they have nothing to live for at all; from the beaten and the powerless whose lives are faceless and unrecognized; from the privileged and well-to-do who have it all and still have nothing that really satisfies. 

Unfortunately, few of us see our weeping as spiritual gift or a matter of divine design. But we are wrong. Weeping is very holy and life-giving. It sounds the alarm for a society and wizens the soul of the individual. If we do not weep on the personal level, we shall never understand humanity around us. If we do not weep on the public level, we are less than human ourselves.

If we do not allow ourselves to face and feel pain, we run the risk of entombing ourselves in a plastic bubble where our lies about life shrink our hearts and limit our vision. It is not healthy, for instance, to say that massive poverty is sad but “normal.” It is not right to say that sexism is unfortunate, but “necessary.” It is not human to say that war is miserable but “essential.” It is not healthy to insist that our deep hurts and cutting disappointments and appalling losses and great personal mistakes do not exist. On the contrary. To weep tears of frustration about them may be to take our first real steps toward honesty, toward mental health, toward a life that is worth living.

Weeping, in fact, may be the best indicator we have of what life is really all about for us. It may be only when we weep that we can come to know best either ourselves or our worlds. What we weep for measures what we are. What we weep over indicates what others may expect of us in life.

     —from For Everything a Season by Joan Chittister