This article strays a lot more into the Ben Mildred view of things than the biblical view of things. Upon further reflection I may not agree with myself or entirely what I was getting at. Still, feel free to read it anyway.
It’s a funny old world; there was I thinking I was done with my ramblings on what it means to be a man when Mr Long Legged Cleggy Weggy (aka Nick Clegg) goes and embarrasses himself by announcing that he cries and has feelings. As one memorable comment on the internet said: “What a complete tit this Clegg man is.”
Now let me get this straight: I don’t have anything against men crying. Qualification: It has to fall under the following three categories: the death of a loved one, a heart broken by love, injustice or poverty or as a sinful man weeping before his Father God.
What I hate is when men cry for the wrong reasons: out of self pity, for little things of little importance or just because they’re, you know, really emotional people. The problem with Nick Clegg’s confession is that it makes him look weak and pathetic. Paradoxically enough there can be nothing more moving than a broken man crying. Indeed, there can be a lot of strength to a man’s tears.
The best example of this is Jesus Christ and his reaction to the death of his friend Lazarus.
“When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. “Where have you laid him?” he asked. “Come and see, Lord,” they replied. Jesus wept. Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”
John 11 v 33 - 36
Jesus weeps over the death of a friend and out of compassion for all the others there grieving. Jesus wept knowing full well that he was going to raise Lazarus back to life. We have here a beautiful picture of Jesus, the God-man, crying at the loss of a good friend.
“Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.”
Romans 12 v 15
Too often as men we tend to view ourselves as being aloof from sympathy. And while there’s a time and place for having a stiff upper lip there’s also a time and a place to mourn with those who mourn. We should never allow ourselves to become hard hearted and unmoved instead seeking that tender heart that reacts appropriately to all the troubles and sorrows of life.
But this is more of what should happen, arguably, in our private life. There is another side to a man’s life and that’s in his role of leadership whether that be in business, politics, church or family. And I would argue that here we need to bear into mind the pep talk that God gives Joshua:
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
Joshua 1 v 9
Let’s say you’re a leader and something terrible happens. The first response might be to fall apart and cry but actually our response should be to keep our heads and act with strength and courage. I remember the day when my Dad conked out during a sermon, it was a worrying and frightening time but at the same time I was very aware that I needed to keep it all together. I had to be there for my Mum and support her and this didn’t allow any room for my own fears. I had to show strength and courage because I was a man and in emergency situations I have to be a rock to any women around.
On a certain level if everyone else has lost it – I can’t. There’s nothing more manly than keeping it all together, stepping up to the mark and being counted when the world is going to pot.
Even if Nick Clegg went home and balled his eyes out for hours on end he still needs to realize that as a leader he needs to be strong. If he’s crying just because some people don’t like him, or life is difficult or things aren’t quite what he thought they be then he needs to get a grip and grow a pair. Strength and courage should be his two companions.
Or to put it another way: a man may want to weep but he controls it and goes through with something anyway. With Nick Clegg you can’t help but get the impression that he cries and gives up.
Jesus, the Son of God, wept for the death of a friend, the sin of his people and the prospect of an agonizing death on the cross. Nick Clegg cries because he broke a promise and people now hate him. Jesus was the most fully human man this world has known. And despite, no, through his tears he showed strength, courage, steadfastness and a manliness that no one can match.
I’m not really sure the exact point I’m trying to make. It’s not unmanly to cry but it can be. It is manly to hold it all together when others aren’t. I think the main thing is that even if a man weeps it shouldn’t stop him doing his duty. And that as leaders men should wield strength and courage and stand firm.
I know this: Nick Clegg gets crying wrong. Jesus Christ gets crying right. In Clegg it is weakness. In Jesus it is strength. In Clegg it is unmanly. In Jesus it is supreme manliness. Maybe it’s because Jesus wept for others and Clegg just for himself. Maybe it's because Jesus had strength and Clegg doesn’t. Largely though, it's because Jesus was God and Clegg is just a man.
The encouragement then is to turn to Jesus when we’re feeling our weakness so keenly. When grief, fear or heart break threatens to overwhelm us we can turn to him and find the God-man who wept out of his deep compassion for humanity and who has all the strength and courage we could ever need. We can turn to Jesus and find courage and comfort mingled sweet together.