“You cry, I’m suffering severe pain! Are you then relieved from feeling it, if you bear it in an unmanly way?” – Seneca, Moral Letters, 78.17
Men don’t cry. Crying is a weakness. I remember believing that so many years ago. I know better now. A study from the University of Minnesota found that:
…crying improves the mood of 88.8% of people and it can also help with healing, boosting immunity and reducing levels of anger and stress.
The argument that crying is a sign of weakness is understood to be a sexist position considering it’s women who tend to cry more than men and mean being “tough” cannot happen when showing emotional weakness.
Emotional tears also contain a hormone called prolactin, which helps reduce stressful feelings and boosts the immune system.
Women have more prolactin than men and levels rise during pregnancy, which may be one reason why women cry more than men – especially when they’re expecting a baby.
So let’s not look at “unmanly” as not expressing emotion. To do so would be inconsistent with Stoic thinking. Remember, being Stoic is not about suppressing emotions, instead it’s about not letting them control us.
To be fair, Seneca isn’t speaking about the act of crying. He’s asking us whether the act of crying out “I’m suffering” does anything to alleviate the suffering. No, it does not. So how should one bear it? What is the “manly” way to deal with it? If you understand that crying is a healthy way to deal with the pain why would you turn away from it because of a false gender stereotype?
Seneca wants us to not get wrapped up in the emotion, the passion. How do we stop the suffering? You won’t feel better by constant complaining. Remember, how you deal with situations says much about your character. Let your suffering be something you embrace as an opportunity.
“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, vision cleared, ambition inspired, and success achieved.” – Helen Keller