Most everyone who is 50+ is familiar with the song by the same name as this blog post. In fact, you’re most likely singing it now that I’ve mentioned it–you’re welcome! 🙂 But did you know that whatever circumstances signal our tears also cause those tears to look differently under a microscope? I recently read a fascinating article that not only described these differences in full detail, but also provided photographs of the different types of tears to highlight how different they look.
Take the photograph at the top of this post; they are basal tears–those shed as a reflex to pain or atmospheric irritants. They actually look like rain falling and forming a river, don’t they?
Here’s another one:
Any idea what caused these types of tears? It is the tears of change–something I’ve been shedding quite a bit these days. Something Tom tries to understand, but often struggles to do so. The same changes have affected him, but he doesn’t cry nearly as much as I do. Which brings me to my next point…
Another fascinating aspect of this research is how different men and women are in regards to shedding tears. Of course, everyone knows the differences, but what you may not realize is why.
One substance being studied in connection with crying is the hormone prolactin, levels of which increase in women during puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, and breastfeeding, as well as when we’re under stress. We average up to 60 percent more prolactin in our bodies than men. William Frey, Ph.D., biochemist and author of Crying: The Mystery of Tears, theorizes that prolactin lowers women’s emotional bar by stimulating the endocrine system, which makes us more prone to tears.
And we do cry more — on average, 64 times a year, compared with 17 times for men. We cry when we’re sad or frustrated or angry, whereas men cry at major losses, like death; when they get frustrated, they just get mad. Ask a man the last time he cried in front of someone else and chances are he’ll have a hard time remembering. A woman won’t.
But a funny thing happens as we reach midlife. Women cry less and get angry more — just as our levels of female hormones drop off, leaving a higher concentration of the male hormone testosterone. In men, a decline in testosterone makes for increased impact from their female hormones. And guess what? As guys get older, they get angry less — and cry more. (source: How Crying Works, by Alia Hoyt)
Isn’t that amazing? Of course this research bypasses the spiritual aspect of our tears, which we know is the most important part of who we are. God created us human, and every detail of our being glorifies Him–even our tears.
“You have kept count of my tossings,
put my tears in your bottle.
Are they not in your book?” – Psalm 56:8 ESV
And the best of news is that He keeps track of every tear we’ve ever shed. Whatever you’re facing today, know that God has made your tears to help you through it. And they are not wasted tears. He counts them and marvels at them, writing them in His book. How often do we pour our hearts out to God in prayer for help in a desperate situation? Maybe you’re doing this quite regularly and are being tempted to think it’s of no account. This couldn’t be further from the truth! Our tears are accomplishing in us exactly what God wants them to accomplish. Give Him your concerns, your tears. Trust that He hears us when we pray.
I think of Mary Magdelene who took a vial of very expensive perfume and poured it out on Jesus’ feet, wiping them with her tears. What she was doing was an act of thanksgiving and surrender to the One who had loved her most. Do you see your tears as an act of surrender, a sacrifice of praise to Him who has ordained every step? I have recently, and it has made all the difference in the changes I’m facing. What were tears of grief… (Doesn’t this look like something broken?)
…have turned to tears of joy. (Doesn’t this look like a fireworks display?)