Good Question: Is It OK For Men To Cry?

By Jason DeRusha, WCCO-TV

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — When new Speaker of the House Rep. John Boehner went on “60 Minutes,” he broke into tears, several times. It’s happened often throughout his career. Some are calling him a “cry-baby.” So when is it OK for men to cry?

“We’re fine with athletes crying after winning a big game or winning an Olympic gold medal,” said Dr. Bill Frey, a neurologist at Regions Hospital in St. Paul who’s done extensive research on tears and crying.

“It’s fine at funerals and childbirths,” said a man in downtown Minneapolis.

But it becomes different when a politician cries. It doomed the presidential aspirations of Edward Muskie. It raised questions when Hillary Clinton wiped away one tear in a campaign stop.

“Some individuals have a low threshold for crying, and others don’t,” said Frey.

But if people think that someone who cries is someone who can’t control emotion, Frey said the science doesn’t back that up.

“Falling apart and crying are not the same thing,” he explained.

In fact, researchers have found that crying is a positive force when it comes to health.

“Crying is a way of alleviating emotional stress. It evolved uniquely in humans. It probably has a function of alleviating stress by removing in the tears chemicals that build up during stress,” said Frey.

Despite that benefit, there are stronger factors that cause most adult men to suppress the physical reaction that causes crying, according to Dr. Frey.

“Boys and girls cry the same amount up until age 12, when men have a huge decrease in crying,” he said.

When puberty starts, different hormones lead to differently shaped tear ducts in men and women, at the same time, society tells boys to man up. That doesn’t mean that men are unable to cry, rather, they tend to suppress the emotional factors that fire the trigger.

“Most men have conditioned themselves so they don’t get really emotional,” said Frey, “so they’ve sort of extinguished the crying response to a large degree.”

On my blog, I admitted crying at the end of Toy Story 3, and Magnus wrote, “Men who cry are weak little babies in my book.”

Susan added, “DeRusha – you’re a wimp. Who cries at a cartoon?”

“I don’t think it’s OK for either men OR women to cry in the workplace except in the most extraordinary circumstances,” wrote Bridget Cusick. It “suggests emotional immaturity/inability to deal productively with emotions, not being ‘in touch’ with one’s emotions or merely being ‘comfortable’ showing them,” she suggested.

But according to Frey, crying is not a voluntary act, and it’s very difficult for people to shut it down, when the urge to cry starts.

“It’s very difficult to control crying. Once you get upset, you’re going to cry,” he said, suggesting that when people emotionally move beyond a centered zone, the crying trigger can fire.

“Just because someone tears up about something emotional, doesn’t mean if the country’s attacked they’re not going to be able to respond and do the right thing,” said Frey.

WCCO-TV’s Jason DeRusha Reports

More from Jason DeRusha
  • Kieron

    It’s all for show, like Glenn Beck.

    • Me


      What a wimp, Just like Brett Farve but creepier!

  • mark from

    Yes it’s OK for men to cry. Speaking for myself, and keeping it out of politics. I have cried many of times in my life. I have cried over the loss of a family member, and more recently the loss of a pet. For men to show the emotion of crying is to some a weakness for others its empathy. I can as some would say keep it in and move forward but what good would that do? I need to release that emotion not only for myself, but to show others that I hurt to.
    Now in business it hurts me to lay people off and when that happened I cried because I knew how much pain that person is feeling. The feeling of self worth and value is hurting them. The feeling of loss they are having at the time and will have for a time. I also cry tears of joy when I call them up to come back to work.

    • Me

      But to look like such a weak man… Men don’t do it on TV…

      Oh what a sad case that Weeper of the House!

    • Mike

      Sounds like you cry A LOT! Don’t you find it exhausting? Geez, I’d be an emotional nut case if I cried all the time like that. Most understand a special situation and it’s made you really upset, but when it happens time and again, it’s uncomfortable for everyone else. In my experience, those that cry a lot, one tends not to rely on for advice, etc. I don’t want an emotional person’s help determining my future. When you cry you are caught up in YOURSELF and not looking at the situation clearly. We all feel we are not looking at a situation clearly when we are crying because we are stressed, make sense?


        @Mike I forgot to add What color is your world? If its black and white you will never make it in the corporate world. Just a heads up pal. Now flip those burgers there is a soccer mom at the drive up window.


        @Mike Well Mike you sound like a real tough guy, and I am sure you have the words “Do you want fries with that” down to a science

      • Mike

        Nice comeback, Mark. Thanks for the advice on the corporate world, it really means a lot coming from you.

      • Doug

        Gee Mark- Your must be one of the beautiful people, alla “Alan Alda” sensitive male. Give me a break.. It always astonishes me how little tolerance we have for oppossing views. I may not agree with Mike completely but if he does not cry he does not so why do you use this as an occassion to take a shot? I guess you eat only organic ? It seems to me perhaps you harbor some insecurities about your own masculinity. Personally, I think the question is all about context and when the third most powerful man in government cannot refrain from sobbing everytime he is asked an a question, we have a problem. I am not an Obama supporter but I fear the prospect of losing him and having either our VP dolt Joe Biden or this emotionally unstable nut dcome president. I would take Hillary, never thought I would say that.

    • Mike

      All insults aside, I was simply trying to point out that it’s very uncomfortable when someone’s crying too much in front of another person who doesn’t know them personally. Why is that difficult to understand? You seem to be real sensitive to these other people but you can’t be sensitive to my perspective?

  • imageo dei

    Of course it is. Jesus did, King David did. True strength comes from the ability to care deeply.

    • mark from

      @imageo dei Well said

  • M Jones

    Crying is a biological function. Unless one isn’t wired as a human, crying won’t be a natural function. I cry at various times, happy or sad. I don’t care how people feel about it. I generally don’t care how people feel about anything related to me. How you feel about me is none of my business. Cry away and feel better!

  • Joel

    Give me a break, you can find a doctor to say anything and back up whatever theory you may have with their “evidence”. Why do you think they have different expert witnesses that contradict one another? One can’t be totally dismissive of evidence however you can’t gobble down whatever an “expert” tells you either.

  • a g

    If you didn’t cry at Toy Story 3, you have no heart and your inner child might be dead.

    I’d rather have a guy who cries at a cartoon than a guy who is empathetically or emotionally a stone.

    • Sal H

      Inner child— really? Let’s get back to the point. Did you even watch the various videos of Boehner crying? Watch them and tell us all if you’d like to have him be the Speaker of the House. Now picture Obama crying like that at almost every speech. Do you think he’d be laughed out of office? I guess maybe not by you and your inner child.

  • maya

    I dont want my politicians crying. Give me a break. If they cannot handle the stress then they dont belong on the job.

  • JB

    Depends on the situation.

  • Jane

    Wonder if a Demo cried would there be ALL this coverage? The Demo would probably be praised as a great caring politician. Because someone cares about what is happening to this country under this present administration gives the media the right to judge his emotions?? 2012 can’t get here fast enough

  • Edgar

    If a man tears up easily, along with easily being able to sleep sitting up, try adding paneothanic acid to your diet.

    Some times there is a chemical reason for physical reactions.

  • What makes you cry? | Us Girls..Our Views

    […] the House Rep. John Boehner’s crying. And he does it a lot. Very frequently. Here’s the Good Question about it. Does that make you uncomfortable? Does it seem weird to you when a man does […]

  • Raymond Donahue

    This is another assault on the male in American society. In the left’s efforts to make all things equal the left is destroying the human spirit by condoning less and less self-control. Now you can tell your behavior disordered child that whenever he runs into a tough situation he can cry to gain sympathy. What he will gain is unemployment. A smart female will take his job. Thanks to the Feminists, the Far Left, the Communists, and all the enemies of men.

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