The Biology of Tears

The Biology of Tears

“Jesus wept.” – John 11:35

We know, from personal experience, that people cry for all sorts of reasons. Sometimes we weep because we feel sorry for ourselves, but we also cry out of sympathy for others. We cry when we grieve a loss but we also cry tears of joy and weep in victory. Small wonder then, why researchers are at a loss to explain why we cry. Scientists can tell us, however, that the tears we secrete from our lacrimal glands are a biological necessity, but not all tears are the same.

There are basal tears, which keep our eyes lubricated; reflex tears, which are produced when we peel onions or get an eyeful of sand; and emotional tears. Emotional tears are a response to physical or emotional pain and differ from other tears on a chemical level. Not only do emotional tears have more protein than the other types of tears, they also contain manganese and the hormone prolactin – both chemicals the body produces in response to stress. When we cry emotional tears, we purge our bodies of stress-related chemicals, which makes us feel better because it restores our chemical balance.

Many men today were raised in a time where we were told that “big boys don’t cry” and “real men don’t cry.” However, in a 2004 research survey sponsored by Kleenex (who else?) it was reported that 90 percent of women and 77 percent of men felt it socially-acceptable to cry, and even went on to agree that it was unhealthy not to cry.

The ability to cry emotional tears is a gift from God. As for me, I’m one of the 77 percent who agree that it’s OK for men to cry. I know that during most worship services, the Spirit moves me emotionally (and spiritually) to a point that I am so aware of God’s presence, providence and protection that my eyes become moist.
But more than any other time, tears seem to come from my eyes when I sense the presence of the Holy Spirit.

What brings about emotional tears for you?

Copyright 2013 by Glenn W. Miller
Reproduction permitted for noncommercial use only.

Leave a Reply