I didn’t need to speak the language to know what he was saying.

The older man, a grandpa perhaps, approached my son at the park while we were tourists in a foreign country. The sun had begun its descent into the sky and people flocked outside as the summer weather finally became bearable. My kids’ white-blonde hair and fair skin stood out against the darker complexions and drew people in like magnets.

A trio of men sat on the rock wall, chatting and enjoying a snack. My son ambled over to them with a full-faced grin. They chuckled and shared some chips. As my son toddled away, he tripped and landed on his diaper-padded bottom. He waited on the ground, looking to see if anyone noticed.

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One of the men rushed over and popped him up to his feet. He wagged a finger at my son’s pouty face, then pulled his own arm up and flexed his muscles. He pointed to his bicep and let out a volley of words I didn’t comprehend, including the phrase, “Don’t cry. Be strong.” My son gifted another smile and toddled off to play.

But here’s the truth, my son. You don’t have to be strong. You don’t have to avoid tears to be a man.

I want you to have space to feel—joy, hope, disappointment, excitement, frustration, and yes, even sadness. It’s part of the human experience, and because God gave us intellect and emotions, I want you to use both.

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There’s a whole host of strong, admirable men for you to emulate, from your dad and grandpas to Biblical characters and historical figures. Real men cry. Not because they are weak, but because they are strong.

And the man I most want you to become like, Jesus, wept when one of his good friends died. And if Jesus cried, it must be OK if you do, too.

Gretchen Hoffman

Gretchen is a Jesus enthusiast, wife/mama, and math lover. When she's not playing with her kids or answering, "Why?" for the hundredth time, she enjoys reading, writing, and learning to live cross-culturally.