After the Boston Marathon bombings the phrase “Boston Strong” was heard everywhere. It was on social media, signs, T-shirts, and even on bus marquees. Tragedies pull people together in a resolve to not be let down by unfortunate events, to pick ourselves up by our bootstraps and continue living. But in our mentality of strength, do we leave time to actually grieve?
It’s our tendency to hold back the tears and just get angry. It was unfortunate that some reactions to the bombings were, “You messed with the wrong city.” This has retaliatory tones and being “strong” is not about revenge and getting even. True strength, even in Saint Ignatius’ terms, is to allow tears. He called this the “grace of tears” because it’s one way God touches our souls. Tears of joy or sorrow both give strength because it firmly puts us in contact with our emotions. We have a chance to stare them face to face and acknowledge them. And in the face of a tragedy it helps us grieve.
Perhaps those T-shirts ought to read, “Boston, grieve”. It’s a call to acknowledge the confusion, the sadness, and the need for peace. Have we given enough room for this? Strength only comes when we first acknowledge the reality and all the messiness that comes with it. Let us not use strength as an excuse to push away the tears and the grief.
Turning to the Psalms can be a great source of lamentation and hope:
“Be merciful to me, O God, because I am under attack; my enemies persecute me all the time. All day long my opponents attack me. There are so many who fight against me. When I am afraid, O Lord Almighty, I put my trust in you. I trust in God and am not afraid; I praise him for what he has promised. What can a mere human being do to me? My enemies make trouble for me all day long; they are always thinking up some way to hurt me! They gather in hiding places and watch everything I do, hoping to kill me. Punish them, O God, for their evil; defeat those people in your anger! You know how troubled I am; you have kept a record of my tears. Aren’t they listed in your book? The day I call to you, my enemies will be turned back. I know this: God is on my side – the Lord, whose promises I praise. In him I trust, and I will not be afraid. What can a mere human being do to me? O God, I will offer you what I have promised; I will give you my offering of thanksgiving, because you have rescued me from death and kept me from defeat. And so I walk in the presence of God, in the light that shines on the living.”
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Music by Kevin MacLeod