crying is better than smiling

Zhu - Beijing, China
Entered on March 30, 2009
Age Group: 18 - 30
  • Listen to This I Believe on RadioPublic

  • Podcasts

    Sign up for our free, weekly podcast of featured essays. You can download recent episodes individually, or subscribe to automatically receive each podcast. Learn more.

  • FAQ

    Frequently asked questions about the This I Believe project, educational opportunities and more...

  • Top Essays USB Drive

    This USB drive contains 100 of the top This I Believe audio broadcasts of the last ten years, plus some favorites from Edward R. Murrow's radio series of the 1950s. It's perfect for personal or classroom use! Click here to learn more.

I believe that sometimes crying is better than smiling when confronting setbacks.

“Never cry, no matter what difficulties you meet. Keep smiling.” I was told that when I was a little child. However, as I grew up, I found it difficult to smile when I was confronted with setbacks. Even if I were wearing a smile on my face, it was not a real one. I was pretending to smile.

It was the coldest day that I had ever seen in my life. I was the last one to leave the classroom. As it was getting dark, I locked the door in a hurry. The minute I looked up I saw my physics teacher, who liked wearing jeans to class and starting his class with a joke which made the classroom full of laughter. He was coming toward me, waving his hands, grinning from ear to ear. I picked up my schoolbag, walked to him quickly, smiled in a polite way. I knew he would talk with me about my failure in physics.

We both stopped in front of a maple tree. The falling maple leaves looked like butterflies dancing ballet in the sunset. He asked if I could have a talk with him. I nodded and said, “Yes, of course.”

Then he said the following words that I would keep in my mind forever.

“I knew you were a tough girl the first time I saw you. But even the toughest man will cry when he encounters great setbacks. I noticed you were trying hard to hold back your tears in the class and keep smiling. Cry, if your heart cannot stand it any more. Cry, if it makes you feel easy. Cry, if it is your true feeling. Sometimes we need to let our true feelings out.”

I cried. The emotions I had held in for so long swept over me like a flood. He put his hand on my shoulder and told me that he was just like me when he was my age, that he had considered crying as a sign of weakness, just as in the old Chinese saying, “Good boys seldom cry.” Only after he suffered some hard times did he truly understand the meaning of crying. Crying is not a symbol of cowardice, but an expression of human’s true feeling.

Many years have passed since my teacher taught me this lesson. I’m still a tough girl. But I am not a tough girl who regards crying as something like infirmity. I smile when I’m happy, cry when I’m sad. Life is going on; we should be our true selves.

I can’t deny smiling is beautiful, but I believe that sometimes crying is better than smiling.