David’s Psalms: Manly Emotions

by:  Jeff Krabach

“Real men do not cry.”  That is what I heard growing up.  Not just from my dad but other men in my life.  I grew up in a house where we initially showed a great deal of love toward one another.  But as we grew up, we were encouraged as boys to keep our emotions to ourselves more and more.  I watched as the emotional bond of our family was slowly diminished.  Boys who once kissed their mother goodbye for the day no longer even felt comfortable uttering the words “I love you” to one another or anyone in the house.  It was not manly to express such emotions was the message the world was telling me.
I read John Eldridge and his hypermasculine take on life.  This only further solidified my thinking that real men do not show much emotion; otherwise they might just be the nice guy and no one respects the nice guy.  The nice guy is a wimp and needs to “man up.”  Being a real man meant being epic and doing something amazing.  It most certainly did not mean sharing your emotional state with other men around you.
It all did not sit right with me. There was this nagging sense that I was misunderstanding God’s view of our emotions.  But where could I turn to discover the truth?  Certainly the Bible speaks of emotions.  So, I turned to Scripture and I looked to the Book of Psalms. And what did I find? Plastered all over the Psalms were . . . emotions.  I recently started to go through the Psalms and just wrote down all the emotions I could see.  Here is a sample of the emotions and the author who wrote the Psalm:

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As anyone can see, David wrote a large number of psalms that express various emotions ranging from abandonment to confidence, affliction to comfort, trouble to joy, strength to weakness, and so on.  There are nearly no emotions which we experience as humans which David does not express in the psalms.  The list I have here is only from the first 40 some psalms.
So what does David’s expression of emotions in the psalms have to do with manliness?  Well David was certainly a man’s man.  He is one of the manliest guys in the entire Bible.  I think Samson might be the only other dude in Scripture who can compete with David’s manliness.  David was a warrior.  Songs were sung of how David slew tens of thousands (1 Samuel 18:7).  Of course he is famously known as slayer of Goliath (1 Samuel 17).  He was a leader of men who also were mighty warriors who completed epic deeds in the name of the Lord (1 Samuel 23:8-39).  He was a brave man who once took his men and together with them killed 200 Philistines just to collect their foreskin so that he could marry king Saul’s daughter (1 Samuel 18:17-29).  This guy was a badass.
There are many other ways in which David showed he was a manly man.  He was a master planner, a lover of women, a brother-in-arms, wealthy and more.  But David also did things that some might not considered manly.  He played the harp (1 Samuel 16:23) which is not considered the manliest of instruments.  He wrote extensive amounts of poetry as witnessed in the Book of Psalms.  He also vigorously danced so much so that he embarrassed his wife (1 Samuel 6:16).  This manly man was a gentle shepherd boy but also a shepherd boy who slew lions and bears (1 Samuel 17:34-36).
This was the man who wrote much of the Psalms.  Psalms in which we see him cry out to God in his distress and fear.  Psalms where we see him overwhelmingly express his joy for the Lord.  Psalms where he feels crushed, humbled, and a great heaviness has come over him.  Psalms where he pleads for the vengeance of God to smite the wicked who plot against him.  Nearly every emotion you can imagine shows up in the Psalms of David.
So what? David was a manly man and he expressed his emotions.  He cried and he laughed.  He was angry and afraid.  I think we can learn from David that as men, we can have a great level of emotion.  We can be greatly distressed and even express this distress to others, especially God.  We can be so overwhelmed with joy over what God is doing in our lives that we can’t contain it and we dance vigorously or sing praise to God.  We can cry over our sins and how they have separated us from the God above who gives us grace and mercy.  We can rise up in righteous anger pleading to God to smite the wicked that have forsaken Him and cause injustice in the world.
Our emotions are part of us as men.  We like to pretend that they are not.  We are strong of course.  We need to show the world that we are not shaken by anything that is thrown at us. But in reality, we are beings of emotion that need to express our hearts to our God and to one another.  David did not back off and worry that others might think he wasn’t manly.  He was man enough to be comfortable to express his pain and sorrow.  We have valid emotions, we can show them and still be men.
So the next time someone in your life tells you that “real men don’t cry,” think of David—the man’s man who expressed the emotions of his heart in poetry and through his life.  Men, we are allowed to cry.  We are allowed to laugh.  We are allowed to be angry.  We just need to make sure that in the end we still serve our one lord and master, Jesus Christ.  Let us express our hearts but let’s not allow the emotions to rule us either.  David spoke out his heart but in the end he was always loyal to the one true king of his life, Christ.