07/24/2013 10:58 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

It's Alright To Cry... Shedding Tears On The Job

I'm not much for watching golf on TV, but something happened this weekend that endeared me to the sport. Just moments after links veteran Phil Mickelson sank his final putt to win his first ever British Open title, his caddie of more than two decades, Jim Mackay, fell into the new champion's arms and burst into tears.

"You work for a guy 21 years," Mackay later explained to a reporter, "it's pretty cool when you see him play the best round of golf you've ever seen him play." And then he cried some more.

And, watching him, so did I.


Like most actors, I've gotten emotional on the job, but that's what we do in the process of living a character's life.

So I find myself very moved whenever I see someone shed tears in the course of their work. Who didn't cry along with Today show correspondent Jenna Bush Hager, when her eyes misted up while interviewing her grandparents, George and Barbara, about the love letters they once sent to one another? Whose heart didn't break along with Jon Stewart's, when, returning to the air for the first time after the 9/11 attacks, the ordinarily jocular host delivered an extemporaneous nine-minute commentary that culminated in sobs?

Crying lets us know that there's a living, breathing person inside -- and that's always a good thing .

"It's all right to cry
Crying gets the sad out of you.
It's all right to cry.
It might make you feel better."

--Rosie Grier, on the recording of "Free to Be...You and Me"

Politicians have had a complicated history with crying, which at one time could tank a career. Edmund Muskie's 1972 presidential campaign fell apart when the candidate began to cry while defending his wife from an attack ad during an outdoor press conference in a snowstorm. (Muskie claimed that the tears were just melted snowflakes. That didn't fly with the voters, but I've always sympathized with him.) And Pat Shroeder caught flak for getting weepy while announcing she would not run for President in 1987.

But all of that has changed. When Hillary Clinton choked up during her 2008 presidential campaign, after a reporter asked her how she endures the rigors of politics, the publuic saw a human side of Hillary they hadn't seen before and she won legions of new supporters. And President Obama has welled up on several occasions since taking office, whether he was speaking as a grieving fellow parent after the Newtown tragedy; or surrendering tears of pride to his young campaign staff after his triumphant 2012 reelection. In both instances, he brought his high office down to earth.

And, btw, when doesn't John Boehner cry?

Granted, there are some jobs where crying would make me nervous. If a waiter weeps while serving me my soup, I'd be tempted to ask, "Was it something you ate? Or that I ate?" And I once actually had a flight attendant on a trip to L.A. who walked out of the cockpit, strapped herself into her seat and begin bawling. I never found out what the problem was; I was too scared to ask.

But as a rule, I'm all for keeping the tears coming, even if you're on the job. As long as you eventually pull it together, it's a good and healthy thing to do. As Golda Meir once said, "Those who do not know how to weep with their whole heart don't know how to laugh either."

When The Tears Come...