What Our Tears Mean

I get emails from Dr. Henry Cloud regularly. He's been a mentor-from-a-distance for me for years. I'm so grateful for the work he does to bring wholeness and health, especially to leaders. I received this email this morning and it was quite timely. I'm finding myself with a lot of tears in the midst of this life-change. I hope this will be helpful for you (no edits we made from Dr. Cloud's content)...

Our different tears having very different molecular structure! But when you think about it, it makes perfect sense as our tears have very different functions depending on the kind of emotion they are carrying. In these pictures, we see grief, change, onions and laughing. 

One thing they have in common:  they all carry experience. 

They come as you express how you are metabolizing events in your life, heart, mind and soul. So, each one of them is doing its own work, carrying the message of what you have been and are going through to move forward.

So what is the work these tears carry in their various molecular structures? 

Why are they all different?

Grief says that you have lost something you were attached to, invested in, depended on, and most probably loved. In the tears of grief, the message is "it is gone. I have to let go." These tears are doing an important work of taking the pain from letting go out of your system. They are helping you value what or whom you have lost....reinforcing the power of love, reminding you to never forget the importance of that person or investment of your heat. At the same time, they are making space for new investment. They are clearing a room inside for what life is going to bring to you to invest your heart in next. This dance of valuing the past, holding on to what is good from it, and taking it forward into the next investment of the heart, making room for the heart's next chapter, is some of the best work of grief. Where do you need to express some loss and let grief do its work of healing your heart?

Change is a different kind of pain. It rips in a different way, as change gets to patterns and structures that were holding us in tact. Ways that we were doing life, maps we negotiated whether in life for ourselves, with others, or in some area of functioning. Changes means that we have to take in new data, information and ways, rip out the frame and walls of the old "buildings," and begin to try to remodel the house. If you have every been through a remodeling effort, it is messy. It is dusty. It becomes loud, painful, and you feel like you can't figure out where anything goes or how to do anything you used to be able to do. At the same time, it stretches you to new abilities and heights as you develop new muscles and ways to adapt to what you have not seen before. It can be incredibly good, yet incredibly painful. A basic law of growth is change. We cannot grow without it, and we cannot change and grow without "growing pains." What pain of change do you need to lean into now and let the tears do their work?

Onion tears to me are the tears of something invading our system that does not belong there. It is toxic. We reject it. Our chemistry says "go away, get out. You do not make me feel good." We are wired in that way, to know what is toxic to us, what burns us, what we want to "get out of us." It can be the poison of a person, group, organization or almost any aspect of life. Any experience that has a toxic effect on our system is going to feel not good to us. We want it away....it burns. These tears help us get the toxic out. What toxins in your life do you need to cry out now?

Laughing tears are our favorite, for sure. What is laughter except the expression of various positive emotional states....it is mainly  just goodness! You have taken in an experience or realization that has made life lighter. Your body is expressing it as it releases the energy of that joy, and your tears carry that message. An interesting tidbit about is that they release some chemicals that can cause depression, and lighten the internal load. Laughter is certainly good at that, and the energy release is your body letting go. Your tears are good for you....emotionally, physically, spiritually, relationally, and in making life work. Embrace them.

One more thing......have you ever wondered why your tear ducts are in your eyes? Why aren't they in your armpits? If they were there you could use some anti-tear deodorant, no one would see them, smell them, or even know you were in pain. But, they are in your eyes for that very reason. Your pain, your tears should be SEEN by someone who is looking right into your soul as you go through that pain.

Your pain needs to be seen and loved in order to completely heal. 


April L. Diaz

April has been a visionary activist her entire life. She has made it her mission to lead high performing teams and develop leaders in the margins of society while caring for our bodies, mind, and spirit. Secretly, she’s a mix of a total girly girl and a tomboy, and is still crazy about her high school sweetheart, Brian. Together, they co-parent 3 fabulous kiddos and live in Orange County, CA.

Equally Important

This week I got to speak at Sterling College's chapel. Standing in front of hundreds of college students is both terrifying and exhilarating! I got lobbed one of the most famous passages in the Bible, which is the best and worst thing in the world. My prayer as I prepared for this talk - and share this post - is that as we engage God’s timeless words that we would be timely words for us today!


34 But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees with his reply, they met together to question him again. 35 One of them, an expert in religious law, tried to trap him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?”

37 Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”
— Matthew 22:34-40 (NLT)

If you grew up in the church, you’ve probably heard this passage a 100 times. But  I don’t want to talk about the 1st commandment – Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind.

I want to talk about the 2nd greatest commandment – Love your neighbor as yourself – which Jesus says is as equally as important as the first one.

I think that a lot of times in the Church we make a big deal about the first commandment – LOVE GOD – like it’s #FTW or #fail if we can do this well. And we make a smaller deal about this “equally important” command; and I don’t think we get it right. Jesus said that that 2nd greatest commandment is “love your neighbor as yourself.”

So let's talk about this equally important, 2nd commandment: Love your Neighbor. As Yourself.


This was a remarkable idea that Jesus was talking about. The word “remarkable” is defined as: something that is worth paying attention to. And loving your neighbor in the ways Jesus was talking about is REMARKABLE!

In the American church we’ve diluted this idea to being something like loving who’s right next to me, who literally lives next door to me, or is like me. And while that kind of love is important – OBVIOUSLY! – it’s not what Jesus was talking about.

When Jesus said we are to love our neighbor, the next question was “who is my neighbor?” And so Jesus told a story, the parable of the Good Samaritan. Remember that story?

In the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus called his followers to loving your neighbor, which is best defined as someone who is “not like me”. The Good Samaritan was a story about reconciliation and justice. You see the Good Samaritan wasn’t only befriending someone completely unlike himself; he intentionally went out on the dangerous, criminally infested Jericho Road looking to bring about change. So Jesus is telling us that loving our neighbor means RECONCILING gender, racial, ethnic and socioeconomic differences – those who are not like me – AND being an advocate for JUSTICE in the world!

This personally matters so much to me because I am a woman, who married a Hispanic man from an immigrant blue-collar family, who adopted two Ethiopians and birthed a racially-mixed baby. And we spent the last 10 years at a predominantly Asian-American church. Our family intimately knows what it feels like to be on the outside of the dominant white, male American church culture.

If there’s one thing that I’ve learned in the past decade, it is that loving our neighbor in the way Jesus defined it has little to do with being in holy huddles. While GOING to church or chapel is a good thing. BEING the church is even better!

Here’s a reality check on how you love your neighbors:

  • Who are my best friends? Are they racially, ethnically, socio-economically, and gender-wise the exact same as me?
  • Where do I spend my time?
  • How do I spend my money? How much of it is spent on those not like me?

If our lives and churches continue to look just like one another, we miss out on the very reconciling and justice work Jesus came to usher in.

The second part of the equally important commandment is…


Here is where the second greatest commandment gets crazy! Jesus says that we are to love those not like us as ourselves. Which means, when you break it down that we can only love our neighbor to the same degree that we love ourselves.

Catch this: Our ability to love God and others is proportionate to our capacity to love ourselves.

Now when I say “love ourselves” I don’t mean in a selfish, narcissistic, posting “selfies” everyday, kind of way. That’s not love. God’s Word tells us that love is patient and kind. It looks out for the interest of others. It doesn’t boast. It isn’t proud or demand its way. Loving ourselves is about seeing ourselves the way God sees us.

So let’s get practical AND honest about how we love ourselves…

  • Listen to your self-talk. Your inner conversations reveal how much you love or hate yourself. Proverbs says “out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks”. Pay attention to what you say to yourself and about yourself.
    • Do you find yourself saying “stupid”, “idiot”, “of course I messed up again”?
    • Do you constantly hear the negative voice of a parent, coach, teacher, or sibling?
    •  … Or do you find yourself giving yourself grace? Treating yourself like you would your favorite person in this world?
    • If you were to describe yourself in 5 words, what would you say?
  • Care for your body. Our physical bodies are an expression of what’s going on in our souls.
    • How are you sleeping? Science repeatedly confirms that we need at least 6-7 hours every night. Do you love yourself by getting enough rest?
    • What about food and drink? Are you filling your body with nutritious, healthy food that will give you good energy? Or are you abusing your body by putting junk into it?
  • Let’s get real about exercise. Are you treating your body like you are invincible or are you caring for it like this is the only body you have been given in this life?
  • Are you resting, playing, and laughing? When we do those things, you remind yourself that you are not God and that God actually has the world in his hands.
Did you know that you are continually setting up brain pathways and hard-wiring habits that will impact the rest of your life? Today I am fighting against unhealthy patterns I established in my younger years that are negatively impacting my life today! The choices you are making now, determine the course of your life.
  • Find a great therapist so you can work through your past. The strongest and healthiest people I know are people who have a therapist on speed dial. I started going to therapy in college and I have been in multiple other seasons of life since then! I think the most important work you can do in your 20s is not getting the best job after you graduate college, but working through your past pains, trauma, and wounds. That work will pay dividends into the rest of your life!
  • Meditate on what God says about you. God’s Word is full of truth that we need to soak our heart, soul, and mind in, because the world does a pretty good job telling us that we aren’t good enough, smart enough, fast enough, or pretty enough. Or maybe that’s just me?!?! God’s Word says that we are transformed by the renewal of our minds. So choose a couple passages of Scripture that will re-train you to love yourself as God loves you.

I’ll be honest: Some of the conversations I have in my head don’t honor the person God created me to be. I don’t care for my body everyday in a way that proves that I love myself. I abuse it with the food, drink, and struggle to rest. I get way too frustrated way too often with my little kiddos. My ceiling to love others – including the people I love most in my life!!! – is intimately connected to how I love myself. My desire to love those not like me is directly correlated to how I’m doing loving myself.

Some of the people I care about say they want to love Jesus with all their heart, soul, and mind, but they cannot because they do not love themselves well. They want to love their neighbors, but they can’t because they haven’t learned to love themselves.

There is a lie we’ve believed that loving yourself is somehow less spiritual than loving God and loving your neighbor. It isn’t. Jesus said it’s equally important.

My prayer for us today is that we will take one step forward toward loving ourselves. Will you call a counselor, cut the caffeine, eat less junk food, confess the negative self-talk, meditate on a portion of Scripture, fill in the blank

SO THAT we can love ourselves more …
SO THAT we can love our neighbor and God with all our heart, soul, and mind.


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April L. Diaz

April has been a visionary activist her entire life. She has made it her mission to lead high performing teams and develop leaders in the margins of society while caring for our bodies, mind, and spirit. Secretly, she’s a mix of a total girly girl and a tomboy, and is still crazy about her high school sweetheart, Brian. Together, they co-parent 3 fabulous kiddos and live in Orange County, CA.

My Writing Process

If you're a writer by any definition, I wonder if we can stand in solidarity with one another? This season of life has included a lot of speaking for me. I've done this speaking stuff now for my entire adult life, but nowadays the content, circumstances, audiences, and number of people is different. I'm exercising and growing some new muscles these days.

This week I had a couple writing deadlines for upcoming speaking gigs. I was writing, re-writing, and editing three versions of the same talk (all centered around the vision of my book) and I found myself in my typical "process"...<that's a loosely used term>. I wonder if you can relate to my actions and inner conversations?

It's finally time to sit down and write a talk.

  1. Check email and Facebook ... just in case anything life-changing has happened in the past 30 seconds that I must know about.
  2. Clean up the kitchen. I mean, how can you actually be virtually productive when your real kitchen is a mess???
  3. Start the dishwasher. Maybe the white noise will tune out my racing thoughts.
  4. Vigorously wipe off the counters.
  5. Make a cup of coffee. One must stay caffeinated while writing.
  6. Get a cup of water with a slice of lemon. One must stay hydrated, too.
  7. Open up the message on my computer and read through what I've done so far. Is that really all I have done? Mercy.
  8. Go to the bathroom.
  9. Check email and Facebook again. Cuz, it's been about 10 minutes. You never know.
  10. Sit down in my most productive writing chair and take a sip of coffee. There is hope.
  11. Stare at my computer screen. Stupid blinking cursor.
  12. Beg God to let the words pour off my fingers and onto the page.
  13. Wonder why the organizers at this event have even asked me to come. Clearly, I'm a mess.
  14. Become overwhelmed at choosing between all the things I will NOT say and the few things I MUST say. Jesus, help!
  15. Check email and Facebook again. Message prep is just too hard.
  16. Check to see if the mail is in the mailbox. I wish I didn't have ADD.
  17. Focus on the talk for about 15 minutes and I'm actually making headway! God DOES love me.
  18. Crap, the kids woke up from their naps. Guess writing time is over. Only an hour nap?!?!
  19. Scold myself for not using nap time more effectively. I know better. #fail
  20. Pray like crazy...and stress some too. John 3:30...maybe a little outta context.

...this is real, folks. It all JUST happened this week.

And then I show up and give the talk. And God does his part (it's questionable if I've really done all of my part) and it's awesome. Preaching and teaching God's Word is an absolute privilege. Speaking on behalf of Kingdom issues is an honor.

When I'm not at my worst, a healthier writing process includes the following practices:

  • Not Procrastinating. Yes, there are real limits and time constraints that don't always allow me to work far in advance. But not writing at the 11th hour is always best. The ability to continually pray through a message, research the text or topic, discuss ideas with counsel, winnow out ideas and illustrations, and re-work a talk is always beneficial for the audience.
  • Set an Appointment. Writing is one of those "important not urgent" tasks, (unless you procrastinate, then it's urgent). Therefore, emails and dirty kitchens will always mentally trump the writing process, unless you determine a meeting time. Treat that time like an actual meeting. You wouldn't NOT show up to a real life meeting. People are depending on you to show up. The same is true for writing, except the people are invisible until you preach it.
  • No Fear in Love. Some of the best counsel I've ever received about speaking is that perfect love casts out fear. Love for the audience casts out any self-absorbed fear. Love also honors the listener and may change the way you talk to them.
  • Create the Environment. Coffee and water do help my process. Depending on the message, being alone in a quiet space is best. Other times, going to Starbucks is the best space to create. The key is knowing your content and knowing yourself. Then, make it happen.
  • Clear the Clutter. There is something very real about clearing the clutter from my brain and my writing space. Sometimes that means wiping down the counters. Other times it involves responding to a pressing email (not ALL emails!). Most of the time, it involves some prayer and meditation to get centered and clear the flow of conversation with God.

What are your writing struggles and best practices? Let's stand in solidarity with each other - not just in our craziness but also in our healthiest. Preach on, brothers and sisters.


April L. Diaz

April has been a visionary activist her entire life. She has made it her mission to lead high performing teams and develop leaders in the margins of society while caring for our bodies, mind, and spirit. Secretly, she’s a mix of a total girly girl and a tomboy, and is still crazy about her high school sweetheart, Brian. Together, they co-parent 3 fabulous kiddos and live in Orange County, CA.