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The title of this article is WHY WE NEED TEARS with a picture of tears running down a woman's face.

The human body is amazing. Things we take for granted or try to explain in simple ways are incredibly complex when we fully understand how they work. Tears are a classic example. In 1662 Danish scientist Niels Stensen discovered that the lacrimal gland in the corner of each eye is the source of our tears. The word “lacrimal” comes from lacrima, the Latin word for tear.

Human eyes produce three different types of tears, each with different purposes.


The first is basal tears that clean and lubricate the eyes. Secondly, we produce reflex tears in response to environmental stresses. For example, we experience this kind of tears when we cut an onion or are exposed to smoke or dirt.


A picture of a tear near an eye.

The third type, emotional tears, are more mysterious. These tears contain a complex mix of saltwater mixed with antibodies, oils, and enzymes not present in basal tears. Emotional tears carry protein-based hormones, including leucine-enkephalin, a natural painkiller released when the body is under stress. Crying causes the release of oxytocin and endorphins, which are chemicals that help us feel better.

A picture of tears around the eyes.

Emotional tears confirm to others that we are truly happy or very sad. They are different from other tears since only humans release emotional tears in moments of joy or sorrow to communicate and share our emotions. The limbic system in the brain, which is associated with emotional arousal, triggers the production of emotional tears. Crying can generate social support because emotional tears tell others we need help.

People who shed emotional tears and receive support from others feel better. One difference between emotional tears and other tears is that we can have some control over them. However, holding back the tears or not receiving social and moral support leaves a person feeling less satisfied. These tears can bring us together for spiritual and emotional healing. As humans, we have unique needs because of our relationship with each other and with God. That is one of the many factors to show that God created us in his image.

Babies do not have fully developed lacrimal glands, so they cannot produce visible tears until they are seven or eight months old. Instead, they audibly cry when they need attention. As humans mature, emotional tears indicate a broad range of needs and feelings, including compassion, empathy, and sentimental or moral feelings. The average human produces 15 to 30 gallons of tears a year.

A tearful picture of a couple greeting each other.

It is incredible that such a simple thing as tears has such a complex design and serves many different purposes. The bottom line is that our Creator knows everything about us, even our tears. “You have kept record of my days of wandering. You have stored my tears in your bottle and counted each of them” (Psalm 56:8 CEV).

— John N. Clayton

Picture credits:
© Chepko Danil Vitalevich. Image from BigStock.com
© Expensive. Image from BigStock.com
© Tefme. Image from BigStock.com
© Angelov. Image from BigStock.com

Scripture links/references are from BibleGateway.com. Unhighlighted scriptures can be looked up at their website.