Persuade us with sincerity, not tears

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Persuade us with sincerity, not tears


The tears of a leader at a crucial moment can move the public. Many leaders use tears as a tactic, but it often fails, as you need to be either sincere or a very talented actor.

Hitler was good at crying. In fact, he was rather morbid at it. He would suppress his feelings until they reached the boiling point, and at the threshold, he would go into a fit of crying. When Otto Strasser, who contributed to the founding of the Nazi Party, announced his departure, Hitler cried three times while trying to dissuade him.

The master of crying was Liu Bei. If a movie were made based on the “Romance of the Three Kingdoms,” Liu Bei would be shown crying constantly. Luo Guangzhong, author of the book, wrote that Liu Xuande “cried when he spoke,” “wept as he parted,” “wailed out loud” and “shed tears like falling rain.” It is hard to find a scene in which Liu Bei does not cry. He even cried in the bathroom when he realized that his thighs had gotten fat, lamenting his laziness.

Liu Bei may be an irritating crybaby, but he was a far more tactical crier than Hitler. Once, when Zhang Fei got drunk and lost West Zhou, leaving Liu Bei’s family behind, Guan Yu chastised him, and Zhang Fei tried to kill himself. But Liu Bei took the sword from his hands and cried, “Brothers are limbs and spouses are clothing. A torn piece of cloth can be sewn together, but I cannot live with a broken limb.” Impressed by Liu Bei’s friendship, Guan Yu and Zhang Fei pledged to devote their lives to Liu Bei.

The lawmaker who shocked the world by firing a tear gas canister in the National Assembly thought he knew the power of tears. He forced his fellow lawmakers to literally shed tears, as they were unable to impress citizens in any other way. But he didn’t seem to know the science behind tears. Tears that come from outside stimuli are different in composition than the tears that come from emotion. Sentimental tears have a higher protein content than forced tears. When you are moved and cry, tension is relieved, your aggression is softened and your immune system reinforced. But when your eyes are forced to produce tears, the tears contain more sodium. Salty tears lead to more anger and pain. That’s why Hitler and Liu Bei had completely different results when they cried.

At any rate, politicians need to learn how to move citizens with sincerity, not tears. Then, we would gladly accept the international humiliation that comes from tearful incidents.

*The writer is the culture and sports editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.

By Lee Hoon-beom
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