1 MIN READING: tears are words that need to be written

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(I am giving a conference in Tunis, Tunisia, in April 2006)

The conversation continues, time passes quickly and I need to wrap things up. For the last question, I choose, at random, out of the six hundred people there, a middle-aged man with a bushy moustache.
‘I don’t want to ask a question,’ he says. ‘I just want to say a name.’
The name he pronounces is that of Barbazan-Debat, a chapel in the middle of nowhere, thousands of kilometres from here, the same chapel where, one day, I placed a plaque in gratitude for a miracle and which I had visited, before setting out on this pilgrimage, in order to pray for Our Lady’s protection.
I don’t know how to respond. The following words were written by one of the other people on stage with me.

In the room, the Universe seemed suddenly to have stopped moving. So many things happened: I saw your tears and the tears of your dear wife, when that anonymous reader pronounced the name of that distant chapel.

You could no longer speak. Your smiling face grew serious. Your eyes filled with shy tears that trembled on your lashes, as if wishing to apologise for appearing there uninvited.

Even I had a lump in my throat, although I didn’t know why. I looked for my wife and daughter in the audience, because I always look to them whenever I feel myself to be on the brink of something unknown.
They were there, but they were sitting as silently as everyone else, their eyes fixed on you, trying to support you with their gaze, as if a gaze could ever support anyone.

Then I looked to Christina for help, trying to understand what was going on, how to bring to an end that seemingly interminable silence.
And I saw that she was silently crying too, as if you were both notes from the same symphony and as if your tears were touching, even though you were sitting far apart.

For several long seconds, nothing existed, there was no room, no audience, nothing. You and your wife had set off for a place where we could not follow; all that remained was the joy of living, expressed in silence and emotion.

Words are tears that have been written down. Tears are words that need to be shed. Without them, joy loses all its brilliance and sadness has no end. Thank you, then, for your tears.

I should have said to the young woman who asked the first question about signs that this was a sign, confirming that I was where I should be, in the right place, at the right time, even though I didn’t understand what had brought me there.

taken from ALEPH
ALEPH: READER’S COMMENTS (no censorshiph)


  1. Elizabeth says:

    I am at a difficult place in my life – a place and a time for decision. Yesterday, I went to the grotto of the blessed Mother to pray. It was like some strange compulsion drew me there. I knelt before her and silently I wept. My heart was full, but the words I spoke to Her were not the reason for my tears. I think She must know that my tears was my prayer, my plea – not what I said, but all that I couldn’t put into words.

  2. lourdes soares says:


  3. Ysabella says:

    Tears are words i cant expressed which simply means..
    I wanted to be HUG…

  4. The ears of the heart,
    A whisper, ‘I care.’
    Hugs and Kisses,

  5. Homo conscius says:

    As romantic as the story sounds…Tears are not words, and never will be. Thankfully. Tears are genuine. They contain informations that words cannot transfer. So let them flow undisturbed. They can heal us and the world.
    Words cannot transform, they are and remain superficial. They are just pointers, sometimes, but never as important as you think they are. Because the map is not the territory. And tears are territory. Holy ground.

    “Teachings and thought systems have not the capacity to embody Love, and only Love embodied is transformational.” Rajpur

    1. Viola Onisro says:

      Down on my knees. Thank you.
      But sometimes you have to break the rules.
      Love – V.

  6. Yosra says:

    Tears from the heart reveal the beauty within us and are far beyond words. Tears are such a delicate language that can’t be understood by insensitives…
    So beautiful Paolo. Let’s see you again in Tunis!!

  7. Susana Y says:

    I used to hide my unhappy tears (because there are also times we cry out of happiness!) ………… I used to not allow anyone to see my emotions, but then life confronted me with death and God allowed me to survive and tears flow whenever they need be and I show my happy and unhappy tears because I am human and I have been given the gift of ALL emotions to learn and grow……. Thank you Paulo!!!! for your books and for the beautifull soul that lives within you……. you are a true inspiration :)

  8. Lois Kingma Lisboa. says:

    Simplemente cierto, simplemente bello…

  9. Natasha It Ro Ma says:

    “Así­ sentí­ la libertad…y soy feliz de estar presente, de sentirme viva, de reconocer corazones y de las metas cumplidas”

  10. Destin Layne says:

    Powerful piece. I was reminded of #TearsOnPaper in this poem from Solitary Watch, Voices of Solitary Confinement: “The Isolated Prisoner”
    No words for that one. best, Destin Layne

  11. Liz says:


  12. Joris Gjata says:

    The crying and writing ritual
    Why not
    They go together
    Tears untold Words
    When you don’t find them
    You know you have them
    When rolling slowly
    Down your humanity
    Those tears of fear and truth
    No words remain
    Hanging on pages
    Of emptiness and sadness
    Of being told
    Not being read
    Being lost in whiteness
    With the unwritten ones
    Those tears you enslave
    In reason of ideals
    In perfection lost
    With tears disappears
    Your world
    Your words

    (inspired by your story that reminds me of my story and what I had realized about me … that is what I will try to do from now on … let my tears write my poems and my soul with them… it makes me happy. Thank you for the inspiration! I felt I was not alone and crazy:)

  13. Shehrazade says:

    when sadness engulfs us and there seems no way out…. it is tears that form the river which washes away our grief. God gave us many trials and tribulations in life, including sometimes immeasurable losses… but then, He also gave us also relief..

    Obrigada Paulo for all your books, and wisdom!

  14. Erika says:

    So inspiring. For me the tears come when the person or thing that hurt me is no longer in front of me so they can not see the those words being shed. No one ever sees those tears that say it all.

  15. Linda says:

    Tears flow from the heart when you can’t say anithing else.

  16. Aamir awan says:

    great paulo very true

  17. Aisha says:

    looking back at some of my sad memories where i have cried i do realize that the tears i have shed are the words that i couldn’t say because i was sad, broken and in pain and i felt as if the words have escaped or ran out and all that was left are those tears!
    at that moment i felt betrayed since i couldn’t say how i felt and it seem that i lost the ability to defend myself, but i was wrong those tears said it , the tears said exactly how i felt , it said what was in my heart.
    tears can be a very powerful thing

  18. Truly a touching and inspirational story!!!

    It is through tears that we best express our emotions, emotions that we sometimes have a hard time putting into words…Our tears cleanses us, allowing us to renew. There are people who still view tears as a sign of weakness, it is sad because there is so much that can be expressed through our tears, so much more than words can say…

    When a child cries, they are communicating an emotion, a discomfort, we come to understand exactly what they want to tell us without saying a word…

    I remember being around my 10 nieces and nephews when they were babies…They all had a different sound depending on what they were crying about…one sound when they were hungry, another when they just wanted to be held, another when they were sick…

    As adults, we still do the same. Through our tears, we express a different emotion, there is no one tear that is shed the same for the all our emotions…

  19. veronica says:

    Thank you for reminding me that there is not shame in tears, they represents the beauty and courage to show the way we are…

  20. liza(nick) says:

    Ä° like this meaning that tears is word sametimes i use and believe this i am follow your blog and books i like very much…

  21. Beatrice says:

    Tears are falling from my eyes, too… So touching, so warm, beautifull words… Thank you Paulo, tears always means something, something what you can not put so easy in words…

  22. PATUREL says:

    si jaillie des profondeurs de lunivers, cette lumière qui repose sur nous le jour, c’est qu’il y a un limite qui est atteinte, et si nous étions perdu dans les confin d’un trou noir sans repère spatiotemporel, il n’y aurait aucune lumière sur nous qui s’y refléterai…la vie intérieur est aussi reflíªter dans le mirroir de l’í¢me que sont les yeux d’une personne au travers desquels sont ressentis et exprimé des sentiment profond parfois….bel exemple de par ce silence entre vous et cet personne qui a fait la déclaration en public donnant le nom de cette chapelle, et qui laissa présager comme cet instant émouvant Monsieur.

  23. Niamh says:

    I don’t know what I’m supposed to do in life. I have many dreams yet don’t know which one to follow. I want to help others, that’s all I know.
    Thank you for your words, they always light up the next few feet of a long dark path.

  24. rosalie maria rachel castro says:

    …you are truly God’s gift. Simple words…powerful impact! Thank you for sharing to us your gift of wisdom.

    1. Tomis says:

      paulo is a messenger of God!

  25. mermaid says:

    Beautiful…. :)

  26. clang says:

    sir, what is good life for you? :)

  27. Chelsea says:

    Exactly…Tears of lovin’ someone who love somebody else..or a love that either one of yer can’t scratch back———these are some tears I’ve penned in my diary!!!!

  28. Leslie Stockton says:

    I don’t really know if I am where I should be. I do know that I now follow my dreams. No matter where they take me. My journey so far has been so exciting and interesting to say the least. And yes, painful beyond words. But you have the heart of a poet. Your words are so descriptive…windswept emotion. Thank you for allowing us to read your work. :)

  29. Shazia says:

    “Words are tears that have been written down. Tears are words that need to be shed. Without them, joy loses all its brilliance and sadness has no end.”

    This is simply brilliant! I feel like reading this over and over again. I believe tears are a gift from The Divine

  30. Kaisa says:

    I cried today because someones dog had died. But really I cried, for my own young dog who has no immunity to demodex mites, and I might not be able to afford to treat him for the rest of his life as is required.

    The woman whose dog died also had a different story… years of suffering, abuse and poverty, but also of refuge and hope. And yes I cried at that also, but when she finished I was filled with light and hope.

    I offer you my tears from today and thank you for yours.

    Bless you Paulo for telling your story to us.

  31. Angel says:

    Hello! I love all your books!
    I’m italian. I have written a book (poems and riflections). I’m going to publish it, I’d like to have your … how do you say…introduction (..?)
    I’m sorry, I don’t speak English very well.
    Thank you

  32. Mila says:

    Paulo Coelho Merci beaucoup!!!

  33. Anna says:

    Es ist sehr wertvoll, wenn Worte zu Tränen führen und Tränen zum Schreiben. So kann ich heil werden.

  34. kamran shigri says:

    great word paulo….. you really teach a lot to people with your tears, or words..

  35. Mansi says:

    Simply amazing……..