Of course, it really depends on the context - there are cases where you really should use passive voice, and others where it's better to use active voice. This is a very general question that you've asked, and a yes/no answer won't be helpful.
For your examples, "She couldn't keep back her tears" is what you would normally write. "She" is the topic, and I expect the sentences before and after this sentence to tell me what else she did.
"Her tears couldn't be kept back" would be difficult to follow up on, and build into a long paragraph. What more could the tears do? However, as a writing device this can be very useful: by describing what happened using passive voice, you've moved the focus from a feeling human being to an impersonal object. In a way, this "distancing" can enhance the emotional level of the situation.
I'm not sure if I've lost you there, but basically passive voice (in general) gives the sentence an impersonal feel.