Character is defined as “the mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual.” Some people have bad character, and some have that inspirational-quote-level good kind. Those are the only two options. Right?
I call myself a realist, but I’m really a pessimist. I’m not sure anyone’s character is truly good, and I would argue there are “bad” people out there who want to be good. But maybe I believe that, because, depending on who’s seen me in what state of mind, you’ll hear people tell you I’m all the way good or all the way bad.
Let me be clear: I’m not good.
You can’t really ever be good after you’ve done bad. Maybe perceptually you can, but the weight stays with you forever. Every bad thing I’ve done weighs on me. Not just when I think about it, but always.
Depression Makes Withdrawals
If we pretend you start with a clean slate, then the actions you take while depressed and confused can make withdrawals. Say the wrong thing? Minus $10. Send the wrong email or text? You’re down $100. We can pretend character is made up of some personal compass and moral truth, but it isn’t. Character is made up by those who witness your decisions.
When people have seen me act while I’m depressed, if they took a second to notice, would know I’m not acting as I would when I’m “up.” It doesn’t really matter. In this life, your perceived character is built on a collection of decisions people have seen you make. Since no one knows all the decisions, their perception is a partial picture at best.
It’s not just character at risk. Bad decisions, while depressed, erode your relationships, and take little bites out of those closest to you. For every withdrawal from your character, those closest to you are charged a percentage. This has been the hardest for me to take, and sometimes sends me into a bit of a tailspin. I’ve hurt people, and made people mad, and I’ve chipped away at their goodness. It’s never intentional, but does that really matter? No. It can’t be undone.
When I write about this stuff, I’m not coming with solutions. Im just coming with a world view that may be true for others. If I had solutions, maybe I wouldn’t be up and down. I’m up right now. That’s why I can write. I feel good about the world.
What can you do?
Listen. Just start listening. If a friend is going through something or is withdrawn or whatever – talk to them. It’s not your responsibility to keep anyone alive, but please do listen to the people you call “friends.” Contribute to them, even when they can’t contribute to you.