The Torah underscores the importance of joy and pushes away depression. Even though inner pain, anguish, a heavy head, and a heavy heart are all considered unhelpful and harmful matters. There is a certain type of anguish and distress which is considered as positive, and this is bitterness.
There is a saying, that unkosher meat under all circumstances can not be changed and made kosher. However, meat, when prepared in a kosher and proper way, great benefit can be derived in the service of G-d.
Depression is not kosher, and there is no redeeming value that can be drawn from it. Bitterness, although in itself, in its current state, is not positive, if directed properly it can become and be used as a catalyst to trigger for something positive.
On the face of things, it’s not easy to distinguish between the two. On the surface, both depression and bitterness cause a person pain, agony, and constriction of sorts. The great Chassidim would say, “The distance between depression and bitterness is just a hair breadth, and yet the difference between the two is like the distance between heaven and earth, holiness and impurity.
How does one distinguish between the no good, depression, and what can lead to great good, bitterness?
When a person is depressed, he has no liveliness, he is steeped, and immersed. in his unhappiness, and he has no energy. He wants to go to sleep and feels despondent. Depression is a form of death in the sense that he feels disconnected from his own life.
On the other hand, when someone is experiencing bitterness, there is life and energy. Not the happy type to be sure, but the person feels a subtle anger, an urgency, and desire for things to be different. This, has the potential to trigger a change and improvement from the current state of affairs.
The difference between the two, depression and bitterness can be clearly seen in the way a person reacts to life events. If a person’s house should burn down, and let’s say there was no insurance to cover his loss, this is clearly not a happy event to dance and be joyful about. A depressed person puts his hands up in the air despondent and in hopelessness. It’s too overwhelming, and he gives up. While the person who is bitter about what’s happening, will start yelling for the fire extinguishers to take the fire out. Although, he is not happy with what’s happening, he is bitter; he is full of energy, life, and liveliness which gets him on the move to do something.
The underlying reason between the two is fundamental.
The reason for depression is an extreme and extra ordinary focus on one’s self. Everything revolves and is interpreted around the person himself. Any shortcoming, deficiencies, and mistakes somehow always comeback to the person. In depression, the focus on oneself ultimately makes the person only about themselves, small, and insignificant which leads to self implosion.
While someone who is outwardly focused on serving his G-dly purpose, his mission and purpose in life, when it’s all about what can I do to serve, and to be of some positive use in the world around me, this outward focus will always make the person a bigger individual and will bring to achievement, self worth and happiness.
It is impossible to overcome the evil inclination when one is lazy and heavy which comes from being depressed. Only when a person is filled with life, energy, and enthusiasm, joy from seeing all the good there is around them, will they have the energy to succeed over all internal battles.