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Giving Away Depression

Depression is a kind of suffering that demands a class all to itself.  It doesn’t torture us with the same kind of pain that comes after being jabbed by a sharp object. It isn’t the kind of acute ache you might get after a bone break. And it isn’t the kind of discomfort that comes at the tip of a dentist’s drill.  While these kinds of pain are significant, and enough to stop us in our tracks, and to create lasting memories, or even to generate debilitating fear in our minds and hearts, they are usually brief, and ameliorated with medicine or other relatively easy treatments.  Those pains also come from outside forces. And we don’t generally inflict them on ourselves after the initial insult. Not so with depression. With depression, we keep opening the wound over and over — seeing ourselves as inadequate, or losers, or telling ourselves that we are unworthy. Depression is agony, misery, and affliction that simmer silently beneath the surface, and are often the kinds of torment for which only the tortured are aware of the pain, and yet unaware of their actual role in its longevity.

One of the worst elements of depression is that it spawns an overwhelming and unhealthy darkened self-focus, and robs those afflicted by it of the sight necessary to see what light exists both inside of them, as well as outside of them. The deeper the depression goes, the more self-focused, and the more sensitive one becomes to one’s own flaws and shortcomings. While depressed people often accurately see the reality of the world around them, it becomes a distorted and disconnected accuracy.

Research published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology in 2017 suggested that as people strived to bolster self-image goals, their symptoms and elements associated with depression become worse. However, as people strived toward goals of compassion for others, their symptoms and other elements improved. If that research proves sound, it indicates that one potential weapon in the battle against depression and its cohorts, like anxiety, is to use one’s efforts, talents, gifts, and abundance to focus on the well-being of others. This kind of compassion and giving won’t cure depression, but they can bring relief, and perhaps something more.

Such giving is central to the Christian walk (Acts 20:35). It is also a tenant of the faith that giving produces both a gain and reward (Luke 6:38). Perhaps some of that gain is a lack of unhealthy self-focus. This graciousness toward others also gives us something else. It gives us meaning. And meaning is what makes suffering sufferable.

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