Home » aspirations » Don’t Compromise Your Greatness!

Don’t Compromise Your Greatness!

Contemplation 1 B&WImage by DigiDragon via Flickr
Before I begin, I must clarify what this post is not. I am not a mental health care professional, and the intent of this post, is not to trivialize, disparage or malign those in the mental health profession or the individuals who truly suffer from the insidious illness that is “melancholic depression”. http://www.brighthub.com/mental-health/depression-mood/articles/81724.aspx.  Anyone who suffers from any form of depression should immediately seek medical assistance. As you will see, this post only addresses these matters briefly.






During the past week or so, some days, the weather has matched my mood of late, melancholy. Many of the days were overcast, neither hot nor cold and perfect for wiling away or sleeping the day away. As I have much of the past few days, I choose to succumb to the latter.  Before doing so, the word “melancholy” brings me back to younger days.

Since elementary school, I have had an intense fascination with the word melancholy. I had two favorite words then, “lucrative” and “melancholy.” In hindsight, “lucrative” was future economic wealth to a child from a single-parent home with a mother working furiously to raise, clothe and feed 4. “Melancholy,” however, was then and is now, enticing by its own right–at least to me. It is a beautiful word and I was drawn to it like a moth to a flame. I ached to use it in a sentence but my 10 year old attempts were always feeble, even to me. 

The problem was in the teaching. I was taught that the state of melancholy was one that I should not strive for, lest I be branded severely depressed or otherwise mentally afflicted. 


My fascination and intrigue with the word grew, as did my puzzlement as to its true meaning. Scholar I am not, so I embarked on a brief internet search that might answer my questions. Webster’s on-line dictionary defines “melancholy” as follows: 

Mel´an`chol`y

n. 1.

1. Depression of spirits; a gloomy state continuing a considerable time; deep dejection; gloominess.

2. Great and continued depression of spirits, amounting to mental unsoundness; melancholia.

3. Pensive maditation[sic]; serious thoughtfulness.

4. Ill nature.

a. 1. Depressed in spirits; dejected; gloomy dismal.

2. Producing great evil and grief; causing dejection; calamitous; afflictive; as, a melancholy event.

3. Somewhat deranged in mind; having the judgement impaired.

4. Favorable to meditation; somber.

I learned that all but two of the definitions listed above are in accordance with what I learned as a child. If one states, “I am in a melancholy mood.” Such a confession automatically imbues the speaker with a mental defect of some sort. In some cases that may be accurate, but based on the definitions for 3 and a.3, in many cases, such a label is a gross mischaracterization of the person’s emotional state. 


Although “melancholy” has strong roots in the mental health field, it appears that the word is also frequently used in the world of poets and poetry. Since I have no expertise on either, I refer you to the following web page, http://hubpages.com/hub/The-Definition-of-Melancholy, for a lovely take on the word and a discussion and examples of its use in the realm of poetry. For my purposes, it is the conclusion that intrigues me. He states:

There is a devious sadness to the world in which we live – a sadness that comes to find us in the night, when we’re all alone under the canopy of a million stars. Something within us knows that we ought to be better – that our love ought to burn brighter and shine more fiercely – that our passion and conviction for life ought to be strong, and lead us through that nagging temptation to settle for the ordinary and mundane. Something within us knows that life was always meant to be lived to the full. And this something, when it comes to find us, convicts us of all the cheap and common things we often settle for. This feeling, in my mind, is the definition of melancholy.

Yes, this is the melancholy of which I speak and experience. The emotion differs from one person to the next, and the scope of sadness does as well, but it is so much more and a far cry from severe depression.  Melancholy comes wielding a doubled-edged sword-a sword of truth if you will. One side bears a wrath upon us which, as the above author aptly quoted, “convicts us for all of the cheap and common things we often settle for”.  It replays all of those instances in our lives when we failed to live up to our best selves, our true selves. We lament all the lost opportunities for greatness that we allowed to escape our grasp due to fear, or any number of self-limiting emotions. This side of the sword is our WAKE-UP call. The other side, however, serves not to convict us, but to remind us of our forgotten hopes, dreams and aspirations. It brings to mind that time in our life when anything was possible and we’d let nothing deter us  from achieving those goals. It reminds us that greatness is ours to be achieved, to be embraced. To settle for less–well, that is where the state of “melancholy” steps in to remind us that: “It is our light not our darkness that most frightens us; Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure”. Return to Love, Marianne Williamson, Harper Collins, 1992. 



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