When a tzaddik falters or falls, when he finds himself standing on crooked ground or suffering weakness in his legs, he gets back up again.
A rasha doesn’t.
And we see this in society.
How Bad Can It Get When You Stay Down?
Note: The "official" difference between sociopathy and psychopathy is that psychopaths are considered born with their lack of empathy while sociopaths developed that way from their upbringing or other experiences.
(Also, lack of empathy doesn’t always mean they actively seek to hurt people. Yes, some are sadistic, but some are “just” insensitive.)
Anyway, several sociopaths did remember what it was like to love and empathize.
One mentioned that when she was 8, her mother came home with a new baby. Upon seeing her new sister, this 8-year-old girl felt immediate love and felt like this little baby was someone with which she could bond and care for.
At that time, she was part of a poor family and abused in some way by her parents and one of her older brothers.
Yet when she reached out toward the baby, her mother snapped at her to leave the baby alone.
Something shut down within her at that moment.
She never tried again — not with her baby sister nor anyone else.
Different Kinds of Descents & Ascents
The point is that she was kicked down — and never got back up again.
Furthermore, I think we all know people who made a decision at some point to “look out for number one” or to relegate themselves to permanent victimhood or who decided that anything they do is “cute”— no matter how much it hurts another person — or who decide that other people are just uptight and so why should they ever take any criticism from anyone?
Others decide that being smart or financially successful is all that matters.
And while current psychology insists that such people are simply helpless victims of their circumstances with no other choice than to give up, I personally know people who instinctively made positive resolutions at a very young age.
For example, one girl who suffered from her parents’ volatile and unfaithful marriage resolved to give in and take the high road with others. She did this from a place of strength and never came off as a doormat or a pushover. She was a very likable & grounded person about whom I was shocked to discover her awful & chaotic upbringing.
She's an example of someone who instinctively picked herself up and kept picking herself up.
We can't blame or credit such young children for their decisions, but it's clear that some people seem born with better inclinations than others.
Yet that doesn't need to set things in stone. The person born on a higher floor may have a lower ceiling (i.e., their potential is less).
On the other hand, the person born on a lower floor may actually have a much higher ceiling (i.e., while they start out on a much lower level than others, they have the potential to rise higher than most).
For example, you sometimes see someone who snarls at or snubs people for no other reason than her own funk and whatever caused that funk — in other words, nothing to do with the people she treats poorly.
Instead of picking oneself up again, this person sinks into a funk or depression or some kind of unhealthy self-indulgence, like overeating, drinking, smoking, flirting, buying stuff unnecessarily, and so on.
Faltering through Mid-Life Crisis?
That’s a stage in which you’ve lived long enough and worked hard enough to analyze the fruits of your labors.
And you might be very disappointed with the results.
Despite your strenuous efforts, your career may not be what and where you intended and you may not see a way to rectify this.
The same can be said of your living situation, your finances, and your relationships.
At that stage, many parents also look at their children and are mystified when they see that the child in which they invested the most is either doing just so-so or wildly off the derech, while the child they practically ignored (unintentionally as a side effect of dealing with the more challenging child) is doing splendidly.
People can start feeling irrelevant or that their efforts (whether practical or spiritual) haven’t amounted to much after all.
I think this is sometimes why you see people of this age getting divorced (with 6 kids), or going on long-term medication, quitting their job or throwing themselves into their job, moving to another country, gaining lots of weight, or a host of other stuff.
Of course, some of the above could be done for positive reasons. Maybe the marriage really was fatal and they finally got the courage and resources to leave. Maybe someone really does need a change of career or country for the better.
But I’m talking about when the above results from despair and saying, “Oh, just stuff it all. Nothing I do really matters after all. I’ve been lied to all this time...”