Sunday, November 1, 2009

Musings on Contentment

Why is it that so few people are content? Why does it seem that the grass is always greener elsewhere? Some other job, some other house, some other city, some other partner... Why are we always saying "I would be happy if only I had _____"? How is it that we become so fixated on what we don't have that we forget what we do have?
It's something of an epidemic I think, and it's not a healthy one. Yes, it is good to make progress in life, to make changes and improvements, and to "move up in the world." BUT, most often the changes and improvements that need to be made are not in our environment but in ourselves.
The truth is that no thing, no person, no job, no house, no place will ever be perfectly perfect. I know people who spent vast quantities of money building their dream home, and almost as soon as it was finished they found aspects of it to dislike. Couples who are "totally in love" have divorced within a year of the wedding. The ideal job inevitably loses some of its excitement , and the perfect city reveals itself to have rainy days, cranky people, and bad traffic just like anywhere else.

I am convinced that contentment is not something that happens to us, but rather it is something that we choose. Contentment is an attitude. Life will always have imperfections, but scripture teaches us that "man is that he might have joy" and I take God at His word on that. If we are meant to be happy, but circumstances will never be perfect, then clearly we can--and should--make the choice to be happy regardless of our circumstances.
I know that is usually easier said than done. I have to frequently remind myself to notice the little things that are good and right in my life and world. Sometimes they seem elusive, but the more I practice finding them the easier they become to find. Last year this month I issued a Thanksgiving Challenge to myself and to any readers who cared to join me--on Thanksgiving Day I posted 365 things I was thankful for (one for each day of the year). When I started writing the list it felt slow, laborious even, to come up with so many things...but as I progressed through the list it became easier and easier. When I reached #365 I realized that I could think of a half dozen more things to boot.

There is always something to be discontent about...but there is always something to be content about too. The real difference between contentment and discontentment is not what kind of life you have, but which things you choose to focus on.

So no, this year I'm not issuing a formal Thanksgiving Challenge like I did last year, however I am issuing an informal one: Take a good look at yourself and your level of personal contentment. If you are happy, then good for you! If you are not happy, then step up to the plate and make the choice to get happy--to make contentment yours. Because it's there available to all of us, if we'll just make the choice to have it.


Mallory said...

Thanks for the reminder. I really enjoyed doing my list of 365 things last year! I think I needed this post today!

BonnieKaye said...

Well said. By the way, I found out we have a mutual friend, the Decker family. Jenni and Kevin and family were in my ward until just recently. Love that family and they love you.

Katrina said...

Great post. So very true.

Valerie said...

This is a great reminder durning a time of year that I thik a lot of people have a hard time being content. I know I do but I think that has a lot to do with the lack of light. Thank you for that. I am ging to bookmark this and reread in times of trial for me.

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