The Price of Contentment


I recall sidewalk chalk, Polly Pocket, some sticks and rocks to make a pretend fire, caterpillars, clouds drifting in the sky, a good story, a hug from my Mom or Dad, the smell of french toast cooking, and singing made up songs, all equaled contentment, what else could there be?

As I got older there was more though, and there was comparison, as if we were all in a competition with one another . . . Name brand clothes from Limited Too, lip smackers, (seeking approval for inclusion), high heels, make up, boyfriends, (validation & companionship) car, iPods (yes, iPod), then . . . college degree, money, (false security) career advancement, husband, houses, children, (legacy) vacations (relaxation) . . . change, better attitude, more integrity in character (growth) . . .

We want a lot.  All the things we want aren’t bad, much of our wants are wonderful and beautiful.  I don’t think it’s bad to want, unless the wanting has us forgetting or comparing.

“Comparison is the thief of joy.” – President Theodore Roosevelt

It’s the position of our heart and the why in the wanting.  If we’re not careful, the wanting can rob us of peace, contentment, and hope.  The wanting can change our perspective to disillusionment.  Making us forget what we were once thrilled to receive, and have us overvaluing and feeling empty without ______.  A what’s next, because I’m incomplete or not enough, and need _______ and then I’ll be good, type of attitude, will always be unsatisfied and will be in constant want of something else/more . . .

My teacher, D.W., told a story once about an author and a guest at one of Bernard Madoff‘s parties.  “This guy (referring to Madoff) makes more money in one day, than you make in a year,” said the guest.  “Yeah, but I have something he doesn’t,” offered the author.  The guest inquired, “What’s that?”  The author simply replied, “Enough.”

Settling is not contentment.  Settling is an agreement, like settling land, you’re not moving from there.  Contentment is a cheerfulness and being pleased, an acceptance with an openness and willingness for change and/or progression.  There’s gratitude, a willingness to work hard, that’s in balance with rest, hope, and patience.

I don’t believe material things or awards can fulfill us, sure those things can make us happy in the moment (happiness is based on happenings), but real fulfillment, comes from how we serve humanity.  Whether that’s giving your child quality time by being patient while he/she learns something for the first time, truly listening to a stranger, or starting a local mentor program in your community, and much more.

I wish our wants and desires were for the betterment of ourselves and others, versus the purchases of things, that will one day be thrown away and in a junkyard.  I can’t even remember all the items I’ve given/thrown away that I ‘wanted,’ so badly.  How short and deceiving our desires can sometimes be.

When I want with the wrong/selfish ambition, I have found liberation in prayer, letting go (as if I had control), and in remembering gratitude.  Most of our lists of what we have already and are thankful for, will well outweigh our list of wants.  We are so rich.

“If you only woke up today with the things you thanked God for yesterday, what and who did you wake up with?” – Bishop Ulmer

“I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything.  I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little.  For I can do everything through Christ, Who gives me strength.” – Philippians 4:12-13

“Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth.  After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can’t take anything with us when we leave it.” – 1 Timothy 6:6-7

“Then he said, ‘Beware!  Guard against every kind of greed.  Life is not measured by how much you own.” – Luke 12:15

“That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life – whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear.  Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing?  Look at the birds.  They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them.  And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are?” – Matthew 6:25-26

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