Discontentment is a powerful motivator. JFK used discontentment to help our country put a man on the moon. Advertising uses discontentment to convince us that what we have is not good enough. Spouses use discontentment to either improve their marriage or end their marriage.
As we said, discontentment can be curative and push us to improve things. But too often, we allow discontentment to become caustic and make things worse. How can discontentment make things worse?
- Discontentment is deceptive. It can cause you to believe that what you have is not enough.
- Discontentment is destructive it can cause you to chase after something you don’t have at the risk of losing what you do.
- Discontentment is disruptive. It can prevent you from really enjoying the moment and what you have.
We can’t avoid all discontentment. We will never have everything we want, and things will not always go as we planned. Since we can’t avoid it, we need to learn to live with a certain level of discontentment. So how can we learn to be content with some discontentment? How can we learn to enjoy what we have, rather than being discontented with what we don’t have?
- Try comparing yourself to people who have less than you, rather than people who have more than you. Don’t take this the wrong way. I’m not talking about being prideful, but compared to the majority of people on the planet, you and I are very wealthy. Our late model car may have some problems, but what about the person who can never own a car? You may not have the body you wish you had, but do you have all your limbs? You may have had a difficult and traumatic childhood, but what about those who didn’t survive their childhood? I’m not trying to be flippant, but our point of comparison can make all the difference in our attitude.
- Try remembering a time in life when you didn’t have what you have now. Remember when you dreamed about having what you have now? When my wife and I were first married, we lived in a tiny one bedroom apartment. We had no furniture. No bed. No dresser. No sofa. No chairs. No dining room table. Nothing. For weeks we sat on the floor, ate on the floor, and slept on the floor. Yet we were very happy! Now we have a 3 bedroom, 2 bath home with nice furniture…and we find ourselves wishing our home was bigger, our furniture was better, and our bathrooms were larger. We need to celebrate the fact that, for the most part, we now have what we once dreamed of having.
- Try focusing on the purpose of what you have, rather than the quality of what you have. The purpose for having a car is to get us safely from point A to point B…not so we can have a living room experience while driving. The purpose for our house is to keep us warm, dry, and protected from the elements…not so we can have more room and stuff than we know what to do with. The purpose of our job is so that we can provide for our family and contribute to the needs of others…not so we can do whatever we want whenever we want. We often forget that what we have is there to serve a purpose, not raise our status.
The more we can practice these three things, the less we’ll be driven by discontentment and the more we will enjoy the life we have. I don’t know about you, but I want that kind of contentment, and I won’t be content until I get it. (Oops. There I go again.)
On another level…
The writer of the book of Ecclesiastes understood discontentment. Because of his position, he had access to any and every thing he could ever desire. You might say he had access to excess. Yet he consistently was disappointed and discontented. Nothing brought him the contentment he desired. So listen to some advice from someone who’s “been there and done that”…
“Enjoy what you have rather than desiring what you don’t have.” (Eccl. 6:9 NLT)
“To enjoy your work and accept you lot in life – that is indeed a gift from God. People who do this rarely look with sorrow on the past, for God has given them reasons for joy.” (Eccl. 5:19-20 NLT)
Following this advice will help you and I learn to be content with discontentment.