I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever
the circumstance. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.
I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether
well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or want.
― Philippians 4:11-12
But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.
― 1 Timothy 6:8
He who is not contented with what he has, would not be
contented with what he would like to have.
But if I’m content with little, enough is as good as a feast.
― Isaac Bickerstaffe
Contentment is a misunderstood concept. Some wrongly believe it to be a bad thing. They believe that if you’re content you won’t keep striving for greater heights in life. That’s not what contentment means.
Contentment is a byproduct of being grateful for what you already have.
It is an outgrowth of counting all the many blessings in your life. Let me put this a little differently. If you aren’t content, you’re probably not all that grateful for the blessings that already permeate your life each day.
Charles Spurgeon put it this way: “You say, ‘If I had a little more, I should be very satisfied.’ You make a mistake. If you are not content with what you have, you would not be satisfied if it were doubled.”
All this raises the million-dollar question: How is it possible to be content in a world that never seems to be satisfied with what it already has?
In other words, how do we live in a fundamentally ungrateful and discontented world and not fall into the same traps?
Here are some ideas.
- First, take time each day to express gratitude to God for all the things in your life that are good. Be grateful for the air you breath, the water you drink, the food you eat, the people in your life who love you, the home you live in, the car you drive, the freedoms you enjoy, the beauty of nature, the job you get paid to do, the hobbies you get to pursue, the fun you get to have, and four million other positive things that enrich your life.
- Second, don’t pursue things that are either inherently unhealthy to pursue (like perfection, everyone’s approval, power, wealth) or highly unlikely to occur (running the 100-yard dash in 9 seconds when people have to time you with a calendar, being a world-class singer when you can’t carry a tune in a bucket, becoming a Nobel laureate in physics when you can’t balance your checkbook). Unhealthy pursuits and unlikely-to-happen pursuits are a surefire prescription for being chronically discontented. P.D. James rightly observed, “The secret of contentment is never to allow yourself to want anything which reason tells you you haven’t a chance of getting.”
- Third, tap the breaks on what you desire in life. You can’t have it all, so don’t try. Be selective when prioritizing what you’re going to go after and what you’re not. John Stuart Mill said, “I have learned to seek my happiness by limiting my desires, rather than in attempting to satisfy them.”
- Fourth, try to pay more attention to what you have, not what you don’t have. Ann Brashares said, “Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not.” Far too many of us are constantly thinking about the things we want in life that we don’t have, and the result of thinking this way is greater discontentment.
- Fifth, realize that there is so much in life you can live without. The Apostle Paul got his desires down to a rather shocking level, “But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that” (1 Timothy 6:8). Walt Whitman put it more starkly when he said, “Whoever is not in his coffin and the dark grave, let him know he has enough.” About ninety-nine times out of a hundred, you’ll come to realize after the fact that you weren’t actually going to die if you never had the things in life that are relatively superficial and shallow. Immanuel Kant was right when he said, “We are not rich by what we possess but by what we can do without.”
- Sixth, accept that becoming a more contented person is a lengthy process. Alain de Botton said, “Being content is perhaps no less easy than playing the violin well: and requires no less practice.” If you want to become a more contented human being over time, you have to patiently practice gratitude each day, get your desires down to a healthy few, stop pursuing things that are inherently unhealthy and highly unlikely to happen, and pay more attention to what you have and less attention to what you don’t.
Munchkins, contentment is an incredibly rare and precious thing. Very few people have it, and those who do are the richest folks in the world.
John Balguy wisely said, “Contentment is a pearl of great price, and whoever procures it at the expense of ten thousand desires makes a wise and a happy purchase.”
Genuine contentment is the greatest kind of wealth, and I want you to pursue it the rest of your life.
I’ll leave you with a final quote.
Wayne Trotman wisely observed, “Contentment comes from wanting what we need, not needing what we want.”
Take some time today to think about what you really need in life, and spend your days wanting that.
Take some time today to think about what you want in life, and spend the rest of your life not needing that.
Do yourself a big favor – work on becoming a more contented person each day. You’ll never regret it.