Contentment: an emotional state of satisfaction that can be seen as a mental state drawn from being at ease in one's situation, body and mind; a state of having accepted one's situation and is a milder and more tentative form of happiness. ”He found contentment in living a simple life in the country.”
The responses from men and women to the question: What does contentment mean to you? varying from: I’m happy with what I’m doing, I like the neighborhood, ‘Feeling great, ‘Have everything that I need, I have no family troubles, Love my job—it’s satisfying, Finances are finally in good shape, to I like who I am, my health is excellent, brought to mind the refrain of Gordon MacRae’s popular old song:
Oh, what a beautiful mornin'
Oh, what a beautiful day
I've got a beautiful feelin'
Everything's goin' my way
(I imagine many of you are humming the melody and perhaps recalling the verses as well.)
If we have to wait for certain situations to emerge before embracing contentment, we’re in trouble. Believing that contentment is fluid--dependent on circumstances—places it on par with unpredictable weather rather than where it actually belongs as--an achievable/reliable given. With maturity, we realize that money, pleasure and a life of ease doesn’t satisfy the innate quest for contentment.
Happiness and contentment, although related, are not the same. Happiness is associated with joy, laughter and accomplishments, primarily based on pleasant surprises and circumstances. One of the erroneous expectations of marriage is that each partner is responsible for making the other happy. I’ve counseled couples where an unhappy spouse threatens divorce because the other has not made him/her happy. By the same token, I hear “She’s/he’s not happy with anything I say or do or don’t do. I don’t know how to make her/him happy.” The truth is, that no one can make you happy. Without a doubt, mates and friends contribute to others’ pursuit of happiness, but each person assumes the behavior of a ‘lone ranger’ when it comes to being happy since happiness is a personal choice.
Contentment is often taken for granted, merely being satisfied with what life has handed out—school, employment, marriage, children, grandchildren, activities. Unlike happiness, contentment involves attitude adjustments emanating from inner discipline in making difficult personal decisions and persevering. The acquired positive attitude continues in the yearned-for-disposition of thankfulness and peacefulness until radical changes of health or losses occur as years catch up with us.
The heartbreak of losing Jim--my mate of 65 years— wielded such a tremendous blow to my sense of wellbeing, that I wondered how I’d ever manage to be content again. However, as family & friends would ask me how I was doing, my response was: “I miss Jim terribly; but I don’t feel sorry for myself; I’m not lonely; I am peaceful and am content,” which surprised even me.
In self-analysis, even without Jim, I ascertained that my contentment largely based on purpose and spiritual peace were both alive and well. Assuming Jim’s physical responsibilities was a huge adjustment but was necessary in confidently navigating independently. I had never lived alone, so several new areas of keeping up with the yard, car and finances, were unleased in beginning the new trek of singleness. Recalling how Jim tackled problems has been helpful as well as comforting. Even though I haven’t crossed all the bridges yet, a sense of contentment lodges deep in my soul. A delightful realization is that peace follows contentment. Contentment and peace are twins working together.
Majoring on the main sources of contentment and adjusting to changes and limitations with ‘what has fallen your lot’ using an old expression, requires using inner discipline to make wise decisions along with determination to persevere.
When taking care of a broken bone, illness, weather problems, etc. limitations loom temporarily. In circumstances where we have to patiently and willingly give adequate time for healing, our disposition needs to graciously switch to the ‘acceptance mode’.
I’ve heard from seniors about limitations that caregivers put on them or they have personally set for themselves which are temporary or ‘from now on’ for safety reasons like bring banned from driving at night, taking long road trips or driving in high traffic areas, gardening, biking, basements, stepstools and ladders, using power tools, The attitude of acceptance decision-making in voluntarily relinquishing much loved activities, is liberating in the long run toward longevity. Keeping the big picture in mind is advantageous. Unfortunately, banning and complying do not always connect comfortably, but whatever changes occur, we are wise to choose the disposition that appeals to us the most: being complicit, cooperative, having humility, submissive or being compliant.
When Jim’s doctor said “Because of your physical limitations, Jim, Ruth needs to become the principal driver”, without fanfare, he handed his keys to me. Giving up driving must have been a bitter pill, but he never complained. He was always the driver and a good one. Soon after that, we discovered that his physical limitations were caused by cancerous brain tumors. His willing attitude set an excellent example.
After I had finished this blog and put it aside to cool before final editing, I grabbed the break to take a walk, slipping inside a shop to chat with the manager about the meaning of ‘contentment’ for him. He reiterated being content with amount of money, job, family, etc., but he said, “I don’t want to ever be content when it comes to faith, but to always be making strides to grow and serve.”
Paul wrote: …I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances…I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation… Phil. 4:11-12. NIV
Keep your lives free from the love of money be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; Never will I forsake you.” Heb 13:5. NIV
But godliness with contentment is great gain. I Tim.6:6 (NIV).
Paul (who was in prison at the time) wrote: I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances…I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation… Phil. 4:11-12. NIV
I Tim.6:6 But godliness with contentment is great gain.
Father, thank you for your peace and presence as we adjust to difficult changes.
Give us wisdom and perseverance as we make decisions and persevere. Amen