Contentment is Learned

I remember when my kids took those first steps. After weeks of holding their hands and encouraging them to walk, they finally took that first toddling step on their own. I also remember teaching them to ride a bike and how to read. I could teach them those things because I knew how to do them.

I also remember trying to teach my younger daughter how to do a hockey stop. It was frustrating for both her and me. Why? Because I can’t do a hockey stop. All I could do was tell her what I had heard other people tell her. I couldn’t demonstrate it. I couldn’t tell her what it felt like. I couldn’t tell her what she was doing wrong. It was an exercise in frustration for both of us.

We can’t teach our kids something that we haven’t learned ourselves. If we haven’t learned to be content, then we can’t expect our kids to learn to be content. Yesterday, we talked about the fact that contentment is a choice. When we choose to be content, we are choosing to learn to be content no matter the circumstances.

Paul says this in Philippians 4:12-13: “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 in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” The secret to learning to be content in all situations is to rely on God for the strength to do so.

So, how do we learn contentment? How do we stop striving for more all the time and enjoy what we have — whether it be tangible like cars and houses or intangible like talents and health?

1. Ask God to help. Being content whatever our circumstances goes against human nature. We like to complain and grumble. It seems to be a constant of human nature. To overcome that desire, we have to have God’s help.

2. Focus on what you do have instead of what you don’t. No matter our circumstances, we have things in our lives for which to be grateful. It may be that we need to be content with the weather on a beautiful day, the ability to get out of bed in the morning or the love of our family. Find reasons to be grateful and content.

3. Stop comparing your circumstances to other people’s circumstances. Comparison is the fastest way to kill contentment. Make it a point to stop comparing what you have to what others have. When you find yourself caught in the comparison trap, make a conscious decision to choose to be content with what you have.

4. Cultivate a heart of gratitude. Create a thankfulness wall or journal in your home. Every day, write down something for which you are thankful. It’s hard to be envious of others when you’re focused on your own blessings.

We can’t teach our kids to be content unless we have learned it ourselves. Spend some time today relying on God to give you the strength to be content — no matter what your circumstances are.

Linking up today with Women Living Well , A Wise Woman Builds Her Home and Word Filled Wednesday.

The Danger of Comparison

Courtesy David Castillo Dominici

My younger daughter has in inflated sense of justice. She always wants everything to be “fair.” If she thinks something isn’t fair, she’ll be sure to let you know.

Last night, she and her sister were cleaning up the kitchen, and she was bemoaning the fact that she had more jobs than her sister. This was not her first attempt to correct unfairness as she saw it yesterday. It had been an ongoing theme. I was done hearing about it.

I finally looked at her and said, “You know when you worry about whether everything is fair, when you compare what you’re doing to someone else, you just make yourself discontent.”

“What does discontent mean?”

“Unhappy with what you have.”

“Well, I don’t want to be discontent.”

I don’t know that we’ve solved the problem, but it definitely gave her something to chew on. And it gave me something to chew on as well.

Being content with what we have — whether it’s things, a job, our marriage or our kids — is tough. Human nature has us always comparing ourselves to others, always striving to be better and have more than someone else.

When we do that — when we compare our lot in life with someone else’s — we nearly always find that our life comes up short. We don’t have as much money. We don’t have as well-behaved children. We don’t have as nice of a house. We aren’t as smart. And we’re left with a feeling of discontentment.

Suddenly, all the gifts that God has given us aren’t enough. They seem inadequate. We seem inadequate. All because we decided to compare ourselves to someone else.

While human nature has us always striving for more, God wants us to be content with what He’s given us. In Philippians 4:12, Paul says, “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 in want.” Being content is a learned reaction. And it’s not something we can do ourselves. The very next verse in Philippians gives us the key — “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”

To be content, we have to rely on God. We have to believe that He’s given us enough of everything. And we have to stop comparing ourselves to others.

The next time you or your kids are caught in the discontentment trap, try this. Read Philippians 4:12-13. Ask God to help you be content, then list what you do have and thank God for it. It’s nearly impossible to be discontent and grateful at the same time.

Our kids won’t learn to be content with what they have if they constantly see us wanting more or comparing our lives to others. Learn as a family how to be content with what you have. Ask God for help because He wants you to be content with what He’s provided.

Linking up today with Women Living Well , A Wise Woman Builds Her Home  and Word Filled Wednesday.