“Godliness with contentment is great gain…” 1 Tim 6:6
I find this verse interesting because of what is not said. Contentment doesn’t automatically follow godliness, but even more surprising is that if it is “great” gain that means it is pretty rare.
The amazing thing about contentment is that it is so culture bound. In America we rely heavily on our smart phones and microwaves. The children go nuts if they don’t have their technology, but a few decades ago a color TV with 7 channels was a luxury. Right now our bathroom is being worked on, meaning we don’t have one. It is a terrible inconvenience but a temporary one; our lives are so simple and blessed compared to so much of the world. That doesn’t mean I’m content in this and not stressed out. It’s the thought that I have so much to be thankful for that causes me to want to put in check the emotions that war against contentment. I want to find peace in the chaos because it makes sense and for the most part my life is pretty good.
I like Paul’s balance, contentment is attainable and within our control, but it isn’t easy, our cultural experiences lock us into expectations that are not simply thoughts but visceral experiences. We FEEL contentment, we don’t THINK it. SO self compassion says that it ain’t easy, but the empowered part says that it is within our control.
Steps to Contentment
Eyes forward, not to the right or left- Comparison is like a cancer to contentment. It is almost unavoidable, but being aware can change everything. Things can always be improved upon, someone always has something better, savor what’s enjoyable about what you have.
Focus on the goal not the path- As Neizche put it, many are steadfast in the path they have chosen, few in the goal. This is often the case. Why do I want the bigger house, the better retirement plan, the newer car, brand name clothes? Are they really an end in and of themselves? Often they become the end goal- we get lost in the pursuit. But what if what we want we don’t have to wait for? Do we want to relax? Do we want to be happy? Do we want to feel good about ourselves? Why did we start down the path in the first place? Our goals are rarely tied to our paths. Because most of what we really want in life can be found in relationship…the rest is just icing on the cake.
Accept feelings w/o letting them control you- “Contentment isn’t denying one’s feelings about unhappiness, but instead a freedom from being controlled by those feelings.” (Swenson)
Process not product- “Contentment isn’t the complacency that defeats any attempt to make things better, but instead the willingness to work tirelessly for improvement, clinging to God rather than RESULTS.” (Swenson)