I was chatting with a friend the other day about being content.
“I’m reading this book and it says something about it…” she told me. “Here we go… ‘God wants you to be content….’ That’s helpful isn’t it?”
We both started laughing. I’m sure the book said other stuff too, but it struck me as pretty typical of Things Books Often Say God Wants. “God wants you to love people. God wants you to stop worrying.” Etc. Anyway.
Over Lent I’ve been thinking I’d jot down some musings which will probably linger somewhere between heretical and helpful. So here we go.
How to be completely content in three easy steps.
1. Recognise that the title of this blog is utter bollocks and you can’t be completely content in three easy steps. And anyway who wants to be completely content? Restless people are often the movers and shakers of this world. They get stuff done. They see problems and they fix them. Completely content people lie on the couch and pick fluff from their navels.
2.That said, the most important thing about contentedness is probably picking your battles. On the one hand there’s hundreds of children in state care, parents unable to support them, who have serious mental health problems and end up in jail. On the other there’s the fact that the top of your arms no longer look so fab in a sleeveless dress. If you’re not content, seriously ask yourself why and what you can do about it. If it’s something worth changing, work hard to change it. Don’t complain about it. Don’t lecture other people. Stop procrastinating. Make a plan. Get active.
But if you suspect your discontent springs from something less important, ask yourself why? Why does it matter to you that you still have perfectly toned guns at 45? Or that you have the tidiest house?
Sort it out. What’s really at the heart of this discontent you experience? You only get one shot at this stuff. Stop avoiding yourself and ask some hard questions. Discontent exists for a reason.
3.So you’ve decided this discontent is not something deep you can act on, just something shallow you can’t stop being obsessed with? I wish I had better abs and oh hey, my kitchen appliances are really boring. Look, it’s just an observation, but if you’re generally a discontented person, you probably do a lot of comparing. And the number one place for comparisons is social media. It’s your go-to for better bodies, happier holidays and ‘handsomer’ husbands. For the discontented, it’s also the guilty-pleasure hub of casually noticing someone else put on weight, made a grammatical error or posted something really boring. Suddenly you’re superior again.
Not everyone reacts to social media this way. But a lot of us do. Many sensible people who tend to compare themselves to others therefore take the smart step of self-diagnosing and farewelling Facebook and Instagram. Good call. Because there’s never been another time in history when we’ve had so much exposure to other people’s highly scripted lives. It quite literally makes many of us sick.
Want to be content? Get back to what’s in front of you – what you’re responsible for, who you are, what you can change, who you love. The rest is fluff.
Contentedness isn’t found in having everything, only in knowing you gave life everything you had.
It’s possible the book said all this. One of the things I like about the Christian faith and Jesus’ life is that it’s all about struggle and asking hard questions of yourself and working for change alongside others and living with pain and hanging onto hope.
One of the things I don’t like about Christian books is that they often say things like “God wants you to be content.”
Okay, that’s it. My first musing for Lent. Hope it was useful. If not, well, post something of your own then! 🙂