I’m not going to lie. Being content is still a struggle for me, but I can say with a fair amount of certainty that I am more content now than I was even five years ago. Over the past couple years or so, I have learned many things about how to be content and why for many people, contentment with life seems to elude them.
In this New Year, contentment can be a reality for you. It can be an even greater reality for me. In general, from what I have read, heard, and learned, these are some of the major factors in cultivating contentment in one’s life:
- Live with purpose.—I had always had this lingering question in my mind about work: Why do most people hate or dislike their jobs and have no passion in what they do for a living? When I observed people and the general trends from the world around me, I found the answer. Basically, for a lot of people, their attitude towards work and much of their other parts of their lives, too, is “I’ll do what I can to survive another day.” While that can motivate some to not give up, I believe we need to live with greater purpose than just survival if we are to be truly content. I recommend that to find your life purpose (if you haven’t already), you think about what your passions are in life, and what God-given abilities you have, and see how they can fit together. For instance, one of my passions in my life is to see people know and experience the joy and love of Christ in their lives. God has given me the ability to articulate myself well through writing (though I am much less gifted in speaking!). Therefore, I have chosen to write a blog about lessons I’m learning about God’s love and joy in my life, and how others can cultivate the same. Though my day job does not involve writing at all, I can still be content in my job, because my passion to see people experience the love and joy of Christ is still being realized through the opportunities I get to interact with people on a daily basis.
- Live in forgiveness.—I used to hold grudges against certain people for years, and then wonder why I wasn’t content with my life. It was like there was something always holding me back from experiencing true joy. Once, I held anger and resentment against someone that was so bad that I started experiencing PTSD-like symptoms and a real dread of ever seeing them again. However, when I finally forgave them and let my anger go, I felt an enormous weight lifted off me. I was finally able to live in love and freedom from the bitterness that held me captive for so long! Some people think if they forgive someone, they are letting them off the hook, so to speak, or excusing the offender’s behavior. Nothing could be further from the truth! The very fact of having to forgive someone necessitates that they did something wrong or sinful to hurt you. Also, like so many others who have struggled to forgive someone, I used to think that the longer I held a grudge, the longer I would make the offender “suffer” for what they did to me and feel the isolation and pain of my hurt. Then, I realized that the offender often either does not know what they did to hurt you or to what degree, or if they do, they don’t care at all. I realized that holding a grudge only makes you and the people around you that have nothing to do with what the offender did suffer. Let. It. go. By holding a grudge, you are continuing to let the offender hurt you. Get out of your offender’s prison! Forgive them—for your sake, not theirs!
- Live with gratitude.—I believe that one of the biggest barriers to contentment is a complaining spirit. Often the people who complain the most are also the most depressed. This has little to do with the person’s circumstances, and more to do with the person’s attitude towards them. For instance, I know several people from my church who have had to struggle through cancer. Even though a lot of them had some trying times just battling the disease and having to go through strenuous treatments to combat it, they remained in good spirits because they focused on God and the good that was still in their lives. When I looked back on the good in my life and the blessings that God has given me, I find that I am much more satisfied with my life than when I focus on the negatives. One thing that I find helpful is to start a list of some of the blessings in your life. I keep mine in a notebook that I update occasionally throughout the year. I started it about 10 years ago, and it has over 100 ways that God has blessed me throughout that time!
These are the three main lessons that I am learning about contentment. Though practicing these things is not always easily, and we may fail to live these at times, never give up. The more purpose, forgiveness, and gratitude are implemented in our lives, the more content we will be with our lives. Try living these, and you won’t be disappointed with the results.