What is the meaning of this word? I hear it in various contexts, most likely due to its various definitions. If you Google contentment, the first definition is “a state of happiness and satisfaction.” In this context, contentment is a continuation of good feelings. We know that as human beings we will not always have good feelings. No matter how much we try to cushion our lives, we cannot avoid the stark reality that life is full of hardship. Ranging from economic hardship to relationship problems, something will always reappear which threatens our peaceful state of life. Ultimately, we are never able to secure this elusive state of happiness.
In these terms, contentment seem to be a bleak hope, an ideal that taunts us. I would argue that we were never supposed to view contentment in such a light because we are unable to find complete happiness in this life. Instead, I would counter that we need to view contentment in its right context, which according to Easton’s Bible Dictionary is “astateofmindinwhichone'sdesiresareconfinedtohislotwhateverit maybe.” From this definition, we can assume that contentment is not determined on how well life is going. In fact, this statement gives us hope because it does not assume that we have to be happy to be content. Good felings, which undoubtedly come and go, are no longer the prerequisite to finding contentment. Rather, the rise and fall of our daily circumstances begins to have less of a hold on our outlook. We are focusing more on finding joy in our current circumstances than we are seeking to eliminate all feelings of discomfort, disappointment, or pain. Contentment, therefore, does not rely on the flucutuating current of life; rather, it is dependent upon our outlook.
While the idea of contentment is a great one, where does it leave us? What are the implications of contentment, if any? It can be hard to imagine accepting a life that may not always be “happy.” It may even seem foolish to suggest that we should not always strive to create a happy life for ourselves. This, however, is exactly what I propose. As I mentioned before, it is impossible to rid yourself of all suffering. The pursuit of happiness is a tireless task. It is an endless pursuit. The welathiest are not the happiest nor the the beautiful and talented the most satisfied with their lives. We take one bite of a good life, and our apetite grows bigger. When does the craving for better houses, cars, food, vacations, friends, or lovers finally stop? Spoiler: it does not.
For this reason, it seems like our best option is to find contentment. Once we begin to seek contentment, we begin to save time, money, and emotions. These three go hand-in-hand. Maybe you spend less time online shopping for yourself, trying to fill that bottomless need for new clothing. In that case, you just gained back an hour or two of your life as well as saving your money. Perhaps you stop questioning yourself and worrying about that person that you have been interested in for the longest time. Now you can occupy yourself with more uplifiting thoughts and free your emotions from revolving around that person. You might even decide not to shell out money for every concert or Starbucks craving, chase after the highly coveted friend group, or constantly seek the highest paying job simply for the sake of the pay. Instead, you could begin to appreciate what you own, whom you know, and how life has played out so far. When the chase for happiness disappoints you yet again, remember that contentment is the friend that perserveres through difficulty and rewards the patient.