Contentment is a hot topic in many venues and disciplines. References to contentment can be found in virtually every religion, social group, culture, and philosophy. The word contentment can even be found in economics and psychology. Most of the references I have found seem to refer to contentment as a destination or objective. While that may be an accurate usage of the word I believe that it lacks the depth and dynamic that is possible when used another way. It would be more accurate, in my view, if contentment was a verb. Verbs indicate action. Contentment is really a process, not a destination. In that way it defies our typical grammar structure.
Contentment doesn’t mean not wanting, not achieving, or not trying. You can have contentment while trying to reach goals. You probably must have contentment to really accomplish anything. My definition of contentment would read like this: the struggle of knowing that all that there ever could be is not enough and all that exists right now is abundant.
Here are some other definitions.
- from WordNet 1.6 1997 Princeton University: happiness with one’s situation in life
- from Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary 1996: contained within limit; hence having the desires limited by that which one has, not disposed to repine or grumble; satisfied
At the website www.pausetoponder.org they suggest that we are trained to be dissatisfied. Our economic structure thrives on discontent. Contentment in the Western mind is having enough so that you are happy, can sit back, relax, and have no care in the world. This can never be achieved. According to Paster Gerry (Pastor Gerry is Gerald Whetstone, Ordained Elder and teacher in the Church of the Nazarene), in A Pause to Ponder God’s Word there are several actions one can take to find contentment. Note that I said ACTIONS.
- Always rejoice in the Lord
- Don’t be anxious, pray
- Think on Holy Godly things
- Practice Holy living
- Always remember that with Christ there is nothing that we cannot handle
- Be a vital active member of a community of believers
The Jewish concept of Shabbat is also related to contentment. Rabbi Sheila Peltz Weinberg defined Shabbat as resting in the eternity of this day when we do not try to change or control our reality. We are not pushing anything away or longing for anything to be different. Shabbat is completion, acceptance, realization, and fulfillment – all of the qualities that we cultivate when we rest our attention in the present moment.
In my dynamic model you “contentment” (the verb) in each time of prayer, meditation, or practice of Tai Chi. The more one practices the longer you are able to experience the expanding state of contentment.