My crown is in my heart, not in my head,
Nor decked with diamonds and Indian stones,
Nor to be seen; my crown is called contentment;
A crown it is, that seldom kings enjoy.
~William Shakespeare, Henry VI
In this age of instant gratification, instant messaging, and instant coffee, living a life of contentment demands a delicate balance of ambition and apathy. Not only should we be content with such things as we have, but we should also strive to pursue excellence and personal growth. It is in the image of the proverbial scales that we find a visual definition of the fragility of contentment. I would dare say that being content is a momentary pursuit, one that commands both dedication and repose.
The Equilibrium of Contentment
Equilibrium, defined as “a state in which opposing forces or influences are balanced,” perfectly illustrates the necessity of both ambition and apathy as requirements for contentment. While ambition is the desire to achieve, apathy is the lack of desire.
Think about it: without the ambition to achieve goals, we attain nothing. Without the lack of desiring more than we have, we become restless and discontent with our lives. There has to be a balance between wanting what we have and pursuing what we want. We have to be content and visionary. It all comes down to being consumed by acquisition or consuming our life with contentment.
Charles Spurgeon said it best: “You say, ‘If I had a little more, I should be very satisfied.’ You make a mistake. If you are not content with what you have, you would not be satisfied if it were doubled.”
The following is a clipping from Khaled Hosseini, author of The Kite Runner: “That same night, I wrote my first short story. It took me thirty minutes. It was a dark little tale about a man who found a magic cup and learned that if he wept into the cup, his tears turned into pearls. But even though he had always been poor, he was a happy man and rarely shed a tear. So he found ways to make himself sad so that his tears could make him rich. As the pearls piled up, so did his greed grow. The story ended with the man sitting on a mountain of pearls, knife in hand, weeping helplessly into the cup with his beloved wife’s slain body in his arms.”
Taking it a Step Further
My husband and I went out to lunch with his boss (free pie day at Village Inn!) and discussed the issue of contentment. I brought up this blog post and how I was “gelling” my thoughts on the subject. As a parent of a five year old boy and a ten year old girl, he had an interesting perspective on contentment. “You have to have a balance between how you achieve contentment and how you teach your children to be content,” he said. “Hopefully, your life experiences have brought a sense of maturity; that maturity is defined by your contentment level.” He then described how his children see the fancy new toys, the extroverted personalities, and the height differences in their friends, but they have to learn how to be content with what they have, even at their young ages. Together with his wife, he is consistently teaching them to appreciate what they have and who they are. “Contentment is not something to be achieved; contentment is a state of being.”
Parenting brought contentment to a whole new level for me. I was thinking of contentment as being happy with my career, my electronics, my house, I wasn’t even considering the fact of teaching contentment to a child! Being content with what you have is one thing; communicating how you came to be content is another. I can only pray that when our time comes, my husband and I will have this contentment thing down!
Making it Personal
- I don’t have an iphone; I do have a cell phone that calls my loved ones.
- I don’t have the latest fashionista must-haves; I do have a closet overflowing with colorful clothes that fit.
- I don’t drive a Pontiac Sky (my favorite); I do have a car that gets awesome gas mileage and looks nice.
- I don’t live in a Florida mansion; I do live in a comfortable house filled to the brim with love, laughter, and joy.
- I do have a husband who loves me.
- I do have a job that pays my bills and lets me save a bit each month.
- I do have friends that love me.
- I do have a church that meets my needs.
- I truly do have a wonderful life.
How do you define contentment? If someone asked you about contentment, what would you say?