Discontent is everywhere. It is an epidemic. It is the driving force that makes us desire more. It makes us unhappy with what we have. It is the cause of many divorces. It is the cause of much of the debt that people are in. It robs us of our joy!
The relentless power of discontent
(taken from chapter 11 in Richard Swanson’s book “Margin“.)
Why is contentment so hard for us? For one thing, it’s slippery. Contentment is not at all like cutting down a tree, which, when it is done, is done. It’s more like trying to pick up mercury with tweezers – it keeps squirting away. It’s like the carrot suspended two feet in front of our face that moves every time we do. We keep chasing, and it keeps dodging …
Beyond its slippery nature, contentment is difficult to achieve because of the relentless power of discontent. The battle waged between contentment and discontentment is often subtle but never soft. When we enter the material world for our contentment, it pulls us in deeper and deeper, and the pull is deceptively strong. That for which I long becomes that to which I belong.
In addition, contentment is difficult because it is a relative state – at least the world’s practice of it is relative. A number of factors influence this relativism: the age in which we live, the local culture, and the lifestyle of family members and friends. If you live in New York City and all your neighbours drive Mercedes, you might feel embarrassed if you drive a pickup. Living in rural Wisconsin where many people cut firewood, however, you would find an older truck more acceptable.
If we were to draw one line representing ALL THERE IS TO HAVE and another representing WHAT WE NOW HAVE, the gap between these lines would be, in most cases, proportional to our level of contentment.
As the top line rises, the gap between what we now have and all there is to have becomes greater. Often our discontent becomes greater as well. One of the dubious advantages progress has given us in the relentless rising of the top line. Progress perceives this as its duty – to give us more and more. Were we free to select among the opportunities without pressure or comparison, perhaps these abundant choices would be acceptable. But humans are not like that, or at least our society is not like that.
How have you experienced the relentless power of discontent in your life?