Have you ever had an epiphany? You know, one of those pivotal moments when you suddenly catch on to something that’s always been true, but it’s like you’re realizing it for the first time? I’ve had many, but one that influenced me most was when I discovered that comparison is the antithesis of contentment. I was about 35 years old, working at my first real job with a promising future, and was excited because things I wanted were finally within reach. I wanted the new clothes, the cool gadgets, and especially super fun technology. I could rationalize. Right? After all doesn’t Ecclesiastes 3:12-13 indicate entitlement? “I have concluded that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to enjoy themselves as long as they live, and also that everyone should eat and drink, and find enjoyment in all his toil, for these things are a gift from God.”
The thing is, my heart was fully aware that newer cars, latest fashion, flashy accessories, bleeding edge technology, and cool gadgets would never lead to satisfaction. My mind, however, was on a different planet. Instead of being thankful for what I had and being content, I was caught in a senseless spiral of always wanting more; comparing what I had with what I didn’t.
Businesses love people like me. Our economy thrives when people want more. In fact, our economy is driven by change; it demands innovative products, superior service and constant improvements. Our culture is a good parallel as it’s also fed by desire for more. Society tells us to be more, and to be more we’ve got to have more. When consumers desire more they buy more products, spend more money, and keep the economy moving. Our economy is sustained by our culture that consistently wants more. I’m not proposing that anyone stop desiring or stop buying. That’s neither my place nor my right. My hope is for you to find contentment.
One day, I was looking at three very different computer models in a shared office space while listening to two co-workers talk about their new cars, when suddenly I had that epiphany. I could continue to buy the next big thing, keep upgrading, trade the old for the new, but I would never be fulfilled. There would always be a newer, better, faster, version of the item already in my possession. What if I made a conscious choice to be thankful for what I had? What if, instead of wanting the upgrade, I resolved to be content? How would it feel to say, I’m satisfied and be sincere when I said it? What if I said – “Enough. This is enough,” and mean it?
About this time I became close friends with a couple from my church. The husband, a recovered alcoholic had, at one time, been homeless, living on the streets of Chicago. He told me his secret to recovery was God’s grace first, and his faith in Jesus Christ. He said when he began his journey to recovery he made up his mind to live with an attitude of gratitude every day. He didn’t need material things to fill his spirit. He didn’t need more talent. He didn’t need more money. He needed to be thankful for what he had right then. Attitude of gratitude.
I’ve tried to practice gratitude. I don’t always succeed, but I know that my mind is capable of transformational change. I also know that my mind can hold a limited volume of thoughts at one time. If I fill it up with gratitude, positive thoughts, and contentment, there is no room for pride, negativity, and comparison.
Today I am thankful that in his plan, God knew I would struggle with contentment, so he introduced me to someone who survived total discontentment and lived with an attitude of gratitude.
Secret to success: Comparison is the opposite or contentment. Be grateful. Attitude of gratitude.
Philippians 4:11-13 “I have learned to be content in any circumstance. I have experienced times of need and times of abundance. In any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of contentment, whether I go satisfied or hungry, have plenty or nothing.”