The Tyranny of ‘More’
I envy my younger self. Throughout childhood, I was content pretty much all the time. In the race of life, I was on equal ground with everyone else. Sure, I had physical limitations, but they didn’t keep me from moving forward in life. I went to school and moved on to the next grade each year, just like anyone else.
My adult life so far has been an entirely different story. High school graduation marked the point at which everyone else moved on, and I was left behind. This made remaining content a challenge. I’m still not content in every situation, but I have come a long way because I learned an important lesson: Contentment is not dependent on circumstances.
I used to think, “Once I get that, I’ll be happy.” That way of thinking is a lie and a never-ending battle.
In the book of Philippians, Paul writes knowingly about contentment: “I know both how to have a little, and I know how to have a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content — whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need.” Paul understood that circumstances don’t dictate contentment. Rather, the ultimate hope of spending eternity in heaven does. I was familiar with this passage for a while, but it took some life experiences for me to truly understand it.
For over a year, my best friend/cousin was supposed to move to Bend, Oregon, and be my caregiver. I put all of my contentment eggs in that one basket. For all that time, that was what I held onto. That was a huge mistake. It ended up not working out, and that crushed me. I consider this the greatest learning experience of my life because it taught me that lesson. The truth is that while good circumstances might satisfy for a time, we’ll ultimately be left unsatisfied. Even if my cousin had moved here, I would have eventually grown accustomed to that and needed even more to remain content.
But more is never enough. More always demands more. It is the antithesis of contentment. So, contentment based on getting more is a futile pursuit. Contentment, by definition, is the satisfaction of my current status. It doesn’t mean I don’t want more. It means I don’t need more. So, if I get what I want — great. And if I don’t? That’s fine, too.
I still struggle to remember this. I have to remind myself throughout the day because there are things I constantly yearn for. I want to be financially independent. I want my own house and family. Normal stuff. I still have these desires, and I work to reach them every day. But I stop myself from believing that I need them to be content.
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