Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Peace of Contentment

We experience peace when we are content with our lives, our looks, and our possessions. When we feel true gratitude for the blessings we enjoy instead of focusing on the things we don’t have, we feel happy and joyful. Epicurus, a Greek philosopher who was born 341 B.C., wisely said, “Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you do not have.”

Most cultures do not foster contentment. Instead, they insist we need more money, bigger homes, newer clothes, or thinner bodies before we can be happy. They say that we must update our wardrobes, home furnishings, or appearance if we want to be fulfilled. However, we can’t buy happiness for true contentment if found in the heart. It is found in the attitudes we foster and the thoughts we nourish.

Despite what the media says, we can be content in any circumstance if we choose three attitudes.

1. Be content with who you are. Don’t compare yourself to others.

When we decide to love ourselves unconditionally, we discover one of the great secrets to contentment. This doesn’t mean that we strive to better ourselves, but it means that we accept ourselves just as we are and then gently allow God to mold us into all that we can become. If we are constantly berating and criticizing ourselves, we will not enjoy everyday living. We will also discover that we are more critical of others and find it harder to forgive.
When we truly celebrate our own talents, gifts, and abilities, we can also celebrate those of others. Then we feel happy to become our own best self and to allow others to enjoy the same journey. We are not threatened if others have different abilities or talents than we have but rejoice in the diverse gifts that we—and others--enjoy.

2. Be content with what you have. Celebrate the blessings that God has given you.

We can be poor, rich or in between and have been blessed to find contentment in any circumstance. I have poor friends who are very happy and rich friends who are not. Henry David Thoreau said, “The man is richest whose pleasures are the cheapest.” When we find happiness in the simple beauties of nature and in spending time with friends and family, worldly interests become less appealing.

The amount of money a person earns does not determine whether or not they will be happy but how they manage our money does. Wise stewardship of our finances creates harmony in the home and enhances our inner peace. As we show gratitude for those things we have, spend less than we earn, save for a rainy day, tithe, and give generously to others in need, we discover the windows of heaven truly open in our behalf and we can live happily on very little. I know. I’ve spent my life doing this, and many times my ability to provide for my family and help others and far exceeded my income. God blesses those who give to Him and to others with peace, joy, and contentment.

3. Be content with your life. Celebrate the joys of everyday living.

Richard Carlson, Ph.D. has written extensively about finding peace and joy. His classic book, Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff, contains one hundred ways to live more happily and peacefully. He writes, “Often we allow ourselves to get worked up about things that, upon closer examination, aren’t really that big a deal….Whether we had to wait in line, listen to unfair criticism, or do the lion’s share the work, it pays enormous dividends in we learn not to worry about little things. So many people spend so much of their life energy “sweating the small stuff” that they completely lose touch with the magic and beauty of life. When you commit to working toward this goal, you will find that you will have far more energy to be kinder and gentler.”

Dr. Carlson titled he last chapter of his book, “Live This Life as If It Were Your Last. It Might Be!” Ironically, he died suddenly of a pulmonary embolism while on a flight to promote one of his books when he was 45 years old. I have read many of Dr. Carlson’s books and find new ways to live more authentically and happily with each book.

The apostle Paul, who suffered physical torture, imprisonment, and chronic health challenges, wrote that he had learned to be content in any circumstance. I know people who are content amid financial, health, or family adversities. That doesn’t mean their lives are perfect or that they don’t ever feel sad or discouraged. However, they have discovered that life is beautiful and that peace is possible, even during the hard times.

Sarah Ban Breathnach, author of the book, Simple Abundance, said, “Whatever we are waiting for--peace of mind, contentment, grace, the inner awareness of simple abundance--it will surely come to us, but only when we are ready to receive it with an open and grateful heart.”

May we open our hearts to the blessings of peace and contentment that lie without our hearts, waiting to be discovered.

© Carol Brown

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