Discontentment & Gratitude

There are always things in life you can choose to be discontent about.

There are always things in life you can choose to be content with.

The difference lies in your choice.

Don't believe me?   Let me give a small example.

Recently, unbeknownst to me, one of my sons was looking forward to building a rifle from some old scrap wood in our workshop. He apparently went all through his schoolwork thinking that at the end of it, he could go out there and build it.

Unfortunately for him, I don't let the kids go out to work in the workshop by themselves when I'm the only one here. The risk of an emergency goes up with them going out there. Stepping on a stray nail or hurting onesself with a tool become real possibilities. And with me being here alone, nursing a baby, keeping an the preschooler, etc., I just won't take the risk.

After he finished his schoolwork, he said, "so, can I go out to build my rifle?" When I answered, my explanation was met with a downcast body and face.

His disappointment was natural, but I watched as it wedged its' way into his heart and threatened to ruin his whole day.

Discontentment sneaks in and steals the joy from what would otherwise be normal--or even good--days.

That also was a day when my husband went in to work around 5am and wouldn't get home until 10pm.  It was a full workday for him, which meant a full workday at home for me, with no rest for the weary.

This also meant that this particular son didn't get to fulfill his wish of building the rifle at any point that day. By bedtime, dejected that his daddy didn't make it home before bedtime so he could run out and make his rifle, he was darn near weeping. (I'm keeping this story anonymous for this reason.)

There's no shame in his feeling genuine disappointment, but we really do get to pick the things on which we will focus.  

After everyone was in bed (4 boys sleep in the one room), but before I took the opportunity to pray for them, I asked him to list out all the things he got to do that day... ordinary things and fun things, things he did by himself and things we did together... and pretty soon, his tears dried up.

After listing just a few items, his voice began to change. It wasn't crackly and emotional anymore.

Instead his whole being-- inside and out-- was reflecting the change in his focus. Once he began to focus on all the good things (big and small), the one thing he DIDN'T get to do was no longer eclipsing them all and everything about his attitude changed.

By choosing to "count our many blessings" we are choosing contentment. When we choose to focus in on the difficulties, or the things we *want* but don't have, it eclipses the good things and keeps us disgruntled and our perspective skewed-- we are choosing discontentment.

Try it. Right now, take a moment to list out 3 people/things in your life for which you are grateful. Really and truly, imagine what your life would be like without those people/things.

Keep going past 3.

Keep going until you feel the change in your spirit.

However many things it takes, and however long it takes.

If you're not in the habit of doing this, it will feel difficult and pointless. "Really?  I'm supposed to thank God for towels?" Yes.  If that's something you're glad you have, then yes. "Cheddar cheese & a cheese grater?" Yes. List that too.  Include the hug you got recently or the book you have to read anytime you please. Include that you have enough money to buy toilet paper and internet to read this blog post.

It is not bad circumstances in your life that make you discontent. 

It is discontentment that makes your circumstances seem bad.

My son had plenty of things to be thankful for, but he was discontent because of his focus was fixed on the one thing he couldn't do that day. Once he changed his attitude to one of thankfulness, he no longer felt, looked, or sounded discontent because reality dawned on him and he was able to express and truly feel gratitude for the things he HAD done.

The same is true for all of us.

What we focus on- and the attitude with which we focus- changes everything.

Gratitude really is the game-changer.  

For further reading on this topic, check our CCEF's wonderful article on the subject of Gratitude:

Images courtesy of David Castillo Dominici and anankkml/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net


Renee said...

Amen! Great post and a well needed reminder. Thank you!

Kate said...

Thanks Jess. This is just what I needed to hear today. I also wanted to say that I am glad you're regularly blogging again.

Jessica Connell said...

Thanks, Renee, and Kate, for your comments.

(And I'm not at all writing from a lofty tower. I needed this too.) I'm enjoying writing more regularly too- so I'm glad to hear when it's helpful for others. Because it helps me to regularly put my thoughts to virtual paper. :)

Catie said...

This is so timely for me. My five year old has really been struggling with discontentment lately. Nothing is ever good enough. Having her think about her day and/or in general the things she can be thankful for is a great idea. I also need to have us ALL memorize some scripture about being thankful.

I, too, appreciate your regular posting. :)

Jessica Connell said...

Good call. I am constantly coaching the kids in thankfulness... it made SUCH a difference in our lives & in my attitude while we faced difficulties overseas.

Hope you're enjoying your postpartum days! I saw your "it feels so good not to be pregnant" comment... that is EXACTLY how I felt in the first few days post-Theo. :) Just SO glad not to be pregnant anymore. :) So congrats!! You get a cute baby AND get to not be pregnant! :)