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What determines contentment, and how do you sustain it?

By Air Force Chaplain (Capt.) James Hendrick | JBER Chaplain | June 18, 2015


The "Chaplain's Corner" offers perspectives to enhance spiritual/religious resiliency in support of Air Force and Army Comprehensive Fitness programs.

Comments regarding specific beliefs, practices, or behaviors are strictly those of the author and do not convey  endorsement by the U.S. government, the Department of Defense, the Army, the Air Force, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, or the 673d Air Base Wing.

How content (satisfied) are you? To what degree is everything ok in your world? Maybe the most important question: what determines your contentment and how do you personally sustain it? 

I think it goes without saying that humans are universally driven by the desire to have our needs met and to be at peace - to be content.
We see this expressed from birth to death. 

I think it also goes without saying many people around the world and in America are largely lacking contentment, given the types of speech and behavior we frequently see on social media.

I would even go so far as to say discontentment, sometimes connected to personal, unfulfilled, and unrealistic expectations, can lead to irrational thought, speech, and behavior.

Contentment and discontentment are huge in navigating the emotions, morale, and motivation of individuals and groups. 

So again I ask, how content are you? What determines your contentment and how do you sustain it?

Contemplating these questions, Benjamin Franklin once proclaimed, "Contentment makes poor men rich; discontentment makes rich men poor."

Contentment is a beautiful thing. It enlarges healthy resiliency. It blesses our minds, bodies, and relationships.

It even has the power to reduce high-maintenance attitudes that major on the minors, which are counter-productive to healthy relationships, teams, and leaders.

I wonder, have you ever noticed the connection between discontentment and the frequency of a cynical and critical mindset?

I thought about this recently when reading some feedback comments recorded by Mike Neifert in his "Light and Life" article.

These comments were given to park staff at the beautiful Bridger Wilderness Area in Wyoming.

As I share some of these, do you hear contentment or discontentment?

"Trails need to be reconstructed, please avoid building trails that go uphill ... trails need to be wider so people can walk while holding hands ... there are too many bugs, leeches, and spider webs, please spray the wilderness to remove them ... chairlifts need to be installed so that we can get to wonderful views without having to hike to them ... a McDonald's at the trailhead would be nice ... the coyotes made too much noise last night and kept me awake, please eradicate them ... a small deer came into my camp and stole my jar of pickles, can I get reimbursed?"

Sound familiar? Sound like those wrestling with discontentment?

Again, what determines contentment for you? How do you personally sustain it? To what degree must you be 'in control' to enjoy it? 

After 45 years of life, under the faith-label of Christianity, I continue growing in a level of contentment that is not primarily connected to anything in this world. I have found it not only satisfies, but transforms.

That is, my role as a man, husband, father, and chaplain have been greatly enriched by it.

Additionally, my contentment source is untouched and unaffected by my circumstances or ability to control. I have found it absolutely unchanging in its trustworthiness.

What is it? From a faith perspective, King David described it best in holy scripture when he proclaimed, "Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart" (Psalm 37:4).

My primary source of contentment is God.

Given our American currency and its inscribed 'trust statement' it seems I'm not alone. 

How about you? What is your primary source of contentment? To what degree does it sustain you? To what degree must you be in control to enjoy it?

As we contemplate these questions may we consider one more voice of faith. It comes from Thomas à Kempis who understood our inability to control all things and his belief in ultimate justice.

Before dying in 1471, he stated, "When a man has arrived so far, that he seeks his consolation from no created thing, then at this point he truly begins to taste what God is; then, too, he will be well content with everything that happens."

May you and yours find yourselves satisfyingly content.