I’ve been rather pondering a particular topic rather deeply recently. What’s the difference between happiness and contentedness? I’m pretty sure they’re not the same thing. Similar? Yes. The same? No. One of my biggest aims in life is simply to be content. Obviously happiness is also desirable but I don’t think that you can very well be happy all the time. But contentedness seems more reachable.
The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines contented as: ‘feeling or showing satisfaction with one’s possessions, status, or situation’. That sounds pretty accurate to me. So how do we go about trying to be content when our possessions, status and situation are in a pretty miserable state?
I’m going to skim over the possessions aspect of this question. I’m fortunate enough to not be wanting in that respect. I’m no Bill Gates but materially, for the moment at least, I have everything I need to get by. Status and situation are a different kettle of fish. I’m not actually entirely sure of the distinction between status and situation! There must be some technical difference but for these purposes I’m going to treat them as one and the same.
I’m at my most content when the status quo is preserved; when my health is at the level that I’m used to and I can operate at my usual pace. I might not be incredibly happy but I can be content; grateful for what I can do and accepting of the things I can’t. It’s a peaceful state of mind to be in but all too often events conspire to turn my contentedness into frustration. Dissatisfaction is a simple human failing, but one that if eradicated would make the world a much nicer place! These days we’re constantly being told than we deserve this and that. We have rights not privileges. The good things in our lives are not blessings; they are merely what we are entitled to. Living with this attitude means that contentment is near impossible. I find that gratitude is essential to contentedness. I must be thankful for what I have. Yes, of course I’m going to get angry at times and rail against the restrictions that are imposed on me by my illness. And believe me, I can rant and rave with the best of them. But if I’m never grateful for the things that I am fortunate enough to have then I’ll never be content. I might be happy from time to time, but never content.
I’d be interested to know the views of others on this. I’m a Christian and I wonder if perhaps I’m able to be more content because of my belief that I’m only going to have to deal with this messed up body of mine for a relatively short period of time. I have an eternal, heavenly destination to look forward to. What about those who don’t share my beliefs? In short, how does each of us find contentment?