The Jewel of Contentment
A JEWEL is beautiful, precious and something to be cherished. But not all, jewels are tangible, stonelike substances. The virtue of contentment, for example, is a jewel; it too is beautiful, precious and something to be cherished.
Yet today this jewel of contentment is becoming ever more rare. The more people have, the less contented they seem to be. Complained American President Nixon of his people: “Never has a nation seemed to have more and enjoyed it less.”—New York Times Magazine, November 21, 1971.
Highlighting this fact was a TV documentary presented over a leading United States network late in 1971 and entitled “. . . But What if the Dream Comes True.” Depicting “An American Family’s Discontent,” it gave a true-life presentation of a prosperous Anglo-Saxon senior vice-president of a bank who lived with his wife and three children in an affluent suburb of Detroit. Theirs was described as “a love affair with the obvious good—good food, beautiful clothes, the best education.” But were they content, happy? No, for the children were “lost and bored.” And although the father said that their house was “a terrific house, beautiful house,“’ and that he was sad to leave it, they were moving to a still more affluent suburb. No wonder the narrator asked, “Is this dream of acquisition the one you want to put your faith in?”
Their dream had come true and yet they were discontented, unhappy. Why? The documentary intimated why: “Love and ideals are all very well, but love and ideals win no pennants,” that is, they are not to be taken seriously.
What will help you to counteract this widespread discontent, and enable you to possess the jewel of contentment?
Being reasonable can help you to be content. This can be seen from the fact that ever so many persons are discontented because of unreasonable expectations. For example, a leading American behavioral scientist noted that many seemingly good marriages generate discontent due to unreasonable expectations. Thus some married couples are discontented with their marriage because they imagine that other couples’ marriages are happier or more successful than theirs. Others, again, are discontented because their marriage does not bring uniform satisfactions.
But how can one couple judge the marital happiness of another, not knowing all their undersurface problems? Is it even reasonable to expect that all couples will have the same degree of success in their marriage? And how can imperfect humans who have to put up with the uncertainties of life expect a marriage to bring uniform satisfactions? Being reasonable in such matters will contribute much toward contentment.
Then again, some people are discontented simply because they fail to be realistic. They try to ignore the homely truth that “It is never this AND that, but this OR that.” To illustrate: Not long after he is married a young man who eagerly looked forward to the joys and blessings of marriage may find discontent creeping in. Why? Probably because he is unrealistic. He thinks he should have the blessings of marriage and the freedom of singleness. Both marriage and singleness have their own blessings. The time to decide which blessings one prefers is before marriage.
Another great aid to possessing the jewel of contentment is appreciation of the blessings that come your way. Do you have a home? Do you have loved ones, a mate, parents or children, or brothers and sisters? Surely these are blessings that, if appreciated, will help you to be content. Do you have the necessary material things? If so, these also are grounds for being content, even as the Christian apostle Paul shows: “We have brought nothing into the world, and neither can we carry anything out. So, having sustenance and covering, we shall be content with these things.” And why be content with these things? Because they represent what we really need, don’t they?—1 Tim. 6:7, 8.
Another thing that will aid you to be content is self-discipline or self-control. In particular must you learn to discipline your thoughts, to dispel wishful thinking and daydreaming. Be careful in choosing the things you set your heart on. People who let themselves come into bondage to alcohol, drugs, gambling or other vices obviously cannot be content.
Above all, trust in God will enable you to possess the jewel of contentment. As God’s Word counsels us: “Let your manner of life be free of the love of money, while you are content with the present things. For [God] has said: ‘I will by no means leave you nor by any means forsake you.’”—Heb. 13:5.
If we truly trust God we will take him at his word and heed the Bible’s counsel to ‘store up for ourselves treasures in heaven’ by doing his will, ‘seeking first his kingdom and his righteousness.’ (Matt. 6:20, 33) That such trust in God results in happiness can be testified to by the more than a million and a half Christian witnesses of Jehovah. Typical of them is the case of a woman who lives in an exclusive section of one of Tennessee’s leading cities and who used to be an active church member. Said she: “I had material wealth, prestige, and a career in music, yet there was something lacking. . . . I was regularly seeing a psychiatrist and relying on tranquilizers in an attempt to cope with everyday life.”
Then one day one of Jehovah’s Christian witnesses met her and, before many months, she herself became a baptized Witness, enabling her to say: “What a change came over me as I learned more and more. . . . I was content and on the road to developing the qualities that give us life now and the hope of life in the New Order to come.” Yes, in striking contrast to that ‘discontented American family,’ Jehovah’s witnesses have found contentment by taking Biblical “love and ideals” seriously. Do you want that contentment too? They will be pleased to help you to gain it.