How to not settle for less yet be content
Godliness with contentment is great gain
You might think by the title, that I'll be talking about not settling for a less partner. I'll actually be talking about not settling for less in your personal attitude.
Contentment helps you win relationally, financially, and spiritually. Stop and realize that moving on to the next thing will not make you happy. Surrender and realize that it's not outside but inside you that happiness needs to start. You have to decide to be thankful for what you have and be content with where you are. When you start with that, then you can move forward with the right motivation. Contentment isn't giving up or complacency or laziness, it's letting go of the eye of comparison and taking on the heart of stewardship of what I already have.
Contentment starts with humility
I remember one time, I was listening to the Dave Ramsey show and a man called in and asked Dave about how to approach their boss for a raise. This caller had a valuable place in the company and figured that he had leverage to demand a raise. Dave Ramsey hosts a radio show where he acts as a financial consultant for people. He owns a two hundred million dollar company with over seven hundred employees. His whole business model is helping people succeed, so when he talks, I tend to listen.
Dave recommend that this guy not approach his boss from the direction of leverage, thinking that he was entitled to more money, but that he should approach from the angle of excellence. He should ask his boss how he could improve as an employee to add more value to the company because he wants to make more. Not only does this show the boss that their employee is passionate, it doesn't put the boss on the defensive. It gives the employee a goal, and also makes the boss accountable. The employee is, after all, asking how they can become the kind of worker that a boss can write a fat check and smile while doing it.
Excellence is a theme you may have noticed underlying some of my blog posts. From my Christian perspective, excellence is attached to the idea of stewardship and humility. I have been entrusted with what I have. Everything I own doesn't belong to me, but God has given it to me. By everything I own, I mean every thing. I'll do a future blog post about finances in marriage, but for now, let's focus on marriage.
So what am I to do when the computer I’m typing on doesn't belong to me, but I’m just a steward of it? What am I to do when the camera I have doesn't belong to me, but I’m just a steward of it? When the photography service my wife and I run isn't ours? In gratefulness, we learn to use it to the best of its capacity. Gratefulness, like love, isn't a feeling, it's a decision.
Emotions are a real part of our experience, but how can I focus on improving what I control around me if I'm constantly absorbed in the negative? I need to be thankful if I'm to serve those around me and best serve my own soul.
There’s a parable in the Bible of a rich guy who went on a journey but gave his three servants bags of money according to their level of competence. One servant got five bags, one got two bags, and one got one bag. The first two invested their money, and doubled it, but the last one buried their one bag into the ground because he thought the rich guy was a difficult man. The rich man rewarded the first two servants, but despised the last man for taking the gift that was entrusted to him and doing absolutely nothing with it.
There's many directions and lessons to be learned from this parable, but this servant with the one bag was not humble at all. One thing you'll find about being content is that it will irritate people who want to be discontent. You don't have to let other people make you unhappy. If you're the kind of person who is miserable all the time and is annoyed when others aren't, remember that you're hamstringing yourself to be able to help others.
You might think, "...but Josh, how can you have contentment and excellence at the same time? Because contentment, unlocks excellence to be more excellent. Contentment is a virtue! I'm still going forward, but the progress I'm aiming for isn't a selfish one trying to achieve contentment, but it's going forward with contentment as a starting point to help and serve others.
When you start bringing contentment and excellence in service to your spouse, then this spirit becomes contagious and we walk forward together in that contentment. If your spouse is a miserable person all the time who are irritated by your contentment, give it some time. Not only will you gain a mastery of contentment, you probably will win them over with time.
Miserable people often quit the fight to change, being cynical over life, but if they can catch a glimpse of the light at the end of the tunnel, that life doesn't have to be like this regardless of the past or present, they might want to walk towards it.