When I wrote my series about contentment, one of the things I mentioned was looking at people with less instead of focusing on people who have more.
This is probably the most misunderstood aspect of that series*, and as I’ve been pondering this of late, I realized that maybe I just did a poor job of explaining what I meant.
(*Well, that and the misconception that contentment means never trying to better your situation or fix problems!)
When I wrote that post, I wasn’t encouraging you to look at people with less so that you can feel superior. Snobbery and pride aren’t really improvements over a discontented attitude, after all.
What I was trying to say is this:
It’s helpful (and often humbling!) to look at our lives through someone else’s eyes.
For instance, I’ve shared before that it’s easy for me to be discontent with my house. The home style is pretty much the only one in the world I strongly dislike, I don’t have a pantry, I don’t have a master bathroom, and I could go on.
But when I think about how a homeless person or someone in a slum would view my house, I am immediately ashamed of myself.
They wouldn’t see the lack of a master bathroom…they’d see the TWO bathrooms I have. They wouldn’t see the small kitchen or the tiny foyer…they’d see safe shelter from cold and wind and rain and sun.
For me, that’s a good reality check, and it opens my eyes to what I really do have.
Also, as I mentioned in the initial post, I find it to be super helpful to try on the eyes of people in history.
For instance, I have awfully bad eyesight, and every now and then, I feel sorry for myself because I’ve had to wear glasses or contacts for all but 6 years of my life. Sometimes it’s just feels like a big, expensive headache.
But if I think about what someone from ancient history with poor eyesight would think of me, and I realize how silly I am being.
They wouldn’t complain about fogged-up glasses or the irritation of having to clean contact lenses every single day…they’d probably just be over the moon about being able to see clearly at all!
As another example, I am frequently tempted to complain about the pain that grocery shopping is. It seems to take forever, it’s lots of work, and it just. keeps. needing to be done.
However, when I imagine how people from the past would view my grocery store shelves, which are teeming with food that I did not have to plant, water, weed, and harvest, I feel ridiculous and I realize that grocery shopping is an awfully easy way to procure food.
This can be helpful for all sorts of discontent, I think. If you’re in a job you dislike, consider how an unemployed person might view your situation. If you’re having an exhausting day of parenting, think about how someone struggling with infertility might see your day.
I’m not trying to say that parenting isn’t hard or that all jobs are lovely or that my house is actually super fantastic. We live in an imperfect world and we all have things in our lives that are not marvelous.
To say otherwise would be delusional.
But seeing my circumstances through someone else’s eyes helps to open my own eyes to the blessings that I have. It clears the discontented fog away, giving me a clear view to appreciate what I’ve got.
And that helps me to be content.
Thursday 29th of January 2015
While I agree with the concept, there is also a danger of comparison to be minimizing our individual feelings and experiences. This invalidates what is a real to us, but it's also what level is our reaction. Is it dynasty level for everything or do we have a scale?
Thursday 20th of November 2014
In response to your thoughts about having to wear glasses (and it being an expensive headache.) Try checking out clearlycontacts.ca or coastal.com - not sure they ship to the U.S. I've gotten my glasses off that site for about $15 and they price match contact lenses.
Tuesday 22nd of July 2014
Bravo! Well said.
Sunday 22nd of June 2014
I so hear you Kristen! (I found you thanks to Lyle Robinson...)
We truly have to learn to appreciate what we have (doesn't stop us from aiming for more or better) otherwise we are always living in a state of discontent. And this, whether it concerns our body parts or our living arrangements or whatever!
Hayley @ Disease Called Debt
Sunday 22nd of June 2014
Hi Kristen, this is my first time to your blog and I wanted to say how much I enjoyed this post. You're right, it is helpful and humbling to look at our lives through other people's eyes. Just the other day, I found myself getting a bit down because of the financial journey I'm going to face once my debts are gone (I don't have much by way of retirement and I'm currently renting). I experienced a few hours of feeling sorry for myself. Then I looked at my daughter and reminded myself of what I do already have. What my husband and daughter have too - health, a roof over our heads, able to pay our bills, more than enough food to keep us going and at the moment we all have enough time to keep on improving ourselves.