Every spring, it never fails. Like clockwork, as soon as the temperatures rise and the rainy season starts, we have an ant invasion on our kitchen counters. Ugh. Of course we don’t want to spray our surfaces with harmful chemicals. We also don’t want ants running rampant in the space where we make and consume our food. The answer? Find the source of the problem. Where are they gaining access into my kitchen? Often, it’s the dishwasher which is installed on an exterior wall, or from small cracks in our kitchen windowsill. Once we can locate the source, we can mitigate the problem and send those ants packing.
Discontentment is much the same way. The problem—for me at least—is that I don’t feel as though I’ve arrived. In my journey as a mother. In my career. As a person. There’s still so much I want to do and change, so I have a hard time being satisfied with the NOW. But my feelings of being incomplete are just the problem and not the source.
If I want to find the root of my discontentment, I’ve got to peel back some layers.
Instead of continuing to climb the ladder, I’ve got to pick up the shovel and dig.
There’s a root to my discontentment and it’s pretty mucky down there.
If I could give voice to the tangled up root system of discontentment deep within, this is what it would say:
I don’t have enough. This root sounds like it only pertains to the physical stuff we amass. But I would argue that it also speaks of our emotional, spiritual, and intellectual capacity. While desire for more isn’t inherently wrong—and, let’s face it, our consumerism culture almost mandates it—where we get tripped up is deciding that more has to mean new. An accumulation of things rather than making more of what we already possess is neverending and therefore, unable to attain. The scarcity mentality is practically spoon-fed by a culture that keeps raising the standards on what more looks like. Think back to photographs from your childhood. There is a picture of me happily playing in a pine cupboard kitchen on a yellow linoleum floor with yellow and brown square wallpaper in the background, and that was EVERYBODY’S kitchen, guys. Today, my kitchen is measured not by its functionality, it’s measured by its ability to convey that my family has arrived—or not. By the way, the answer is NOT since we’re still hanging out on tile floors with laminate counters. And you guys, that has seriously stolen joy from me in the last few years and contributed to my discontentment. When I sit with that for a few minutes, I realize how silly that is.
I don’t do enough. This one’s pull is strong because it’s a bit more interpersonal. Discontentment in your capacity to do—to work, to create, to research, to volunteer, to get to the gym, to clean your home, to meet up with friends—and to be successful at those things, can be stunting. The truth is, there will inevitably be someone who is doing the do better than you. Typically, it means they’ve been at it longer and have failed more often; regardless, someone has gotten there first. When we spend our time and energy comparing and trying to measure up to others around us, we not only come up short, but we also unfairly put them on a pedestal for which they didn’t ask to be placed.
When I look critically at someone who is ahead of me in any area, I begin to realize that their story comes with fault lines just like mine, and I recognize that their Chapter 10 isn’t going to be written in the same language as my Chapter 2.
I am not loved enough. When I go through seasons of discontentment in my marriage, my friendships, my work, or my motherhood journey, often the root is the belief that someone is holding out on me. That I am not becoming the best version of myself because I’m not being supported. And in the deepest crevice of that dark place, I am convinced that God is withholding his generosity and that I am not fully known or loved by Him. Only when I sit quietly and recount His faithfulness in my life—perhaps not so obvious in the moment as revealed over time—do I fully recognize how known and loved I really am.
Next week on The Contentment Series, we’ll learn to lean in to our discontentment and discuss some practical first steps to overcome it.