What is the difference between complacency and contentment? When I stop and think about that question it gets more and more difficult for me to determine the difference.
I’ve always felt complacency was associated with a bad attitude. I’ve associated complacency with average and a lack of desire to improve. I’ve seen complacency and lazy as almost the same thing.
While contentment I’ve associated with a good attitude. Contentment I’ve linked with being thankful and peaceful.
I’ve never heard anyone say it’s a good thing to be complacent, but I’ve heard contentment as something to be desired.
Complacency is defined as uncritical satisfaction with one’s self.
Contentment is defined as a state of happiness and satisfaction.
Both attributes involve satisfaction, which is something everyone craves. It seems that I’ve always associated complacency with satisfaction based on a low-level of ambition, while I’ve associated contentment with peacefulness because of healthy level of ambition and a good bit of achievement.
They somehow have connected and become confusing in my mind. While I’m uncertain about the accurateness of my understanding of the two words, one thing is clear to me. I’ve always feared contentment, because I’ve wondered if contentment meant I was selling out. If I was content did it mean I was complacent? I always wondered if I felt contentment if it meant I had lowered my goals, and just quit trying to achieve. I’ve never wanted to be associated with someone who wasn’t ambitious. I’ve never wanted to be associated with someone who quit trying to make an impact on this world for good.
Last week 1st Timothy 6:1-10, confronted and challenged my attitude towards contentment. Paul says in verses 6-8 that,”… godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.” He basically makes the point that if you are living a godly life and have contentment then you have something very significant. Paul also describes in this passage some things associated with those that lack contentment. Let’s take a look at this description and see if they look familiar to you:
- They crave controversy
- They fight over words
- They produce envy
- They produce dissension
- They are slanderous
- They produce evil suspicions
- They create constant friction with others
- They use God to try to get ahead
- They desire to be rich which leads them into temptations and traps that are full of harmful desires which ruin and destroy others
Contentment, Paul says is if we have food and clothing we should be content. He is interpreting life through a long-term type of lens. He tells us that once we die none of the things that lead us towards discontentment are of any value. He says we’ve brought nothing into the world and we can take nothing from it.
I think that Paul shows us that we aren’t selling out if we are content. I think he shows us that contentment is a great gain. Not only does he show us that contentment is a good thing but he shows us the troubles of those that live in discontentment.
Once we determine that we lack contentment what do we do to correct that problem? Do we satisfy our lack of contentment by trying to attain more of something that we think will fill the void? That is what most people do right? We try to satisfy our lack of contentment with new clothes, a new house, a new car, a new job, or even a new spouse. We think a little more of this or a better one of those will bring the satisfaction we’ve been looking for.
To win the battle against discontentment we have to fill the void with something. We have to obtain something of great value. We must substitute the desire for a new or different this or that with a desire for God. Every time we feel that emotion of desire for something we must stop and take a look at what God has provide for us, namely Himself through Christ death and resurrection. He has given us a relationship with the King of Kings. He has given us Himself, the most powerful and greatest being in the universe, yet we try to find contentment in some piece of His creation.
Solving contentment problems don’t mean we become complacent. Solving contentment problems don’t mean that we become passive and just hope everything gets better for us. Solving contentment problems mean that you take an active role by changing your desires for stuff into a desire for God. When you feel discontentment make yourself ask God for more of Him. Make yourself open up the Bible and spend time reading. Overtime this will give you a sense of contentment with whatever circumstances you find yourself in.
When we are discontent don’t be passive and just hope it gets better be active, desire more, just make sure it is the more of the right thing.