I read recently that “accepting our lot” is a gift from God. (See Ecc. 5:19.) The obvious takeaway from the passage is to seek contentment and as psychologist Marsha Linehan suggests, practice radical acceptance of that which is out of our control. Those are great aspirations, but we need to be aware of times when we confuse contentment with denial or passivity.
I actually hope that all people feel some discontent about something. I certainly do. I am not content with the fact that there are ten-year-old children thinking they need to diet in order to be acceptable. I am not content when someone’s eating disorder treatment is cut short due to insurance limitations. I am not content with the frequency of suicides in our country. And on a more personal level, I am not content with the amount of love I show to others. I want to keep striving to love more, and better.
Some discontentment may be a gift from God. Discontentment in a relationship may lead you to therapy to work it out and gain greater understanding of one another. Discontentment with the way you spend your time may lead you to pursue a calling that requires courage and risk. Contentment is not passivity, and contentment is not denial. Being content is not about mustering up some contentment or pretending to be content with things with which we are not content.
Contentment comes as we knock, search out, and find what we can do to address our discontentment. Not from passivity or denial, but from actively embracing that which we can do to address our concerns. Maybe the path to “accepting our lot” must lead us first through a period of genuine discontentment that stirs our passion to live a meaningful life. My discontentment leads me to keep showing up to my office, to deeply engage with clients in their pain, to see them through it the way that other people have seen me through it. Maybe contentment is found through embracing the piece of effective work we can do, without getting overwhelmed with what is left to do. Go find contentment in your discontentment today, and do the piece of work you can do.