If only, if only, if only … Moms, these two words are the bane of contentment in my life, and maybe in your lives, too. If only I had more money, then I would be happy. If only the kids made better grades, then I could relax. If only I were 10 pounds lighter… If only I looked like her… If only our house were bigger or had more closet space or I drove a bigger car or had a better job or the house was paid off or we lived closer to family or we could take a vacation or buy a new refrigerator or get Botox or have a tummy-tuck or … The “if onlys” in our lives are the culmination of all our wants and desires, all the things we think would make us happy and our lives easier. All the things that would make us truly content. We falsely believe that if we had these things, contentment would surely follow. Unfortunately, the “if onlys” are what keep us from reaching that ultimate goal of happiness and contentment. Because in truth — and we all know this is true — no matter how much you have, you always want more. It is a vicious and never-ending cycle that is poisoning our lives each and every day. In today’s world, this desire for more is boldly encouraged. Everyone needs more, More, MORE! We disguise its true ugliness by saying, “But we are living the American dream.” In fact, wanting more is considered a desirable trait in America. Businesses spend millions of dollars searching out people with these character traits to hire: “He is a real go-getter!” or “She is super motivated and very ambitious!” Somewhere along the way, we have confused an aspiration to improve ourselves and better our lives as our ancestors did with a constant desire for more material things — the “things” that will make us happy. And this is the example we are setting for our children.
A few weeks ago, we bought our youngest son his first laptop computer. This wasn’t just any computer; this was the latest and greatest, with all the little extras built right into the hard drive. And the price was just as dear. The salesman at Best Buy assured me it had everything our son needed and would last him for the next 10 years at least. Upon receiving it, our son was ecstatic and took it right up to his room to start exploring. Ten minutes later, he was back downstairs. He hadn’t had his new, state-of-the-art, everything-you-could-ever-want-or-need computer for 15 minutes when he innocently asked if he could download something off the Internet for an additional $9.99. I almost keeled over. But the truth was I had no one to blame but myself, for he had watched me do the same thing many times before. More, more, more. Never content. Have you ever made risotto? When you cook risotto, you start by adding a half cup of liquid to a cup of rice and stir until it is completely absorbed. Then you add another half cup of liquid and stir until all that is absorbed. Then you add another and another and another until you have added five cups of liquid. Every time I make risotto, I’m convinced the rice is not going to absorb all the water, and I am going to be left with a watery mess, but somehow the rice just soaks it all in. Children are like risotto. They just keep absorbing, no matter how much we throw at them. They see everything we do, even when we don’t think they are watching. They listen to everything we say, even when we don’t think they can hear us. They are constantly soaking in all that we do and say. And they are learning. They are discovering what it takes to be happy and content.
What message are we sending our children, what lessons are they learning from us when all they see and hear is discontent with what we have and a constant desire for more or better? Contentment is not something that is innate; it is a learned behavior. Moms, I think it is time to start teaching our children about being happy and content with what they have and who they are. Our children must learn that always wanting more is a path to discontent that will never bring them the happiness they desire. For new things become old and obsolete, rarely holding their value and never giving as much as they promise.
I say, no more waiting around on those “if onlys” to come to fruition. I’m pledging to be happy and find contentment in my life today! Happiness doesn’t come from a new couch or a video game or a fancy computer. It doesn’t even come from thin thighs or a good grade. It comes from within … deep inside where no one else can see it until you bring it out to share with others. There will always be newer and greater; there will always be more. So finding your peace and contentment in things that matter, the blessings of the heart, is the first step. And teaching your children to do the same is the second.
Each of us has so much for which to be thankful. So count your blessings, commit to be happy today, and find contentment in the life God has given you.