Earlier this week I heard about a conversation about me. I wasn't there to witness it, so I only got the condensed version of what was said –
"Tanya has so much potential. She has so many gifts and skills that I just think she could do anything she wanted to do!"
The person who said these things meant them as a compliment. She truly does think that I could do anything I put my mind to. I'm not annoyed by this person's thoughts. But, it does leave unsaid quite a few things that aren't necessarily complimentary.
As Ali and I were talking about this conversation we found ourselves in the midst of a good discussion about contentment versus satisfaction.
Whatever my shortcomings as a human being might be, being discontented isn't one of them. As I am approaching my 45th (seriously??) birthday, I can't think of a time or place in my life that, at my core, I wasn't content. I look back at each place I've lived as an adult and I don't remember anything but that place feeling like home. I may not be in relationship with all the people from all those years anymore, but I remember all of them with the sense that they were a gift for a time or a season, regardless of how it turned out in the long view.
I wonder if contentment is less a state of the mind and much more about the condition of the soul.
Satisfaction, in my experience, is a completely different animal. Satisfaction is all about the brain.
When I think of the word satisfied I think of food. When I'm hungry for pizza and we order in, I am satisfied. The craving is gone – at least for a week or so until I crave Vito's Cajun Shrimp Pizza again.
Satisfaction is what I feel when I have met external expectations, with my boss or with my partner. It's transitory and only lasts until there is another set of expectations put in place.
Perhaps at its most simplistic, satisfaction means I got what I wanted and contentment means I got what I needed.
Both of these things are essential for growth and maturity. Satisfaction drives me to change and make myself a better human being. Contentment walks with me as I struggle and gives me the courage to keep going.
My life is far from perfect. I struggle with taking risks and often can't really see the way forward. (Knock on wood) I'm only half way through this life and I never want to stagnate and tread water until I die. I want to be dissatisfied just enough to keep me fresh. Just not at the expense of contentment.
"For I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content.
I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.
I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation,
whether well fed or hungry,
whether living in plenty or in want.
I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength."
– Phillipians 4:11-13