We can feel pretty grounded and aligned with our religious beliefs and still be distracted by comparison with our neighbors or instagram posts on what our culture says is important. I can’t imagine being a young mother these days with all the visual comparison we can expose ourselves to. Scrolling through social media with posts of families wearing organic, earth-friendly clothing made from their own successful start-up would affect me greatly as a young mother. Families featured in well appointed homes, eating exquisite, healthy food flashing up on my phone to mock my own daily efforts, would take its toll on me. Fame, money, looks, popularity, well dressed children, perfect homes, expensive cars, and travel to exotic places are the “sirens” calling to us and our children.
Sirens were tempting creatures from Greek mythology calling to sailors with their enticing, alluring singing to come closer to the rocks they were sitting on, in order to sink the ship. There is a famous scene in Homer’s Odyssey where the hero Odysseus, hearing the beautiful music on his lengthy trip home from the Trojan War, orders his crew to put wax in their ears and has them strap him down with rope so he can’t steer the ship towards the beautiful singing temptresses. We can turn our minds from comparison and distraction with the same strength of will Odysseus did–we can! As we realize the time and money we are wasting on things that don’t really bring us happiness, it will begin to mean less to us. I believe as we examine the most essential things we need to teach our children, the world’s effect of exterior appearance and possessions will fall away. As we navigate our neighborhoods, jobs, social circles, PTA groups and churches we can decide how much we want to participate in the competition of stuff. We can stop the comparison and decide what our values are. One of my favorite sayings is:
“A contented mind is a perpetual feast”.
The definition of contentment is “happy and at ease”. To me, a person with a contented mind, is grounded in her beliefs and values. She doesn’t look to others for validation or worry what other people are thinking and doing. She isn’t tormented constantly by negative thoughts but is focusing on what is going well in her life and delights in her surroundings, wherever she is and whomever she is with.
I watched a niece of mine decide with her husband in their early twenties to have no debt. She told me through the years that driving her old van makes her so happy! She said, “I am so committed to being debt free that I don’t care what car I drive. I really don’t care what people think. ” Recently, she turned forty and I went by to celebrate. She told me the incredible news that they had paid off their house. They have one of the simpler homes in their neighborhood, and did a lot of work on it themselves. I asked after hearing that they got their house paid off how that has affected her parenting. She said that it is unbelievable to be free from the stress of money worries and how it frees up their time to do more with their family. She said the options and the peace it has brought has been worth any sacrifice they have made. Their strength of will to ignore all of the consumption around them, their pursuit of contentment with what they have and being out of the comparison trap has made them so happy.
What can we discipline ourselves to say no to? What can we do today to bring more contentment to our lives?