This past week has been an interesting one. Last Wednesday evening, our family attended our church’s midweek service, WOW (Weekends on Wednesday). The evening’s speaker focused his talk on the subject of contentment. The next day, my friend Becca posted an article titled, What if All I Want is a Mediocre Life? by Krista O’Reilly Daavi-Digui. Interestingly enough, I had recently purchased a Kindle book titled; I’m Happy for You (Sort of…Not Really) by Kay Willis Wyma. Chance or coincidence these events happened one right after another? I think not. Often time’s events occur guided by providence to remind us of what is truly important in this life.
The present time period in which we live has been labeled The Information Age. The Information Age is defined as “The time period starting in the 1970’s with the introduction of the personal computer with subsequent technology introduced providing the ability to transfer information freely and quickly.” (1) The introduction of technology is a double edged sword. On one side, technological advances have been made in the fields of medicine, entertainment, economics, and an abundance of information available via the internet which benefits our society. On the flip side, there is a downside to technology. Facebook/Instagram Likes and Shares, Twitter tweets/re-tweets, Pinterest Pins, and You Tube views. While the latter are tools designed to connect the human race, over the past several years I have seen these tools create a culture of comparison, which leads us into the Land of Discontentment.
Paul Angone, author of 101 Secrets for Your Twenties addresses the culture of comparison as the smallpox of our generation. “What’s Obsessive Comparison Disorder, you ask? It’s the new OCD I’ve coined to describe our compulsion to constantly compare ourselves with others, producing unwanted thoughts and feelings that drive us into depression, consumption, anxiety and all-around discontent. It encourages us to stay up late on Facebook (poring) through all 348 pictures of our frenemies’ “My Life is Better Than Yours” album, and then it sends us to bed wondering why we feel so anxious.
Obsessively comparing yourself to others, becoming more and more frustrated that your life doesn’t look like theirs, is the absolute most effective way to take your crisis to unhealthy, eating raw cookie dough with a serving spoon, levels. Like having to run outside to light up a cigarette, our comparison addiction is uncontrollable, and it is killing us.” (2)
President Teddy Roosevelt once said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” In the Age of Comparison, how do we cultivate contentment and joy in our own souls and the souls of our children? I believe the answer lies in one word: gratitude. Gratitude is defined as “the quality or feeling of being grateful or thankful.” (3) Contentment and gratitude are puzzle pieces which match, the two go hand in hand.
As a child, this was a concept I struggled with. I grew up as the latter part of the Baby Boomer Generation where comparison of our modern lives was an everyday event: Job, car, house, education, clothes, appearance, and faith were all part of the culture of comparison. When my mother heard me lamenting about “the lack of whatever”, she would have me play The Glad Game. The Glad Game originates from Eleanor H. Porter’s classic children’s book, Pollyanna.
Porter’s novel features a fledgling orphan named Pollyanna, who comes to live with her wealthy, but frosty Aunt Polly. Upon Pollyanna’s arrival she begins to infect the town’s people with her optimistic attitude, which she contributes to her late father and the game he invented for her: The Glad Game. The Glad Game consists of “finding something to be glad about in every situation, no matter how dismal it may be.” As my mother and I began to “find something to be glad about,” I would change my focus from one of discontent to one of gratitude. Often times, we would play the game for up to an hour; but my mother would usually end the game once she had observed a change in my attitude.
Another way to cultivate a culture of contentment and an attitude of gratitude in ourselves and our children is create what I call The Glad Game Jar. I came across the idea while reading Misa Leonessa Garavagila’s article, Creating a Family Culture of Appreciation.
To create your very own Glad Game Jar
all you need is a large glass jar, a stack of small slips of colored paper, and a pen. Every day, beginning on January 1, each member of the family writes down on a slip of paper what they are glad or grateful for on that particular day. At the end of the year, on New Year’s Eve dump the contents of the jar on your dining room table. Have each member of the family begin to read through the little slips of paper. As each family member takes their turn, everyone discovers and learns together what they are glad or grateful for. In doing so, this leads both parents and children on the path to creating a culture of contentment.
In closing, I would like to leave you with one of my favorite quotes on the topic of contentment from Dale Carnegie: “It isn’t what you have or who you are or where you are or what you are doing that makes you happy or unhappy. It is what you think about.”
(2) Paul Angone. “7 Cures for Your Quarter-Life Crisis,” Relevant, August 2013.
(4) Creating a Family Culture of Appreciation by Missa Leonessa Garavagila