The Source Of Contentment

The Source of Contentment
The Source of Contentment

My friend Jesse sent me this video of Henri Nouwen (worth a watch) that talked about three sources of happiness that are very unreliable.

They’re based on different ways to answer the fundamental question, “Who am I?”:

  1. What I do: If we are what we do, then when we do good things, and are a success, we’re very happy! But what if we fail, or stop doing good things for awhile? What if things don’t go our way and we can’t do good things? Then we lose our source of happiness.
  2. What other people think of me: If people praise what I do, if people love my book, if people think I’m good looking … I can be proud and happy. But what if they say something mean about me? What if they don’t like my book, if no one cares very much about me? Then I’m unhappy, even with a small remark.
  3. What I have: If I have a nice house and car, or lots of friends, or family that loves me … I’m very happy. But what if I lose those possessions, or my friends move away, or my family members die? Then I’m not happy.

As you can see, these three sources of happiness and contentment … they cover the vast majority of ways we see ourselves. We want to be a success, we want people to think well of us, we want to have friends and nice things. Everything we do online, from Facebook and Instagram to doing work … these are usually based on one of those things, because we’re worried about what people think of us, or we want to do good work, or have friends.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to do good work or having friends … but if these things are the source of who you are, they are fickle sources. You’ll be great one day, and not so great the next.

If someone is doing better than you, you’ll be down. If someone is living a better life than you, traveling and partying and living glamorously, you’ll be down. If people don’t think well of you, or say something a bit spiteful, you’ll be down. This happens to us all the time, if we’re honest.

Nouwen’s answer is to redefine yourself as God’s beloved, which is definitely a more stable source of contentment. But what if you’re not religious?

I think the idea of finding a more constant source of contentment by redefining who you are is a very useful one. I’ve been experimenting with it for a little while, and it makes a huge difference.

How do you redefine who you are? This can take a lot of soul-searching, but here’s my answer for myself: I’m love and compassion. That’s who I am. That doesn’t mean I always respond with love to others — I’m human and certainly not perfect. I don’t always live up to this, but I feel that it’s true.

Here’s a secret, though: even if you don’t know who you are, trypretending. It still works, as weird as that may seem.

A few examples:

  • You notice someone else online doing something cool, and you feel some insecurity because you’re not doing anything as cool as that. Then you realize that you’re defining yourself in terms of what you do, what others think of you, and what you have … and instead you think of yourself as “love” (for example). Suddenly, the need to prove yourself and do something as cool as that evaporates, and instead you can just be content with who you already are.
  • You notice yourself running to distractions instead of working on your awesome project. Then you realize that this is because you are afraid of failure, afraid of not succeeding. You’re defining yourself by what you do. Then you consciously think of yourself as “love”, and realize that it doesn’t matter if you succeed or fail, because you’ll be “love” either way. You can just act, with the confidence that you are already amazing.
  • You walk into a room of strangers, and start to feel insecure about what they think of you. Then you redefine who you are as “love”, and realize that you will be that no matter what they think of you. You can smile and exude love, and be confident about who you are.

These examples work even if you aren’t really sure who you are. You can just pretend to be “love and compassion”, and you’ll still feel the insecurity and fears and distractions melt away.

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7 COMMENTS

  1. This is a great article, it’s more real than other ones. It takes into account that we are people with everyday ups and downs. Thank you for sharing. ⚘

  2. I believe that:
    Sometimes what we absorb from our surroundings , We unconsciously project back into the world. In these grey area times we can be so oblivious to a fault. Trials such as these make even the strongest human question their existence ; Their spiritual make up: You just feel like evaporating on cue ……or hiding behind a hypothetical mask .And
    when we hide or pretend instead of facing a problem or humbly accepting that of which we cannot change; We become stuck inside the miserable life of our fictional world. No one can really get close to the real you and vice versa.
    If you dont know how to go about it;…..
    ON A DAILY BASIS GET TO KNOW WHO YOU ARE EXPLICITLY: & you will come to know the art of being mindful in life.
    HOW IS ANYONE ELSE EVER GOING TO KNOW YOU IF YOU DO NOT EVEN KNOW WHO YOU ARE YOURSELF?
    I believe the secret of life exists inside our own souls ….Meditation helps to soothe the unkind ways of the world by healing us from within. Live life moment to moment like every new breath could become our last.
    Do not fret over the PAST .
    The key is to LEARN from it. Let your mistakes GUIDE you either away and through a different perspective or up superclose so u are able to see the genetic make up of the problem and understand why it exists in your own life.Then dive deep into the center of your being and memorize the recorded akashic record behind that particular soul lesson.The more fear that you pull out of your insecurities of the unknown,
    The more room you will make for the type of STRENGTH that comes from the confidence of BEING AWARE & ACCOUNTABLE. You will find grace and peace of mind inside the moments you spend alone.After you master that…you won’t ever feel lonely. Best of wishes on your journey.All who took the time to read this in full.
    *NatalieLynnFreng*

  3. I believe that:
    Sometimes what we absorb from our surroundings , We unconsciously project back into the world. In these grey area times we can be so oblivious to a fault. Trials such as these make even the strongest human question their existence ; Their spiritual make up: You just feel like evaporating on cue ……or hiding behind a hypothetical mask .And
    when we hide or pretend instead of facing a problem or humbly accepting that of which we cannot change; We become stuck inside the miserable life of our fictional world. No one can really get close to the real you and vice versa.
    If you dont know how to go about it;…..
    ON A DAILY BASIS GET TO KNOW WHO YOU ARE EXPLICITLY: & you will come to know the art of being mindful in life.
    HOW IS ANYONE ELSE EVER GOING TO KNOW YOU IF YOU DO NOT EVEN KNOW WHO YOU ARE YOURSELF?
    I believe the secret of life exists inside our own souls ….Meditation helps to soothe the unkind ways of the world by healing us from within. Live life moment to moment like every new breath could become our last.
    Do not fret over the PAST .
    The key is to LEARN from it. Let your mistakes GUIDE you either away and through a different perspective or up superclose so u are able to see the genetic make up of the problem and understand why it exists in your own life.Then dive deep into the center of your being and memorize the recorded akashic record behind that particular soul lesson.The more fear that you pull out of your insecurities of the unknown,
    The more room you will make for the type of STRENGTH that comes from the confidence of BEING AWARE & ACCOUNTABLE. You will find grace and peace of mind inside the moments you spend alone.After you master that…you won’t ever feel lonely. Best of wishes on your journey.All who took the time to read this in full.
    *NatalieLynnFreng*

  4. Story of my life. Except I already knew all that and never let anyone get me to down, cause I already know. Good job. Keep this up whoevers behind this website. Nicely said </3 <3

  5. Absolutely true, when you come to know your purpose in life ,life is so much more worth living, for God created us in His image, not to be like man, but like him, bless you, for the positive your putting out, may God continue to bless everything your doing, in Jesus name, for its helped me tremendously ….

  6. Excellant. I am spiritual. Not religious. Have built a personal relationship with my God. I do go to church. Spirituality is God made. Religion is man made. I have those principles of love and compassion for 30 yrs. to understand than to b understood. To bring light where their is darkness. Just be myself. It’s not about what people think of me, but what I think of others.

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