Friday, May 26, 2006

Comparison is the death of true self-contentment


"Comparison is the death of true self-contentment."
-- John Powell

I have struggled with contentment at times.  Discontentment with my home, with my appearance, with my clothes, with our finances, with our lifestyle, with our marriage, with our belongings.  In order to become content, I had to choose to avoid things that fed the discontentment:  fashion magazines, Christian romance novels, interior decorating magazines, etc.  In order to be content with my life, I had to stop comparing our family with other families, our home with other homes, etc. 

I also had to choose to be thankful for what we do have and the good things in our family and our marriage.  Over time, I realized that there was nothing wrong with any of the things I was discontent with ... but there was something wrong with me and my attitude.

I have also found that discontentment can carry over into homeschooling.  I can be discontent with our curriculum, with our homeschool budget, with our school area, with the number of books we have, with my children's progress, etc.  To some extent, I can follow the same advice I use in other areas.  I can be thankful for what we do have, and I can stop poring over all the available curriculum and resources in homeschool catalogs.  But the most important step for me was to stop comparing myself and my family with other homeschool families. 

Don't compare budgets.

Don't compare children's levels.

Don't compare how much new resources they get to order.

Don't compare husband's level of involvement.

Don't compare ... period.

I'm not sure how to define the line of what's safe and what is not.  There is a way that we can look to others for ideas and inspiration, but if it leads to discontentment with what we do not have and can not have, then we need to stop!  As parents, we do not allow our children to wallow in self-pity, but when we give into discontentment, that is exactly what we are doing. 

God has a plan for each of our lives and homeschools.  God has given different budgets to each of us.  Yes, I may see that my friend gets to order $100s of new curriculum each year and feel sorry for myself that I can't.  But I forget that there may be someone else with even less than I have.  There may even be some who want to homeschool, but can't afford to buy *any* curriculum, and then feel they have no choice but to stick with public schools.  If nothing else, I can be thankful I even have the opportunity to homeschool.

God has also created us all differently.  Every homeschool teacher has different giftings and interests that are going to make their homeschool different from other homeschools.  And every homeschooled student has different areas of gifting and areas of struggles. To compare these unique children is unfair:  apples to oranges. We might not have the same strengths and gifts that others have, but we have gifts and strengths they don't have. We do ourselves and our children a great disservice when we compare against other homeschool families. 

"The greater part of our happiness or misery depends on our disposition, and not our circumstances." 
-- Martha Washington

I love that quote.  Of course, God has things to say on the subject, as well.

"I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 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 him who gives me strength."  Philippians 4:11-13

"Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you." So we say with confidence, "The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?"" Hebrews 13:5-6

"Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."  1 Thessalonins 5:16-18

"Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.  Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him."  Colossians 3:15-17

And if I find it hard to be thankful, I often can change my attitude by reading the Psalms and listening to music that praises the Lord.  Of course, there's also the age-old advice to make a list of all your blessings.  That isn't just a cliche, it really does help for the stubbornly entrenched bad attitudes.  Ask me how I know.

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