Summer is all but gone. Yes, the heat is still hanging on, but soon we'll cross the Labor Day bridge and the pumpkin spice everything will be just ahead on the left.
These past few scorching months I've thought a lot about contentment and realized I have developed an innate ability to look at someone else’s life and notice exactly what their problems are. I even know how to fix most of them. I think or say things like, “Well, if only they would …" and whatever follows provides the perfect hindsight they need to never have gotten themselves in the fix in the first place. I say this tongue-in-cheek, of course.
But seriously, I've come to realize many of us have a similar problem: envy. We observe someone else's life and we begin to count their blessings. Maybe it's the cars they have in their driveway, the home they live in, the job they have, or how beautiful their kids are, and we think "Well, yeah …They only have that because they _______________.” And then we secretly resent them for it.
If you're a Bible reader, you can find a ton of advice about the dangers of envy within its pages. Envy will kill friendships, destroy families and lure you into a pit of debt you may never climb out of. It leads to bitterness, causes stress and will keep you from experiencing the joy of living the life you've been given. There's a simple phrase that can be applied here: “If the grass is greener on the other side of the fence, then water your own lawn.”
As routines get back to normal following the go-go-go of summer, I urge you to consider this — count your blessings. Not compare your blessings. Take a serious inventory of all the good in your life. If you woke up this morning, that's one. If you woke with a bed beneath you and a roof over your head, you've already outdone many in this world. How about the clothes you put on after the warm shower? See how this works? It's a matter of counting even the smallest for what it really is — a blessing. And therein lies the path to genuine contentment.
Whether you ascribe to the Christian faith or not, you can nab some really good advice from a talk Jesus gave — like a really early Ted Talk — which some refer to as the “Sermon on the Mount.” He drew some comparisons and correlations between envy and anxiety, talked about helping one another and the needy and even had some really practical advice on everything from anger to dealing with the bullies of the world. Check it out for yourself in the book of Matthew, chapters five and six.
Make gratefulness a thing in your life and in the lives you influence. Thank God relentlessly. Thank people, too, more than you think you should. Realize what you have, and thank God again. The payoff comes when a true sense of gratitude turns what we have into enough.