Satisfaction or Self-Improvement?
From an early age, I discovered great joy in learning how to improve my life. As a steward of the gifts given me by God, I seek to encourage myself (and others) to faithfully do everything we can to improve our lives to serve others for the glory of God. But at what point is “enough” truly enough?
Is there the possibility that acquiring more insight, knowledge, and awareness can become counterproductive? What are the dangers of striving to achieve greater competency and productivity?
The self-improvement ethos is deeply embedded in our American culture. Self-help experts focus on the idea that people can always be better. It’s a perception that is appealing to audiences desperate for a boost in self-esteem, but it’s a concept that resonates with all of us on some level. After all, don’t we all want to be better?
I’m not advocating that we stop seeking to improve our lives. As long as God graces me with a sound mind, I will always desire to grow and learn and improve myself. But isn’t there value in contentment too?
Paul writes, in Philippians 4:12 (NSRV), “I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need.”
Paul understood that life would have ups and downs, and he experienced most of them. In spite of his struggles, he discovered the secret of contentment in his life. Not constantly reaching or struggling to improve but resting in the truth that God is our Provider.
Our tendency to seek constantly and continuously can become an addiction. Just a little more insight, and I’ll be ready to start living. One more course and I’ll have the knowledge that will give me credibility. This new diet will provide the results I’ve been missing and will make me feel good about myself. Just one more thing, then I will be content!
There’s value in what the poet Robert Browning wrote: “A man’s reach should exceed his grasp.” However, constant reaching without savoring what we already have is a permanent prescription for discontent.
True contentment is never discovered in just one more thing. As the wisdom of Ecclesiastes 1:8 reminds us:
“All things are full of weariness; a man cannot utter it; the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing.”
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