The Danger (or Power?) of Discontent

It’s so easy to be discontent in today’s culture. With all of the media blasted at us and at our fingertips, we are bombarded with marketing ads, which by definition are designed to create discontent. C.S. Lewis said “Comparison is the root of discontent”. Especially with things like Facebook and other social platforms, it is so tempting (and easy) to compare ourselves and our situations to others. Maybe it’s the neighbor’s nice, new home; or their big, new SUV; or their family trip to Australia. Or maybe it’s your coworker’s promotion or their travel budget. It’s ok to notice those things. The danger is in letting those observations grow into discouragement and discontent. Those feelings can spiral down and drive us down until we are demotivated and overwhelmed.

But comparison that causes discontent can also be used for good. Consider Thomas Edison who said “Discontent is the first necessity of progress.” We can use comparison to motivate us to greater achievement and excellence. We can use it to build belief in ourselves, that if that person did it, so can we. We just have to be willing to do what they did; willing to duplicate not just the process, but the effort too.

In the Bible, the parable of the talents illustrates this concept. Three servants were each given responsibility over differing amounts of money: 5 talents, 2 talents, and 1 talent respectively. Why the differing amounts? The Bible says they were given “each according to his ability.” What’s interesting is that it doesn’t say anything about the second and third guys comparing themselves to the first guy, or grumbling about why they were given less. Nor were they were considered or treated as lesser persons based on their lesser amounts. They were given what they could handle and were just expected to take care of that amount. The first two guys took the challenge, doubled their holdings and received praise and additional responsibilities. The last guy did nothing. Instead, he compared himself to the master. Maybe he said to himself, “My master is so rich and so powerful, I’ll never be able to do what he does or have what he has, so why even try? Besides, I only have one talent. What could I possibly do with that?” As a result, he got discouraged and overwhelmed to the point of inaction. And he was rebuked for doing so.

So beware the danger of comparison. Instead, let’s use it to power us for growing and stretching our abilities, and building on what we’ve already been blessed with. Only then will we prove ourselves worthy of more responsibility and blessing.

Have you ever struggled with the dangers of comparison? And/Or have you used comparison to fuel your progress? What strategies have worked best for you in using comparison for empowerment? 

For your advantage,

Brian

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