People look for contentment in any number of places.
Some look for contentment in a high-paying job, yet show their discontent the first time they are passed over for a raise.
Some look for it in a large home, yet show their discontent by requiring countless improvements.
Many have sought contentment in a department store, believing that one more item will finally match their desire, but they are always disappointed, despite the promises made in ads.
In our consumeristic culture, where discontent is promoted and material gratification is encouraged, learning to be content can be difficult.
It is a personal journey we all must travel—and nobody’s journey looks exactly the same as another’s. There is no one-size-fits-all, seven-step program to fully attain contentment in your life. I’m not here to offer one.
I do, however, want to raise a question that I think can be helpful to all of us in our pursuit.
What if we have been looking for contentment in all the wrong places?
What if contentment is actually found in the exact opposite of the place where we have been told to look?
That is, what if contentment is not found in accumulating more for ourselves but in giving more to others?
That would change everything!
Benefits of Generosity
We can quickly picture how contentment would lead to generosity—the less we need, the more we can give away. That’s the way most of us think about it.
But could it be that the inverse is also true? That the more we give, the less we need?
And that generosity is the quickest pathway to contentment?
Consider for just a moment why this might be the case:
Generous people appreciate what they have.
People who give away some possessions hold their remaining possessions in higher esteem. People who volunteer some of their time make better use of their time remaining. And people who donate money are less wasteful with the money left over.
They understand the full potential of their resources—and tend to value them more highly because of it.
Generous people live happier, more fulfilled lives.
Studies have shown that generous people are happier, healthier, and more satisfied with life. And once they find this satisfaction through generosity, they are less inclined to search for it elsewhere.
Generous people find meaning outside their possessions.
It is common for us to wrap up self-worth in net worth, as if a person’s true value could ever be tallied on a balance sheet.
Generous people, on the other hand, find their value in helping others and quickly realize that their bank account balance says nothing about their true value.
Generous people have more fulfilling relationships.
People always prefer the company of a generous giver to the company of a selfish hoarder. People are naturally attracted toward others who have an open heart to share. And a good friend is the best gift you could ever give yourself.
In addition to benefits for the giver, generosity also benefits the receiver. Giving improves lives. It fights to overturn injustice. It solves problems. It offers an example to the world of a better way to live. And it spurs others to do the same.
But there is another benefit of generosity that should not be overlooked.
Maybe the greatest benefit of generosity is the realization that we already have enough.
Enough Is Enough
Our society is held hostage by the pursuit of more. No matter how much we have, we always seem to need more—more stuff and more money.
We choose our careers for the sake of securing more. We spend the best hours of our day trying to obtain more. We get jealous when “less deserving” people seem to have more. And we constantly worry about having enough.
But those who always desire more will never attain it.
Even worse, this desire for more is having damaging effects on our society. Take money for example.
A U.S. poll reported that 85% of people feel stressed about money. Now, there are some who experience this anxiety because of legitimate financial need, but for most of us, this stress is misplaced.
In a world where 62% of the population lives off $10 or less a day, most of our financial-related stress occurs because of artificially manufactured need.
Generosity changes our perspective and helps to remove this pursuit. It reveals to us how blessed we already are. It reminds us we already own more than we need. It shows us how much we have to give and how much good we can accomplish. It helps us see the needs of those we live alongside. And it offers a better alternative for our money than spending it on ourselves.
Generosity counters materialism and consumerism at every point in our lives. It wars against greed and selfish pursuits. It argues against the unquenchable need for more.
Giving aligns our life with higher purposes and offers a better way to live. It reminds us we already have enough. And it provides a fertile soil in our heart for contentment to grow.
This contentment leads to even more generosity, which leads to even greater contentment, which leads to… See where I’m going with this?
Do you desire more contentment in your life? If so, try something new. Give something away. And open up the door for contentment and generosity to collide.
As you give more things away—your money, your time, your energy—your life will feel lighter. Your heart will feel warmer. The world will be better.
And you’ll find contentment sooner than you think.