Finding Contentment in a Facebook World
By: Debbie Lykins
I have to admit, I'm hooked on Facebook.
Since joining the Facebook family more than two years ago, I've been roped into training for a half-marathon (whose idea exactly was this anyway?), had the secret pleasure of chuckling at a picture of a high school crush (he once had a nice head of hair...now, not so much), and received virtual "support" when my preschooler won the drawing to bring home the classroom hamster over Christmas break (she was thrilled; I silently panicked). And, of course, I've reconnected with many people from the past who I haven't heard from or seen in years.
But, as much as I enjoy using Facebook, I don't always like what it does to me. Or, more to the point, what it brings out in me.
You see, on Facebook, you peer behind the doors of a lot of people's lives. This can be fun. Who knew, for example, that your best friend in the fourth grade who you haven't seen in 25 years loves the same quirky author as you? Or that your second cousin's daughter had a new boyfriend? Of course, others share more serious things like moving stories of saying goodbye to a husband and daddy deploying to Afghanistan or losing a loved one to a devastating illness.
But, sometimes, having a front row seat into people's lives and hearts leads to some not so good things-or more like, some not so good attitudes-at least in my own life.
The trouble with Facebook is that people's lives often can come across as "perfect." There's the business contact that jets off to New York to meet with powerful media, the stay-at-home mom who spends hours in creative play with her children, the family that heads to Disney every spring break, the couple packing for a cruise. Everything is so...perfect. And sometimes, somewhere inside of me, attitudes like envy, discontentment, and ungratefulness, begin to creep out.
Why don't I have her life? If we just had more money...or more time. When do we get our turn to watch our daughters' eyes light up at Disney? It's so not fair. Discontentment.
I find discontentment rearing its ugly head when it comes to my off-line relationships, too. Take my friend, Lisa: she lives in a 14,000 square foot mansion, complete with an indoor racquetball court, multiple flat-screen TVs, and the requisite fountain out front. Everything is top-of-the-line. Then there's my friend, Amy, who got married, moved south, and recently moved into a new home on five acres-complete with an indoor pool and its own chapel.
We live in a townhouse. It's conveniently located, meets our family of five's needs just fine, and really, most of the time, I love living here. But sometimes I feel a twinge of envy and wonder why I can't have Lisa's or Amy's life. I mean, I'd be able to go to the gym in my own house...think of the time saved! We could take the kids swimming every day.And, I'm certain Lisa is not scrubbing the toilet on Saturday afternoon, God. Discontentment.
I have another friend who spends hours teaching her children. One week they explored music by attending a band practice at the local high school and coloring pictures of composers. I don't even think about those kinds of things. See what I could do, God, if I just didn't have to work? I could just focus on being a mom and wife. I could play Candyland every day. I could bake brownies for the neighbor. I could, I could...Discontentment.
I don't think I'm alone in the "grass is greener" syndrome. While I read a lot of "I love my life" status updates, other moms lament on Facebook that their agenda for the day "only" includes changing diapers or watching Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang. And the way that the information is shared quietly says, "I lead a boring life. I don't like my life. Can't I do something more important?" So much discontentment. And we wonder why our culture is so discontent. And why our kids are discontent, always wanting something more-bigger, better, cooler.
I started thinking about my own attitude toward contentment recently as I read the book, Growing Grateful Kids in an Ungrateful World by Susie Larson. On first blush, you might think you'll be reading a book filled with practical tips on how to teach your kids to be thankful in our "me-first" world of entitlement. Not so much. If you're like me, you'll walk away realizing that the issue of discontentment in the life of your child isn't so much the culture around you-the issue is you. And the even bigger issue is your relationship with Christ, and your understanding of His love for you-the secret to gratefulness.
Susie writes books and speaks around the country, and she's also a mom herself-having raised three boys with her husband. In the book Susie explores four critical areas we as moms need to focus on to help grow an attitude of gratefulness in our kids. Areas like modeling thankfulness, teaching perspective, encouraging faith, and living abundantly. Within each area she delves into things like practicing restraint, developing compassion, teaching forgiveness, and giving blessings. She shows how we, as moms, need to develop these areas in our own life, so that in turn, these traits can be developed in the lives of our children.
While much of what she covered spoke to me, one area stood out-embracing contentment. She wrote of her own struggles in this area over the years, particularly when she battled Lymes disease and her family had acquired a pile of medical debt. Like me, she too saw the "perfection" in the lives of friends. Susie writes that the sin of comparison (yes, it is a sin) triggers two kinds of responses-pride and/or despair. Pride when we appear to have the one-up; despair when we see ourselves as the loser. This, she says, leads to seeing things through a skewed lens. The key is to quit looking right or left-and to look up. She writes, "He is writing a beautiful story with our lives. His will for us is our best-case scenario. He doesn't want us to want someone else's story...because ours fits us perfectly." Susie also says that when we compare, we take a little something away from the relationships we have with our precious friends. God, forgive us, forgive me.
When it comes to our children, Susie writes that we must go after discontentment in our children because it is rooted in a sinful, selfish mind-set, just like ours. I can help build contentment in my three children's lives by doing things such as praying with them and thanking the Lord for specific blessings, helping them learn that every good and perfect thing comes from above, and pointing out the countless ways that we are truly rich. But by far, the most important thing I can do is be content in my own life, be content with the life God has given me, be content with the blessings He's given me, and stop thinking that somehow God is shortchanging me. Gratefulness.
Forgive me, Lord. Thank you, Lord, for the life you've given me. Thank you for a warm house on a cold night. Thank you for gently used clothes given freely by friends. Thank you for a godly school for our kids. Thank you for a career that allows me to work at home and be with my kids. Thank you for a husband who seeks after you. Thank you for worship songs sung from young lips, for the tender heart of my oldest whose biggest concern is if someone knows Jesus, for the laughter that comes from my middle child, and for the heartwarming smiles from my baby. Thank you, Lord.
I took Susie up on one of her ideas and bought a journal to daily list things I'm thankful for. I did this once before but it's been several years. I know God will meet me here, will use this to teach me, to remind me of the story He's writing for my life-for our family's life.
Contentment. Gratefulness. Praise be to Him, alone.
With enthusiasm, humor, and conviction, author/speaker SUSIE LARSON speaks to thousands of women through her blog and conferences. Susie also serves a regular guest host for Along the Way - a two-hour talk radio show (AM Faith 900). In addition to authoring several books and many articles, Susie works as a freelance writer for Focus on the Family, and has been featured as a guest on radio and TV programs across the country, including Moody Midday Connection, Family Life Today, Chris Fabry Live!, The Harvest Show, and the LIFE Today Show with James and Betty Robison.
***Thank you to Stephanie at Moody Publishers for providing me with this article***