Why Contentment is Worrisome

I’ve always had a deep-seeded hatred for content people. As a child, I could never be certain why this was. However, as I’ve grown, I’ve discovered some valid reasons that contentment irks me to my core.

Reason 1: This is by far the most important reason in my opinion. Contentment and growth can’t happen simultaneously. If one is content, one cannot grow. Growth occurs when one is displeased with something and decides to change it. This can be anything from a personal trait to a political regime. Within oneself, if you accept your flaws as inevitable, then nothing will ever change. On a larger scale for example, if you decide not to care about politics because your country is better than the worst, then your country will never get better. Basically, contentment leaves no room or desire for improvement, and I believe that one always must keep improving. Stagnation is humanity’s greatest enemy.

Reason 2: An extension of the first idea, contentment causes ignorance. Content people can often be heard proclaiming “Live and let live.” While I agree with this statement in its base meaning, the recent adaptations of the phrase are frightening. Over the past decade, this phrase has come to mean that everyone is entitled to their own beliefs and opinions. While, yes, everyone is entitled to it, that doesn’t mean we have to listen; some ideas are simply stupid and not accepting that is dangerous. If you hear someone making an anti-intellectual argument, you should be compelled to correct them. I have spent the past several years surrounding myself with highly intelligent — dare I say brilliant — people. Whenever I get caught making an anti-intellectual argument with them, they argue with me, showing me how I’m wrong. This has made me a better and smarter person, and I could not thank them enough for it. So it is worrisome to me when people are so ingrained in their “Live and let live” mentality that they refuse to enter into intellectual discussions or debates. It keeps them set in their ways, which might not always be right.

Yet, I find the most important question to be why has contentment stunted human progress? Well, I think the answer is fairly simple. In our modern era of catch-phrases and self-help books, easy slogans have dominated our speech. Phrases akin to “Live and let live,” “Acceptance is happiness,” or “Love yourself,” are everywhere: on posters, in brochures, in schools, in workplaces, in our everyday speech. The sayings are not in and of themselves bad, but we’ve failed to appreciate their meanings. We say those phrases now without regard for where they came from and the deeper truths they speak. We’re told to love ourselves, but that does not mean to ignore ourselves. Over the past decades, loving oneself has become the equivalent of forgiving oneself of all mistakes. That’s not what the phrase originally meant; it meant to accept yourself and your mistakes for what they are, but also to continue fixing your flaws to become the person you want to be. The latter half of the principle seems to have been forgotten as we now often say the phrase to justify our rude, inappropriate, or evil behaviors to ourselves.

Contentment as a notion is not worrisome. What’s worrisome is the way we have decided to content ourselves in recent years. We have taught ourselves to gloss over mistakes, regrets, and poor personal qualities so that we may find an immediate contentment. What needs to happen is to find long-term contentment. I believe long-term contentment can be found through working out one’s flaws, accepting responsibility for our past faux-pas, and focusing on living as much as possible in the present to make the best possible world we can live in.

But now I must ask an open question to my readers. Do you think the meaning of contentment had changed over time? If so, do you agree with my assessment? And how do you all think we can find long-term contentment?

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