I’ve been in a bit of a rut lately. I’ve been struggling with an underlying (and overwhelming, if I’m being honest) sense of discontentment.
Discontentment doesn’t sit well with my heart. For lack of a better word, discontentment feels icky to me. Here’s why: I’m healthy (my husband too), our kids are doing well, I have lots of friends, I’ve got a house to live in, food in my fridge, clean water to drink, and a whole host of other blessings. Life is good (very good, actually!). I want for nothing. So why this discontentment?
Me, Myself, and I
If I’m completely honest, I already know the answer to that question. There’s no doubt about it. I’m focused on myself. There’s no inferiority complex happening in my world! I’ve got a big bad case of superiority complex. That’s right-it’s been all about me. Ick!
It doesn’t take me long to come up with a whole host of things I get discontented with. Here’s a tiny glimpse into what’s been going on inside of me lately:
- A newer vehicle would look good in my driveway.
- A nicer yard would be great.
- An HGTV remodeled home would be awesome.
- Me soaking in a brand new hot tub would be the perfect way to end an evening.
- Having more youthful looking skin might make me more confident.
- Having an hourglass figure would come in handy for swimsuit weather.
- If only I had more clothes in my closet (to match my shoes)!
You name it-I either want it or I think I need it. Good grief!
The #1 Question
I don’t want to live in a state of discontentment. I’m guessing you don’t either. Discontentment flies in the face of the most important ideal my Dad instilled in me: Be grateful for what you have.
I’ve been doing a lot of soul-searching lately. It’s taken me weeks of hashing it out with the Lord. Still, I’ve finally realized that the quickest way to get over my unwarranted discontentment and the disproportionate concentration on myself is to focus on others (duh!).
I do my best praising, praying, repenting, thinking, and planning in the early hours of my day. So in the morning, before the hecticness of my day takes over, I decided I’d start asking myself this question: What can I do to bring value to someone’s life today?
This simple little question shifts the focus from me to others.
If I am enough (I am), and if I have enough (I do), why am I not giving my time, talent, and treasures to others?
Deposits or Withdrawals
I’m an imperfect work-in-progress (you are too). I’m going to mess up every once in a while and revert back to thinking about only me. To help combat this, when I’m interacting with people, I imagine I’m standing in a bank with cash in hand (If you’ve read any of my past blogs, you know I’m a very visual person). As I’m connecting with said person, I ask myself if I’m depositing value in their life or withdrawing value from it? When I walk away from them, will they feel fulfilled or depleted? Will they be glad they met me or not sorry when I’m gone? Will I be a breath of fresh air to them or leave a foul “odor” behind?
9 Practical Ways to Bring Value to Others
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out how to bring value to others. Just being kind is one way, but in this world of hustle and bustle and juggling commitments, the other obvious ways are sometimes missed. Here are a few of my personal ideas:
- Be Available. Don’t be so rushed and distracted that you miss opportunities available to people. To smile at them, offer to help them in some way (even if it’s just holding the door for them) or make eye contact with them and let them know that you see them. Try this: Ask someone how they are and wait for them to answer. Then come back with “tell me why you’re _______ . (fine, doing great, not feeling well, busy, etc.). Show them that you really care what’s going on in their life.
- Be ready to lend an ear to someone who needs it. This means not always having the answer or coming back with a retort. Often people just want someone to listen to them. Confession time: I used to be a pro at interrupting. I don’t know if I felt like I had to have the last word or what, but I do know that it was annoying for others. Thankfully, I’ve learned to be quiet and just listen. Sometimes silence really is golden.
- Give the Benefit of the Doubt. Don’t be so quick to judge. Don’t assume the worst. To really know someone, we’d need to walk a mile in their shoes. Offer grace. Offer compassion. Become a judgment-free zone to someone. Be their safe haven. You’d want the same thing for yourself, right?
- Share What You Know. Each of us learns along the way. You can add value to others by teaching them something they may not have known before. On the flip side, ask others to share what they know with you. We can all learn from each other. Here’s a quote that’s become a favorite of mine: “Share your knowledge. It’s a way to achieve immortality. One learns so much just from living a lifetime. Share that knowledge with the people you come across; it can only help them in their journeys. Even more important, share your failures so that others will not repeat them.” Jordan Lejuwaan
- Words of affirmation build others up. We all need an I believe in you; I know you can do it because you’re strong and smart, You have gifts and talents that are amazing. You are beautiful inside and out every once in a while. Don’t be stingy with your affirming words! Pick up the phone and tell a friend how much you appreciate them. Send a text to someone telling them why you love them. Send your mentor a note telling them you appreciate their wisdom and direction.
- Leave time in your schedule to serve others. Offer to babysit for a busy couple. Volunteer at church. Mow the lawn for a laid-up neighbor. Shop for someone feeling under the weather; if you see a need, meet it! You show others value when you elevate their needs over your own.
- Invite and Connect. Make people feel included. Treat them to lunch, make space for them at your next get-together with friends, invite them to your book club or happy hour. Connect them with others. Introduce them to your circle of friends. Here’s another quote for you: “Think back to the most important experiences of your life, the highest highs, the greatest victories, the most daunting obstacles overcome. How many (of them) happened to you alone? I bet there are very few. When you understand that being connected to others is one of life’s greatest joys, you realize that life’s best comes when you initiate and invest in solid relationships.” John C. Maxwell
- Give of Your Resources. Be generous. As a woman of faith, I believe in the word when it says …From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked. – Luke 12:48 I’m responsible (so are you) to make the most of the time, talents, and resources. There isn’t a single thing in my life (yours either) that hasn’t been given to me (you) by God and we better not squander or horde them!
- Be Honest. Don’t be afraid, to tell the truth even if it hurts. Kindly steer someone back on course if they need it. Sometimes not agreeing with someone is the best thing you can do. Be genuine. People can tell when you’re giving shallow platitudes, so give sincere, well-thought-out compliments.
What Am I Passionate About?
I watched a Bible study teaching the other day where the leader brought up the subject of people habitually spewing on and on about all the things they’re against rather than what they’re for. Guns. Abortion. School Choice. Gas tax. Same-sex marriage. Gender equality. Crime. Poverty. ______ (fill in the blank).
Here’s the deal: when we complain about what we don’t like (what we’re against), we’re being passive and only giving lip service. But identifying what we’re for and passionate about requires action — seeing the broken and helping them, seeing the hungry and feeding them, seeing the sick and offering aid, seeing the lonely and inviting them in.
Imagine a world where we constantly strive to bring values to other human beings. I believe a wonderful ripple effect would happen if we did. What if each one of us tried to outdo (in a good way) the other by being kinder to the people around us? We have a choice. We can complain or find our passions and use them for good.
You and I can be spectators, or we can be participants in this world. Which one will you be?
Got any other suggestions you’d like to add to my list? What ways do you like to encourage, serve, and give to others? Send me a note and let me know what they are. I’m always after new ideas.
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