Contentment or Comparison
About the Guest
Kay Wills Wyma, Gary Thomas and Priscilla Shirer help us remember to be content with the life we have and avoid the temptation to compare ourselves with others.
Gary ThomasGary Thomas is a writer in residence at Second Baptist Church in Houston, Texas, and an adjunct faculty member teaching on spiritual formation at Western Seminary in Portland, Oregon and Houston Theological Seminary in Houston, Texas. He is the author of 20 books, including When to Walk Away, Sacred Marriage, Sacred Pathways, Cherish, Sacred Parenting, and the Gold Medallion Award-winning Authentic Faith. He has a master’s degree from Regent College, where he studied u...more
Kay Wills WymaKay Wills Wyma, former White House staffer, international banker, and entrepreneur, is a mom of five who writes about seeing beyond life's pressures in order to navigate life and thrive together. She is the author of two books and blogs at the popular themoatblog.com and video podcasts at saysomethingshow.com. She has been featured on outlets such as The Today Show, CNN, and Focus on the Family, and has contribu...more
Priscilla ShirerPriscilla Shirer is a wife and a mom first. But put a Bible in her hand and a message in her heart and you’ll see why thousands flock to her conferences and dive into her Bible study series’ each year. A graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary, Priscilla holds a Master’s degree in Biblical Studies and loves nothing more than to serve her sisters in Christ through the teaching of God’s Word. She considers it a privilege to serve believers from every denomination and culture by help...more
Kay Wills Wyma, Gary Thomas and Priscilla Shirer help us remember to be content with the life we have and avoid the temptation to compare ourselves with others.
Contentment or Comparison
Michelle: Okay; so it's been a bad day: you lost that promotion at work; the house deal fell through. You just want to go home and throw the covers over your head and forget life; but Priscilla Shirer says that just might not work.
Priscilla: “Today, I need to be content with what is happening today,” “…this week,” “…this month,”—and not “…try to hurry up through this week, because it's such a busy week,”—not hurry up through it because, in our attempts to miss the parts that we don't like, we end up missing the parts that we do like. We don't even get the good stuff when we try to sleep through the bad stuff; you know, just kind of hurry up, because this is a difficulty we want to miss.
Well, you've also missed the birthdays of your kids. You've also missed this year of marriage with your husband. You've missed this birthday—it was the only 36th year I would ever have. If I rush through it because I can't wait ‘til my kids are teenagers, well then, I've also missed my 36th year!—it’s the only one I'll ever get to experience in my whole life.
Michelle: Okay; so if you're feeling a little rushed, let's relax. Slow down and take a breath and take some time to consider contentment from every angle with me, today, on FamilyLife This Week.
Welcome to FamilyLife This Week. I'm Michelle Hill. So, just like the next girl, I love some cute shoes and some stylish clothes. Recently, I had to go to a radio convention; so, you know, I had to look good. I didn't feel like anything in my wardrobe was appropriate or acceptable, so I started—I really did—I started to panic. A shopping spree—well, it just wasn't in the budget this time—and I needed to look good. I was representing FamilyLife®; right? I mean, come on, you ladies realize that—you understand me; right?
When I shared my concerns with a couple of ladies, they mentioned that I should go to Instagram® for some ideas on how to pair my current wardrobe together and, maybe, you know, look better. Things got worse, because as I went to Instagram, I started seeing, yes, what I could do; but what I could do!—if I just dropped a hundred bucks at the nearest clothing store, I'd look even better.
But I didn't have to do that; a good friend came through and gave me one of her business suits. I thought everything was great—so I thought! Then, I got to the convention. Ladies, you know what happened? I became discontent by looking at the other ladies in the room. Now, guys, you probably know what I mean in some ways—your issue is cars; right?—or with my producer, it's guitars.
Well, Kay Wills Wyma has talked about this very issue of discontentment in her book, I’m Happy For You: SORT OF…Not Really. Here's her conversation with Dennis Rainey and Bob Lepine.
[Previous FamilyLife Today®Broadcast]
Kay: For me, I quite frankly am grateful that I had my children when I did; because now, it is truly on steroids—because people know when they get pregnant and, then, they show it on—you know, they have reveals. Reveals are really big right now; and there can be millions of viewers on these reveals.
Let alone, when you get engaged—which I don't know if you've seen those, but they're on YouTube—which, you know, there's one in Battery Park that has over six million views of a young man asking a woman to marry him. And then, you move on to the babies. They let go pink balloons or blue balloons; or it could be pink icing inside of a cupcake versus, you know, blue icing inside of a cupcake.
That's just the beginning; because it goes from one to the next: “Are you organically feeding your baby?” “Are you breastfeeding your baby?” “How many play groups are you in?” “What schools are you going to?” “Are they learning—do they speak Spanish by age two?” And it just keeps going on and on.
And so, for a parent, really and truly, there's no one you care more about than your child. There's nothing in your life you care—
Kay: —that you could do as good of a job as on your child. And so, when you let everybody else define what your standard of parenting is, there is definitely a disconnect; because there's—you can't know it all! And so every time you hear about a preschool or a team: “Did you sign up for that team?” “Are you on that team?”—because if you're not on that team, you know, your kid's going to be left out!—
Kay: —or all kinds of things!
You're going/you're cutting to the core of something that you genuinely care about. I did not know that parenting was an activity. I thought you were just a parent until I was one; and then, I realized it was something that you do and that you can be good at.
Dennis: I'm sorry Barbara is not here. She'd be fighting you for your soapbox at this point, Kay; because she read a book, early on when we were raising our six; and, again, you're glad you're raising yours now.
Dennis: Yours are ages—what?
Kay: Eighteen to seven.
Dennis: Yes; so ours were, you know, back before the earth's crust hardened a couple of decades ago. [Laughter] But she read a book called The Hurried Child—
Kay: Yes; I loved that book.
Dennis: —and it just kind of jerked us back from the comparison bit—because it occurs athletically; it occurs academically; it occurs around what they dress in: “Are they wearing the stuff out of the latest catalog for kids?”
Dennis: And it just, to me, it makes the family increasingly child-centric.
Dennis: And it's not just the hurried child today; it's the hurried family, trying to accomplish all these objectives that are, frankly, not achievable.
Kay: No; and I'm sure you know that child-centric idea came with Dr. Spock—a lot of that, you know, focusing on the child.
But it goes to this whole fact: “I'm not alone.” So, like, even with me, as you were saying that, I was thinking about, when my kids were little, how happy I was that I could serve—like people would come over, and I'd serve them hot dogs with Cheetos®, you know, on a paper plate. Well, you can't do that anymore; it has to be arranged like a clown or Mickey Mouse®. I mean, they have bento boxes for kids for grade-school lunches.
Dennis: What; what?
Kay: A bento box?—it’s like—[Laughter]—it actually has compartments. People go to the effort to have like the sandwich look like an elephant. And then the next compartment has like all the food for the elephant and the circus.
But the thing is—that, as a mother—this is the problem with so much of that—because it allows me to define myself, as a mother, whether or not I do that. And so, then, I don't want to have kids over at my house because, really and truly, all we do have is hot dogs. They may or may not be organic, and you really are getting a paper plate; and I'm afraid you're going to judge me and assess my parenting based on those kinds of things.
And here's where we can walk the road together—we're all feeling that—so: “Come on to my house; eat off a paper plate. Come to my house!” It doesn't have to be Martha Stewart—the lovely floral arrangement in my dining room table—because we're ruining dinner parties. You know, nobody will have anybody over for a dinner party; because they're so afraid that someone might assess them according to their house, when all anybody wants is to have relationship; we were created for relationship.
Michelle: Wow! Kay Wills Wyma was like reading my mind and everybody else's mind. Maybe she went with me, and she saw me at that convention; but when we are looking to Facebook®, or Instagram, or Pinterest® to give us our clues on how to live, that's when we become dissatisfied and restless—we want more—that's where comparison comes in.
You know, comparison is a really heavy burden to carry. It's always looking outside of ourselves for satisfaction and measuring ourselves up to an impossible standard, and it robs us of joy. So, as I'm trying to figure out this whole discontentment thing, and where we need to be, I stumbled on an old recording of Gary Thomas. Gary Thomas is a popular author and speaker. He's actually a good friend of FamilyLife® and has been a speaker at some of our events and a welcomed guest in these studios.
Well, a while back, he talked to us about this area of discontentment and where we should be really looking for true joy. Here's Gary.
[Previous FamilyLife Today Broadcast]
Gary: We live in an age, where we're told to seek blessing after blessing—“God to increase this,” and “God to increase that.” And the Bible does, on occasion, urge us to pray those prayers—that's a biblical prayer—but there are dozens of places, where the Bible urges us to open our eyes to the blessings we've already received. Instead of always praying for more blessing, to say, “God, thank You for the many ways You've already blessed me.” This is an attitude toward life that goes far beyond our relationship with God; it can change our family lives as well.
Well, I was watching television this last September 11th, as I'm sure many of you were, seeing some of the shows that we're commemorating what had happened. My wife and I were watching Barbara Walters, and she was talking to the widows of 9/11. And the comment that one of the widows said was just, “The one thing I can't stand anymore is when I hear wives continually criticizing their husbands.” And to a woman, all the widows were shaking their head; and one woman said, “It would make my day if my husband was home to leave the toilet seat up!” She goes, “I couldn't imagine anything better!” because they now looked at their husbands in a different light. Instead of just seeing all the problems he brought, they saw the loss that they had.
I do a lot of marriage conferences since the book, Sacred Marriage, came out. I was at one, and there were a number of groups that were talking in between sessions. In one group, I could see some women talking. One woman was getting more and more flustered. There was a different woman, who was talking about the rock garden that her husband had put in over a three-day weekend. She was waxing eloquently about the great workmanship that he had done, and how it looked so well, and the hours he’d put in. She was so proud of it and of him. And you could see this woman getting more and more irritated, until she finally stopped and said: “Please stop! My husband spent all weekend watching a golf tournament. I don't need to hear about how your husband put in a rock garden!”
I was talking to that woman later, and I had talked to her husband. I just asked her a couple questions, applying this—I said: “Tell me about your house. Where do you live?” She said, “It's about twenty-two hundred square feet. We have a good-sized lot for the kids.” And I remember telling her, “You must be very thankful that you've been able to live there.” I mean, I don't know what it's like here; but where I come from—in Bellingham—twenty-two hundred square feet is not a mansion, but it's a decent-sized house.
“You must be very thankful.” She said, “I guess so.” I said, “Well, where do you work?” She said: “I don't have to work. My husband earns enough. I'm able to stay home.” I said: “Boy! You must be so thankful for that. Did you realize that 65 percent of the women in your situation have to work outside the home? You're one in three that gets to stay home! You must be very thankful.” She said, “Well, yes; I didn’t think about it.”
And then I asked her about the weekend. I had talked with her husband, so I had a little bit of inside information; I know what he had done. On Monday, after the tournament, he had taken his son—his son was going to start playing T-ball—so he’d taken his son out to a field to teach him how to hit a ball off a tee. That afternoon, he had taken the daughters to a movie and spent some good time with the daughters. And on the way home from the theater, he was calling his wife, saying: “I need to pick up something from the grocery; do you need me to pick up something for you from the grocery store? I know you're getting dinner ready.” She said, “Yes; actually, there are a few things I need.” She gave him a few things, and he made the trip and he came home.
After she tells me this, I look at her and I say, “Do you have any idea what a single mom would say if, for one day a week, a man came into her family, and spent some guy-time with her boy, and some healthy time with her daughters, and on the way home said, “Hey, can I make a grocery store stop for you?” I said: “She would feel like she had died and gone to heaven. She would be on her knees, that night, saying, ‘Thank you, Lord, for one day when it's not all on me when I have something that I really need for my kids that I can’t provide.”
That woman looked at me, and I saw the recognition cover her face. She went over to her husband, and she kissed him on the forehead. He said, “What's that for?” She said, “For being you!” She wanted to wring his neck a few minutes before that; but now, she was thankful; because she saw the common blessings!
Now, I’m going to be honest—if I was talking to the guy, I would say, “Look, guy, you know, all day watching golf, probably not a good thing to do!” In fact, I think I could drop the word “probably”; but so often, in our relationships, we look at what people aren't doing and forget what they do.
Michelle: Some powerful words from Gary Thomas. You know, when we are comparing our lives, we tend to see the brokenness that is there. I challenge you—if you're dealing with something like that right now, change your perspective and see what God has blessed you with—not the next big blessing you want Him to give you—but what you have now. After all, that's what 1 Timothy 6:6 teaches us: It’s great gain—“godliness with contentment.”
We're going to continue this conversation on contentment and discontentment, but we need to take a break. We’ll be back.
[Radio Station Spot Break]
Michelle: Welcome back to FamilyLife This Week. I'm Michelle Hill. Today, we've been talking about contentment, discontentment, comparison; and you know, that comparison is just such a horrible trap. It's one thing for adults to deal with it; it's a whole other thing for our children to deal with it, especially as kids are getting phones at younger and younger ages now. When they get that phone, their heads are down; and they’re scrolling through the numerous social media apps that we've all downloaded. Of course, it's easy to get roped into that. So how do we help our kids?
Kay Wills Wyma is back. Dennis Rainey and Bob Lepine were talking to her about just, “How do we help our kids in dealing with the phone issue and comparison?” Here's Kay.
[Previous FamilyLife Today Broadcast]
Kay: Well, it sounds so cheesy—it's hard to say—but it's true. We do a lot of the, “I'm happy for you.” Say, for instance, I have a kid coming off a volleyball court or going onto the volleyball court. She's stressed out because, you know: “I may or may not play well. Everyone's looking at me!” and on and on. I say to her: “Look at the person next to you. Just for a second, find something, that is legitimate, that you can compliment them for—anything! I don't care if they can't hit the ball; maybe their shoes are nice/maybe their shoes match!—whatever it is, say something to them.”
And it works so beautifully; because they do that, and it trips their mind to not be centered on themselves—and everything: good or bad, pride or shame—either way, my eyes are on me! If I can get my eyes off me for a second, it breathes life into the situation. They physically feel better when it's that way.
In the most interesting way, my kids really are not on social media. I learned, a long time ago, that, for us, the parental controls only went so far, as did my limitation/our limitation of time and all that kind of stuff. What really has worked is them disliking it, and they don't like the way they feel—it's sort of like with the one-upping on the grades. The seeking of Facebook “likes”—the likes—they call it the “Hundreds Club,” which is how many, you know, “You’ve got to have over a hundred ‘likes!’” And that feels horrible—like it, physically, feels bad. If you aren't doing that, and you are engaging in relationship with somebody else, it physically feels better. They are not stupid; they're going to that!
I look at them and think, “Please land on that every time!” Is it perfect?—no; it just isn't. It's part of training a kid, and it's those seeds of truth—gratitude: “Be grateful for what you have.” The “not fairs”—“Well, get over it.” You know, it's like: “Think of the good stuff you have rather than looking at what they have and letting it define you as what you should have.”
Bob: How do you deal with those moments, when you really wanted to get into this college,—
Bob: —and your friend got into that college—
Kay: Yes; yes.
Dennis: And you know the “C” that they just made in geometry—
Bob: —and they got a scholarship into that college.
Bob: And you didn’t; you got turned down. How do you say, “I’m happy for you,” when you, really, are sad that—
Kay: —that mine didn't get it.
Bob: Yes! How do you deal with it?
Kay: I think that's a very hard thing to do. I think that is one of those times, where you really do go to the Lord and pray, and say, “Give me strength to be able to do this, because this child over here is Your creation as much as mine is. Please help me see that and know that there is good in that.”
And then, I will sit there often, because guess what? I'm living that today, because we have experienced that today; and it's hard. I think: “Gosh! I'm so glad the Lord doesn't work in ten-second increments. It's usually in forty-year increments, you know, and that there is a much bigger story!” And it goes to the whole thing of: “Do I trust Him? Can I trust Him?” If I know Him by spending time in the Word with him to know Him, I know that He is unshakable; His ground doesn't move. The rest of this stuff: it shifts every day.
Michelle: Wow, not only some great advice, but some great words from Kay Wills Wyma. Truly, it's about, “Do we trust God?”—that's what it comes down to—but it is difficult in trying to get those thoughts across to our kids. I hope that you were taking some notes on what Kay said and try to put those in practice today.
But before you do that, you know, I was really sitting here, thinking, “What does God have to say about contentment? What does God have to say about discontentment?” And for that, I turned to one lady, who is focused on the Word of God—she's a Bible teacher, author, and popular speaker—Priscilla Shirer. She pulls out the word, “contentment,” and just what God expects of us. Here she is.
[Previous FamilyLife Today Broadcast]
Priscilla: Most of the time, our lack of contentment is due to the fact that we're comparing our current circumstances with what we see other people facing. We don't have blinders on, like a horse that has been—you know, those horse-drawn carriages—where you will see that the horse has blinders on each side of his eyes.
Priscilla: That's because the driver wants to make sure that they are not distracted by what's happening on the right and the left, because that can cause them to get off of their course. And we have to realize, and understand, and trust the fact that God does have a course for us; and that He's not shocked by the stuff that has shocked us in our life. He's not shocked; He had this whole thing planned. Jeremiah 1:5 says before we even came out of the womb, He was on it with our lives!
We have to decide: “Will we put the blinders on?—not compare what our circumstance looks like in comparison to other people's circumstance—but just believe we're on the track that God has for us.”
Dennis: And to that point, was there ever a time in your life when you had to narrow the blinders?
Priscilla: Absolutely; in fact, it's a continual—you know, I don't know that this is going to be—I think all of these resolutions, in the women's book and the men's book—it's not going to be something we just wake up one day and we're done. It's going to be a journey. And this issue of contentment is something that, in every season of life, I am sure, will be a struggle for me.
It will be something I have to constantly remind myself, daily: “Today, I need to be content with what is happening today,” “…this week,” “…this month,”—and not “Try to hurry up through this week, because it's such a busy week,”—not hurry up through it—because, in our attempts to miss the parts that we don't like, we end up missing the parts that we do like. We don't even get the good stuff when we try to sleep through the bad stuff!—you know, just kind of “Hurry up, because this is a difficulty we want to miss.”
Well, you've also missed the birthdays of your kids. You've also missed this year of marriage with your husband. You've missed this birthday—I started the book talking about my 36th birthday—it was the only 36th year I would ever have! And if I rush through it, because I can't wait ‘til my kids are teenagers; well then, I've also missed my 36th year! It’s the only one I'll ever get to experience in my whole life.
Bob: You talked about this being foundational. I guess I have two questions: one is, do you think contentment is more of an issue for women than it is for men? And then, secondly, how have you had to wrestle with that? You say you're going to have to wrestle with it at every age of life; but as you were working on this book, you were freshly aware that this is an issue for you. How did that manifest itself?
Priscilla: Innately, I don't think that it is more of an issue for women than for men. I think human beings, in general, have a tendency to compare themselves with what they see happening around them. We can trace this all the way back to the Book of Haggai. They're rebuilding the temple. Someone stands back and says, “Does anybody think that what we're doing now is anything to be compared with what would've been Solomon's temple?” They stop working on their current project, because they're so busy reminding themselves of the beautiful work that used to be.
Bob: —the “good ol’ days.”
Priscilla: “The good ol’ days!”—it keeps them from building.
And then, God finally says to them, you know, “With my Spirit—I'm going to put My Spirit upon you. Would you just work? And I promise you that the latter glory will be greater than the former glory.” This is, you know, centuries ago/millennia ago; people were comparing, and it caused them to stop moving forward; so I think it's a human issue.
On the other hand, we live in a culture that, I think, perpetuates it in a different and unique way in women. I think men have it, too, with success and other areas of life—
Priscilla: —drive and ambition, in terms of their careers. I just think that it is perpetuated in a different way with women—some of the same ways—because success, you know, is not described as staying at home with your kids, in this day and age, in some circles.
To make that choice—there is a sacrifice to make that choice. We still have to choose, again, to put the blinders on—whatever our choice is going to be; whatever we're choosing to do for our lives, whether—again, that's just an illustration, but whether we stay home with our children or not—if we live in a way that is honoring to God, whatever that means for you and your family, you have to put blinders on so that, when the culture is saying something contrary to your decision, you are still choosing to go with God, regardless of that.
Bob: So how has that been fresh for you as you were working on this book?
Priscilla: Well, in a number of ways. In our ministry, you know, there are many opportunities that we have to do things that are extraordinary opportunities to stand in front of groups of people, in nations that are far off, and to teach God's Word to them. There are opportunities to be a part of writing materials and books and participating in conferences with people, whom we all admire.
Most of the time—80 percent of the time—I have to say, “No.” The reason is because—while, in some people's view, that would cause me to be propelled to whatever kind of status, you know, would be considered successful—I know that there is a season of life that I'm in right now, that I cannot do both of those things and be successful at the main thing, which is making sure that I am a mom to my boys and that I am a wife to the husband God has given me.
It's just being content with this season; and again, seasons change. There's an investment you make into one season, choosing to be content where you are; and again, I'm so not perfect at that! I’ve got so much work to do in that area; and yet, it's just a journey that the Lord bolsters us through.
Michelle: Those are some great words from Priscilla. I mean, even someone, who is a Bible study leader and an author—and you would think that she has all these great things going for her—so she should be content; right? And she struggles just like I do. I don't know if she struggles with her wardrobe like I do, but she struggles.
You know, the Apostle Paul, in the New Testament in the Bible/he talked to the Philippian church about contentment. His words are in the New Testament. And he said this: “I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know both how to have little, and I know how to have a lot. In any and all circumstances, I have learned the secret of being content; whether well-fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need.” And later on in that passage, he talks about being clothed. I guess that's the word from God that Michelle Hill should be happy with what she has on!
Hey, we're going to continue on talking about the topic of contentment, because there is a lot to talk about with this topic—and maybe, it's me who needs to hear it the most—but we're going to continue on with this topic in the weeks to come; but next week is Memorial Day. We're going to spend our time hearing stories of God's faithfulness in the lives of men and women, who have served our country; because “All gave some, and some gave all.” I hope you'll be a part of that conversation.
Hey, thanks for listening! I want to thank the president of FamilyLife, David Robbins, along with our station partners around the country. A big “Thank you!” today to our engineer today, Keith Lynch. Thanks to our producers, Marques Holt and Bruce Goff. Justin Adams is our mastering engineer, and Megan Martin is our production coordinator.
Our program is a production of FamilyLife Today, and our mission is to effectively develop godly families who change the world one home at a time.
I'm Michelle Hill, inviting you to join us again next time for another edition of FamilyLife This Week.
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