Thanksgiving, part 2 of 5

Contentment

Welcome back, Peaceful Readers. In part 1 of Thanksgiving, we looked at the connection between thankfulness and truth.

When I say thank you, I’m admitting the obvious—that someone else did something good for me or gave something good to me. Thankfulness isn’t about good manners. It’s about the truth of the good things that are in my life. Being thankful connects me with the truth—seeing it, embracing it, speaking it, living it.

Character camouflage
By contrast, sociopaths speak words of praise and gratitude to hide the truth of who they are and what they’re really up to (manipulation, control, etc.). Let’s call it Character Camouflage.

For our Friendly Neighborhood Sociopaths to maintain their respected place in society, it’s important for other people to never find out that they’re sociopaths. That kind of goes without saying. So they play a rather-constant game of Character Camouflage, mirroring what they see and hear “normal” people doing around them—except when they’re at home or spending time with family, when they’re interacting with their victims, when they think no one else is looking, when they let their guard down, when they get old and sloppy in their maneuvers, and so on…. Remember Bubba Goes Shopping?

The sociopath’s false praise
Have you ever known someone who would compliment you to other people, but would never say anything encouraging directly to you? My sociopathic father-in-law treated Brandon like that while he was growing up. When Andrew spoke “praises” about his son (I mean victim) to his “friends” (I mean his adoring fans), the sociopath was just putting on a show to make himself look good—to bolster his Persistently-Practiced and Perfected Public Persona.

You say, I say
Let’s take a pretend peek inside Andrew’s sociopathic thought process…. Think of it as a sociopath’s little game of You Say, I Say.

“The other parents in Sociopathville seem to like saying good things about their children, so I’ll do that too. Saying good things about Brandon makes me look like I’m a good, normal parent. It makes me look like I think about and care about Brandon—even though I don’t. Besides, when Brandon does something good, I should get credit for that. He wouldn’t be who he is today if it weren’t for me!”

Yep, Stellar Sociopath, you can say that again. You and your sociopathic wife can strike a pose and smile really big for the cameras while you’re being photographed as the Poster Parents in Sociopathville. Way to go.

Let’s high-tail it out of Sociopathville. That place gives me the creeps.

Out of order
Now that we’ve skedaddled away from Sociopathville, what do we need to think about, work on, change?

Here’s a good place to start. We’ve all heard this popular train of thought that breeds discontent (and is also a bald-faced lie): I’ll be thankful when I’m happy, and I’ll be happy when….

When, indeed. When ends up being never, because circumstances don’t bring long-term happiness. Rightly-oriented thankfulness does. (Dig deeply into part 1 of this post if you haven’t already read it.)

Circumstances can bring short-term bursts or high points, but they don’t last. So people scramble unsuccessfully to constantly repeat those bursts or highs, and it doesn’t work. At all. It just turns into a discouraging, sometimes-exhausting cycle of diminishing returns. I like how our pastor expressed it in one of his recent sermons: “Without Jesus, nothing will ever be enough for you.”

The sweet show and the song
If you’ve ever seen the “Madame Blueberry” Veggie Tales show, you’ll hopefully remember “The Thankfulness Song,” which says it all.

I couldn’t stop singing that precious song on my friend Meagan’s birthday, so I had to text her the link. We were just talking about “Madame Blueberry” and “The Thankfulness Song” at church. Meagan was born on Valentine’s Day—very fitting.

If you’ve never seen “Madame Blueberry,” I highly recommend it. You’ll laugh and you’ll encounter some simple, potentially-life-changing truths. (If you enjoy “Madame Blueberry,” check out “Josh and the Big Wall” and The Jonah Movie, two other Veggie Tales favorites.)

The foundation and building blocks for peace
Let’s review a couple more statements from part one of this post:

If I’m really choosing peace as a way of life, these realities—contentment and happiness—must already be in place.

I’ve found rightly-oriented thankfulness to be the key to contentment and happiness.

Obviously, you can’t be a peaceful person if you’re complaining and unhappy.

Our crucial Building Blocks for Peace start with a foundation of rightly-oriented thankfulness, followed by contentment and happiness at the next level, with peace at the top.

Peace

Contentment and Happiness

RIGHTLY-ORIENTED THANKFULNESS

Contentment vs. complacency
Sometimes people mistakenly interchange these two concepts: contentment and complacency. Let’s dispel that myth right off the bat, because those words are not synonyms. In fact, they’re opposites in some ways. Contentment relates to satisfaction—a relaxed, peaceful acceptance of your present quality of life, whether circumstances are high or low, easy or extremely difficult. Complacency, on the other hand, is a defeated resignation that things will never change, accompanied by the failure to take appropriate action.

Peacefully content while diligently effective
Can I be simultaneously content and effective/proactive? You bet. In fact, part of what makes certain people content is their diligence in seeing and appropriately addressing/handling problems. Besides, refusal to acknowledge and attempt to solve problems sounds like complacency to me.

Not mine, type 1
Obviously, some problems aren’t mine to solve. If you’ve ever seen a codependent relationship, you know what I mean. That is a boundary issue.

Not mine, type 2
Other problems, you don’t possess the skills or knowledge to solve. Maybe you find yourself in a situation where you don’t have the foggiest idea what to do. Been there; done that. Ask God for guidance. Process what’s going on with your great counselor.

Let’s take another look at part of The Sneak Attack, part 2:

There are times to address problems (right time, right place, right person) and there are times to accept and act on the truth—that (1) the nature of the problem is outside your wheelhouse, and/or (2) the person you’re dealing with just tossed a baited fish hook your way; bite it at your peril.

Peaceful Readers, we can’t fix everything. There are many people who do not wish to be fixed. They won’t leave The War Zone. The question is this. Will you?

Remember the mantra
As you begin to push back against the Sociopathic Steamrollers in your life, remember our mantra: You play, you lose. Brandon and I found our secret weapon—The Weapon of Silence—to be the best choice.

Know that you aren’t alone. You’ll be establishing your healthy boundaries and taking The Healing Journey one step at a time. Pray to God and ask him for wisdom and courage. When needed, seek guidance from your great counselor.

The beautiful transition
As you distance yourself from the sociopaths and their accomplices, you’ll experience more and more contentment, as your anxiety and confusion slowly dissipate. What a beautiful transition. You’ll feel your gradual awakening in many ways—physically, emotionally, socially, and in your blossoming relationship with God, your Creator.

Is and isn’t
Let’s dig a little more into the concept of contentment. What does contentment sound like? Contentment says, “I’m thankful for what I have. I’m at peace.”

Contentment also says—on the flip side—“I’m not looking enviously or competitively at other people and wishing I had what they have. I’m not sitting around asking ‘Why me?’ or ‘Why not me?’” A malcontent—someone who’s discontent—complains. A lot. You might describe one you know as a total whiner.

Social media impact
Let’s take a short but important detour. Do your social media choices increase your contentment? If not, it’s time to change them. I’m not on Facebook. I don’t have the foggiest idea where Penelope Perfect—someone I haven’t seen for 10 years—went on vacation or where she bought her new shoes. And, Peaceful Readers, I am very, very, very happy about that. Spending time with my family is more important than being “in the know” about things I don’t need or want to know in the first place. Someone in our life group (i.e., Sunday school class at church) called it Fakebook the other day. We all cracked up.

Millions of people waste hours every day just staring at that stuff. If that isn’t an addiction, I don’t know what is.

How would the world be different if people traded in their Facebook time for time with their non-sociopathic loved ones—face-to-face quality time? Hmmm. That would be revolutionary.

Try it.


Recipe for contentment
Ingredients:
1 teaspoon of clearly understanding the difference between wants and needs
2 Tablespoons of time—and thoughts—spent wisely
3 cups of rightly-oriented thankfulness
4 pieces of seeing the good things in my life, without longing for what I lost or never had

Mix all ingredients thoroughly and experience daily.


Coming next: In part 3 of Thanksgiving, we’ll look at the formula for happiness and the importance of the word because.

Healing through truth and music
Peaceful Readers, I’ve found great healing in my life through the beauty and truth of God’s word and through music. I hope the truths and songs that I share at the end of each post will bless you too.

Truth from The Word: Philippians 4:12-13

Song for Healing: What a beautiful video to go with this peaceful music: “In Reverence” by David Tolk

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