Two Kinds of Discontent

Bill Abbate

Who doesn’t want the peaceful happiness of contentment? While it is nice when you find it, live long enough, and discontent will find you. But is that a bad thing?

Let’s look at two kinds of discontentment and how one can help us be at our best.

Two kinds of discontent

There are two essential kinds of discontentment in the world. One drives us to do more, to get more, and to become more. The other causes worry and concern. The following statement lays out each.

“There are two kinds of discontent in this world; thediscontent that works, and thediscontent that wrings its hands.

The first gets what it wants, and the second loses what it has.There’s no cure for the first butsuccess; and there’sno cure at allfor the second.” Gordon Graham (1949-present)

Face it; everyone deals with discontentment. Sometimes, it can push us over the edge to a loss of happiness and dissatisfaction. It can happen to anyone anywhere at any time. You will see it in people at work, their marriages, financial situations, relationships, and many other ways. This is the second kind of discontent that loses what it has.

The discontent that wrings its hands

Graham’s hand-wringing can lead to a downward spiral when we allow discontentment to create too much worry and concern. While I agree there is no cure if you remain in this state of discontentment, there is hope. You must choose not to stay in that state of hopelessness.

Sometimes, it takes hitting rock bottom. You can do one of two things when you can’t go any lower —give up or begin to fight. To give up can lead to dire consequences. Who wants to live with a loss of hope?

Hopelessness and despair are the leading causes of suicide. If you even suspect someone is in such dire straits, do whatever you can to encourage them to get help. Have them call one of the many local suicide prevention hotlines or the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 800–273–8255. They need something to live for. They need encouragement. They need to know there is hope and a future for them. Suicide is a serious matter, with about 1.5 million people attempting it yearly in the USA and nearly 50,000 dying.

I had a friend in his 40s whose loss of his job and financial strain led him to hopelessness. I wish I had known how much he was struggling, but he was very private and never let the extent of his difficulties be known. He eventually took his life.

It still breaks my heart that I had not noticed his problems and visited him more often. Since then, I have played the what-if game too many times in my head.I have asked myself, what if I had seen him more often? What if I had realized and suggested he seek help? What if I had encouraged him more? What if, what if, what if, to no avail. Sadly, his discontent had no cure.

The discontent that works

The opposite of the discontented person who wrings their hands is the one who is cured. How? By using or leveraging their discontent to drive them to overcome and succeed.

Discontent cured by success can move you forward. It can make you change. It can motivate you. It can create a quick and sure path to success! Sometimes, like the discontent that wrings its hands, it may require you to hit rock bottom.

Many of us have been at such a low point more than once. For some, discontent has pushed us to leave a job we didn’t like and find one more suited for us. Or it could be discontent with anything else in life that pushes us down.

Hopefully, you won’t wait until you hit rock bottom, as I did in my early twenties. Because of crazy hours working full and part-time jobs six or seven days a week, I neglected my wife and young daughter terribly. With my wife also working, we barely saw one another, and I had little time for my daughter.

When the divorce papers arrived at work, they forced me to my knees. There was no way I was going to lose my wife and daughter. I hit rock bottom hard. Thankfully, I changed immediately, and we reconciled quickly. Hitting this low point in my life changed me radically and permanently.

My wife’s discontent made her seek a way out, and my discontent with my work situation and almost losing my little family changed me and made me find another path to keep us together.

The old Harry Chapin song “Cat’s in the Cradle” became popular back then, and its words pierced my heart. Looking back, I am thankful for that time of discontent. However, I prefer to avoid such experiences whenever possible!

Final Thoughts

May you enjoy much contentment and happiness, but beware when discontentment calls. Fortunately, when we let it, life can move us from discontentment to contentment.

Be cautious of falling into complacency and taking someone or something for granted.

“Familiarity breeds contempt.” Lucius Apuleius (c. 124 — c. 170 BC)

If you are ignoring someone close to you, you can choose to do something about it. They are likely already discontented, so be careful. Instead of letting it hit a low point, you can become discontented and use it for your good. Feel it at the core of your being. Let it drive you to turn the situation around before it is too late.

May you never suffer the discontentment that causes hopelessness and destroys life. However, I hope you will always be thankful for discontentment that enriches your life and ends with success!


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Semi-Retired-Leadership/Executive Coach -Personal & Career Growth Expert -Editor and Leadership Writer at Illumination -Author

Richmond, VA
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