Week 8: The Disease of Discontent
Weekly Digital Detox Reflections
Hello and welcome to my ongoing weekly digital detox reflections. If you’re new here, each week I routinely spend as much time as I can away from all things digital and use these reflections to communicate what I've been free to do and think as a result of being disconnected. If you are a weekly subscriber, you may have noticed it’s actually been two weeks since my last set of reflections. Operating on a holiday schedule last week made things complicated. In an attempt to simplify things, I took the week off from writing and focused on work and family. It was great but, I missed writing. Which is such a cool place for me to be in. A few months ago I was struggling to write and publish regularly and now it’s become so routine that I missed it.
Since week 6, much progress has been made! My wife has now joined me putting away our phones for the evening when I get home from work. We’ve also started leaving our phones at home when we go out. Whether we’re running errands, on a trip to see family, or going to the park with our daughter, we either both leave them at home or just take one and put it away unless we need it. It's amazing how much we don't “need” our smartphones. What’s also amazing is how great it feels to be out and about with no concern about where our phones are.
Where my thoughts have been
The following is a quote from my brotherafter we went back and forth a bit about how to best communicate this idea.
“Some of you may fear what you’ll miss while disconnected from the artificial. You should, instead, fear what you’ll miss when disconnected from reality.”
When we’re disconnected from reality, we miss chances for self reflection and growth. If you can muster the drive to put yourself through the rigors of a digital detox you will discover so much you have been missing and you’ll discover many ways in which you need to grow. My digital detox back in May took place at an interesting intersection in my life. My daughter was in full-on toddler mode which was challenging my perspective on just how good of a dad I am. I needed to grow into a better one. My wife was pregnant with our second child, our son, which challenged me on how good of a husband I could be. Also at this intersection was the realization of changes I needed to make with what I was eating. A few years ago I found myself overweight and pretty unhappy about it. Since then, I started working out again and got down to a healthy weight but plateaued. I know that’s normal but to continue towards my goal I was being challenged to really dial in on a healthy way of eating. I hesitate to use the word diet because for most, “diet” implies a temporary quick fix. I’m not interested in that. I’m interested in eating in a way that allows me to eat nutritious, delicious foods daily that will help me stay healthy and vigorous as I age.
The calm brought forth from my initial detox allowed me to recognize these areas of my life were connected. Yet it took several more weeks of a disciplined detox routine to connect the dots and make steps towards improvement. I came to realize the issue underlying my shortcomings as a father, husband, and a consumer is the disease of discontent.
As a father, I have found myself frustrated and impatient with my children. Whether it’s my 23-month-old daughter whining to get attention, or my 2-month-old son waking up after only napping for 15 minutes, my level of irritation with them has been a bit ridiculous. It’s ridiculous because they have done nothing wrong. Yet I've been discontent with how things have been going with them. I have started a practice of reminding myself to be more realistic with my expectations of them and to be content with where they are developmentally. The whining and the short naps come with the territory. One day, those issues will be behind us and we will face other ones. That’s okay. Once again, I need to be content with the fact that being a father means facing these challenges. If I embrace this fact, I can work to make sure my children are better off because I face challenges with love, kindness, and grace.
As a husband, my discontent came from feeling inadequate compared to my wife because of how hard she works. She’s amazing, but feeling like she is working harder than me really bothered me. I do not like to be out-worked. First off, she endured pregnancy and labor twice in two years. She literally has an 18-month head-start on hard work I can never equal. She also works from home so we don’t have to worry about daycare, maintains a tidy house, and is always incredibly nurturing to our children. I work one job and struggle to maintain composure with the kids. Sure my job requires me to get up early and is both physically and mentally demanding but it pales in comparison to all the work she does. After our son was born, I began to overcompensate for how much I thought I was lacking compared to her. I was waking up too early, pushing myself too hard at work so I could get home earlier. I would then get home and try and do as much as I could around the house. But I became so stressed out with trying to work as hard as her that it started to negatively affect the way I was treating my family. If I couldn’t get every dish cleaned, dried and put away, or all the laundry done, I was pissed. This went on for a few weeks before I finally realized I needed to relax. One day recently, as I worked in silence as part of my detox, it hit me; My role as a husband and father is just different from that of my wife’s. It’s extremely helpful for me to come home early and help out around the house and I’ll continue to do so. But right now, her role places her at home, meaning that is where her hard work will be noticed. I have to remember that her greatness as a wife does not mean I am falling short as a husband. My role has me outside of the house. I work hard to be as good at my job as I can be in order to provide for my family. And when the work day is done, it’s time to go home and be the loving husband and father I need to be, no matter what task is required of me. I have to learn to be content knowing I am doing the best I can in my role as a husband and that my wife in her current role will always out-work me. That’s just what wives and mothers do. I will then do my best to show how much I appreciate her.
As a consumer, my discontent was a bit more obvious. Like most Americans, I find real, unprocessed whole foods to be too expensive, inconvenient to prepare, and simply not as tasty as most processed foods.I’ve learned not to be too hard on myself when I realize I have picked up some bad eating habits. Our food environment in this country is atrocious. Almost everything you pick up at a typical supermarket has loads of processed sugar and preservatives added to it. Plus every diet or eating lifestyle has its zealots who are ready to attack at all times if you don’t subscribe to the diet they believe in. If you’re a vegan, carnivores make fun of you. If you’re a carnivore, vegans are ready to damn you to hell. If you’re an omnivore (like most people) it’s because you’re uninformed or too scared to pick an extreme view. For you zealots out there, I want to tell you something. When you attack someone online or shove your diet doctrine in someone’s face, you don’t convince anyone of anything. You just make people want to have nothing to do with you, just like religious zealots. Anyway…thanks to all of the effort I have put into staying healthy over the past few years, I was able to check my discontent and get back on track in terms of healthy eating habits, and have since lost a little more weight. But the idea that discontent was behind my poor choices was something I couldn't ignore. Why is it that the feeling of discontent seemed to be the creepy crawly bug that has gotten under my skin? What causes discontent and how can we recognize it? First, i’ll address one way I came to recognize it.
I’m well aware that every individual is unique but that doesn't mean we’re always radically different from each other. That being said, I’m going to assume that if I am suffering from the disease of discontent, I am not alone in my suffering. I believe one obvious symptom of this disease we face can be seen in the same place it is seen when it comes to our food as mentioned above. Our environment. In America, our environment is constantly becoming less natural, and more artificial by way of consumer capitalism. Consumer capitalism has no room for contentment. If you are content with what you have, why would you buy more? If you’re content with the food you can hunt, grow and preserve at home, why would you ever shop at a supermarket? Contentment simply has no place in an economy that is based on endless growth. I will not go on too long about all the problems with capitalism. One, because I am not well educated enough for that, and two, because I offer no better alternatives. People far smarter than me have been going on about this for decades. But we all know that the capitalistic economy the United States has created and exported to the rest of the world is never content with having “enough”. Long gone are the days of the mom-and-pop shops and are perfectly content with just that. In the eyes of corporate America, that’s nonsense. You must do all you can year after year to produce record profits. If natural environments and family values are damaged in the process, so be it. Contentment is not an option. I believe this mindset has trickled down into the way we consume food, entertainment, and even people. We need to consume all the food we want, all the entertainment we can fit into our schedule and add as many people as we can to our social media accounts so that we can claim to be connected. Yet we live in country where just about everyone has to admit to being more isolated and lonely than ever before. None of this would happen if we were content to eat what we could grow, learn to entertain ourselves, and spend time with our family and friends in an actual community. But again, all of these things are just symptoms. So what’s causing this disease of discontent? I believe the answer is one we know but hate to face. The cause of this disease is sin.
When the serpent approached Eve and convinced her to eat off the tree of knowledge of good and evil, he deceived her by sowing discontent with the boundaries God had placed upon her and Adam. When Cain killed his brother Abel, he was discontent with God’s acceptance of Abel’s sacrifice but rejection of his own. The discontent led him away from God and the cycle of discontent, sin, discontent, sin has continued on and on ever since. Thankfully we who know Christ know how to break the cycle. To break that cycle, we must repent.
To repent does not mean to simply feel bad about whatever sin you committed and ask for forgiveness. To repent means to recognize the sin, ask God for forgiveness, rectify the sin, turn back towards God, and then live in such a way that brings you closer to Him and further away from enslavement to sin. The closer we are in our walk with Christ, the more content we will be. When we follow His straight and narrow path, we find true contentment. With Him, we have more than enough. We have more than we can fathom.
Scripture of the week
I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed to be full and to be hingry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.
Word of the week
(adj) Phlegmatic- calm: having an unemotional, stoic disposition.
Why phlegmatic? It’s just a good word.
Song of the week
No Good Alone- Corey Harper