Saturday, February 13, 2010
Be Content or Contend
I’m going to reveal how quirky my mind is, but this morning I woke up thinking about how the verbs content and contend only differ by one letter. That made me wonder whether they were related or not, and so I went to my dictionary. They aren’t related, but what I found was just as interesting.
Content means “to limit oneself in requirement, desires, or actions.” It is the feeling of being satisfied and at peace. Contend means “to strive or vie in contest or rivalry or against difficulties.” It is the feeling of struggle and war. When we think of personal peace we seldom think of its opposite as war; we reserve that term for worldly affairs. But when we aren’t living in Truth we are at war with everything around us. Instead of being content, we are contending.
But even more fascinating was seeing the etymology of both words. Content comes from the Latin continere which means “to hold in or contain.” Contend comes from the Latin contendere which is the prefix com- plus the root tendere which means “thoroughly stretched” or “thoroughly thinned.” That gives me mental images of a content person as one who spends their time holding on or containing all that is good and thus becomes bigger and fuller and better. On the other hand a contending person is one who spends their time complaining and warring against what is (Truth) and thus they grow thin, are stretched out, and become dissipated and frail.
When we are content with life and either fix or live the things as they are, we live in Truth and are at peace. When we contend with life by thinking things should be different that what they are we are in the Pit of Illusion and are at war. The difference between being content or contending is a choice—but choosing the “t” instead of the “d” can make all the difference in the world.