Adriaen Van Ostade - The Contented Drinker, 17th century

"Contentment" seems realistically defined as "enjoyment of whatever may be desired". That definition is realistic because the more contented an individual or community becomes the less extreme so more acceptable their desires will be. Contentment is an intuitive natural concept, whereas "peace" is a civil and so non-intuitive concept dependent on restriction, whereas contentment was and is self sustaining.



Some of the earliest[citation needed] references to the state of contentment are found in the reference to the midah (personal attribute) of Samayach B’Chelko. The expression comes from the word samayach (root Sin-Mem-Chet) meaning "happiness, joy or contentment", and chelko (root Chet-Lamed-Kuf) meaning "portion, lot, or piece", and combined mean contentment with one’s lot in life. The attribute is referred to in the Mishnahic source which says

“Ben Zoma said: Who is rich? Those who are happy with their portion.”[1]

The origins of contentment in Jewish culture reflect an even older thinking reflected in the Book of Proverbs which says,

A joyful heart makes a cheerful face; A sad heart makes a despondent mood. All the days of a poor person are wretched, but contentment is a feast without end.[2]

The issue of contentment remained in Jewish thinking during the Middle Ages as evident for example in the writings of Solomon Ibn Gabirol, an eleventh-century Spanish poet-philosopher who taught,

Who seeks more than he needs, hinders himself from enjoying what he has. Seek what you need and give up what you need not. For in giving up what you don’t need, you’ll learn what you really do need.[3]


Jesus taught: 'I came that everyone would have life, and have it in its fullest' Gospel of John 10:10.

Also, 1 Timothy 6:6 says, "Now godliness with contentment is great gain." (NKJV) Philippians 4:11, Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. KJV

Eastern religions

In Yoga (Yoga Sutras of Patanjali), movement or positions, breathing practices, and concentration, as well as the yamas and niyamas, can contribute to a physical state of contentment (santosha).

In a Buddhist sense, it is the freedom from anxiety, want or need. Contentment is the goal behind all goals because once achieved there is nothing to seek until it is lost. A living system cannot maintain contentment for very long as complete balance and harmony of forces means death. Living systems are a complex dance of forces which find a stability far from balance. Any attainment of balance is quickly met by rising pain which ends the momentary experience of satisfaction or contentment achieved. Buddha's task was to find the solution to this never ending descent into dissatisfaction or Dukkha. The Buddhist faith is based on the belief that he succeeded.


Many religions have some form of eternal bliss or heaven as their apparent goal often contrasted with eternal torment or dissatisfactions. The source of all mentally created dissatisfactions appears to stem from the ability to compare and contrast experiences and find reality as one is living it to be less than ideal. Many religions believe this was caused by man eating of the forbidden Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Man's eyes were "opened" to know the distinction between good and evil(Genesis 3:5). The solution is to seek out ways to either make experienced reality conform to the ideal and/or to lower expectations to the level of the experienced.[citation needed] When one can live in the moment with expectations in harmony with experiences one has achieved the greatest mental contentment possible.[citation needed] Variants of this pursuit are found in many religions and manifest in forms of meditation and prayerful devotions.

The American philosopher, Robert Bruce Raup wrote a book Complacency:The Foundation of Human Behavior (1925) in which he claimed that the human need for complacency (i.e. inner tranquility) was the hidden spring of human behavior. Dr. Raup made this the basis of his pedagogical theory, which he later used in his severe criticisms of the American Education system of the 1930s.

See also


  1. ^ Babylonian Talmud, Shabbat 32a also found in Pirkei Avot 4:1
  2. ^ Proverbs 15:13 and 15, Rabbi Meir Leibush (Malbim)
  3. ^ Mivhar Hapeninim 155,161 as found in The Jewish Moral Virtues, Borowitz and Schwartz, p.164


  • Borowitz, Eugene B. & Weinman Schwartz, Frances, The Jewish Moral Virtues, Jewish Publication Society, 1999
  • Meir Leibush (Malbim), Rabbi, translated by Charles Wengrov and Avivah Gottlieb Zornberg, Malbim on Mishley: The Book of Proverbs in Hebrew & English, Feldheim, 2001
  • Fohrman, David & Kasnett, Nesanel, Rabbis, editors, Babylonian Talmud Volume 3, Shabbat 32a, Volume I, ArtScroll / Mesorah, 1999

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  • Contentment — Con*tent ment (k[o^]n*t[e^]nt ment), n. [Cf. F. contentement. See {Content}, v. t.] 1. The state of being contented or satisfied; content. [1913 Webster] Contentment without external honor is humility. Grew. [1913 Webster] Godliness with… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • contentment — mid 15c., from O.Fr. contentment, from contenter (see CONTENT (Cf. content)) …   Etymology dictionary

  • contentment — index composure, satisfaction (fulfilment) Burton s Legal Thesaurus. William C. Burton. 2006 …   Law dictionary

  • contentment — [n] comfort, happiness complacency, content, contentedness, ease, equanimity, fulfillment, gladness, gratification, peace, pleasure, repletion, satisfaction, serenity; concept 410 Ant. discomfort, discontent, displeasure, dissatisfaction, misery …   New thesaurus

  • contentment — contentment, contenement A man s countenance or credit, which he has together with, and by reason of, his freehold; or that which is necessary for the support and maintenance of men, agreeably to their several qualities or states of life.… …   Black's law dictionary

  • contentment — contentment, contenement A man s countenance or credit, which he has together with, and by reason of, his freehold; or that which is necessary for the support and maintenance of men, agreeably to their several qualities or states of life.… …   Black's law dictionary

  • contentment — [kən tent′mənt] n. [ME contentement < OFr] 1. the state, quality, or fact of being contented 2. Archaic a satisfying or being satisfied …   English World dictionary

  • contentment — noun ADJECTIVE ▪ deep, quiet ▪ He gazed out to sea, with a feeling of deep contentment. ▪ She fell asleep in quiet contentment. VERB + CONTENTMENT ▪ find …   Collocations dictionary

  • contentment — con|tent|ment [kənˈtentmənt] n [U] the state of being happy and satisfied ≠ ↑discontent ▪ He gave a sigh of contentment , and fell asleep. ▪ a feeling of deep contentment …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • contentment — [[t]kənte̱ntmənt[/t]] N UNCOUNT Contentment is a feeling of quiet happiness and satisfaction. I cannot describe the feeling of contentment that was with me at that time. Syn: happiness Ant: discontent …   English dictionary

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