In today’s day and age, people in general are often more invested in their beliefs and agendas than they are in the truth. Because of this, defensive strategies arise that actually prevent any new messages from getting through and being heard. At this point we could spend a considerable amount of time debating on what is truth but that is not the point of this article (maybe some other day). The point of this writing is to consider how blocking these messages or any new information or perspectives can prevent us from experiencing contentment.
We don’t have to believe any new information or perspective, but I think that in most situations it would be wise to at least consider it.

There is the Old Testament story of the evil king Ahab who was contemplating going to war against a nearby enemy (Aram) to take back ownership of a coveted city (Ramoth Gilead). He enlisted the king of his brother-nation Judah to help. The king of that nation was named Jehoshaphat (in God’s eyes he was very phat!). I mean he was considered to be a good king.

Jehoshaphat said to Ahab during some royal meeting of the minds, “before we do anything, we should first seek the counsel of the Lord”. This usually meant consult the prophets who have God’s ear and also speak for God. With this suggestion, Ahab brought together 400 of HIS prophets and asked them, “Shall I go to war against Ramoth Gilead, or shall I refrain?” Of course because these were HIS prophets, Ahab had them trained to say whatever he wanted to hear and because he wanted to enhance his power base, they all knew what he wanted to hear. It was well known that Ahab had certain prophets killed or threatened if they didn’t say what he wanted to hear.

Of course Ahab’s prophets in unison encouraged him by saying, “Go for it, for the Lord will give it (the city) into the king’s hands!” In fact one prophet (Zedekiah) even made some horns to illustrate how Ahab would gore the enemy to defeat. Very dramatic! The other king, Jehoshaphat, saw through this and asked for just one prophet who actually spoke for God and not necessarily for Ahab. With this, Ahab whined that there was a guy who would do that but Ahab didn’t like him because he never spoke anything to Ahab that was in favor of what Ahab wanted.

As advertised, the next guy prophesied that if Ahab went to battle, he would be killed. At this, Zedekiah slapped the lone truth teller while sarcastically asking, “which way did the spirit from the Lord go when he went from me to speak to you?” Nice! Not only did Ahab have his prophets trained to say what HE wanted but also to attack any alternative messages—even if they were true. The end of this story happened as predicted. Ahab listened only to what he wanted to hear and saw only what he wanted to see and then was killed just the way the prophet said. Historically it is believed he was buried in Samaria (not in his own country) and dogs licked his blood as they cleaned off his chariot—the ultimate disrespect to his legacy.

Ahab had his own message guardians that ultimately kept him from accepting reality as it was. When we can’t accept our own realities, we will find it nearly impossible to be content. It gets worse from there in that our lives will not improve, heal, or recover from anything in our past (recent or distant) if we are not dealing with our reality as it stands. I can think of many examples; the young woman who insists on marrying the man whom others have cautioned her against. Those people who speak against the perception she wants are pushed away or marginalized in her mind. There is also the spouse who believes his/her husband or wife is the real reason for his/her unhappiness and resists any truth telling in order to escape unhappiness.

A key component of lasting contentment is that you manage what’s going on inside of you and recognize your inability to control people and their attitudes and behaviors. Of course it is important to know who speaks truth and who does not and who loves you enough to speak truth to you or who loves you but is not courageous enough to tell you about your blind-spots.

Here are a few things you can do to eliminate this contentment killer:
1) Become aware of who you become defensive with and how you construct barriers to that person’s messages to you. This could be an employer who needs to confront you on your job performance, a spouse, a friend, a pastor, a brother or sister or even a child.

2) Give permission to a few key, wise loved ones to speak truth to you even if it might hurt. Ask them to be gentle but direct. Hopefully they will give you the same permission with themselves.

3) Buy into the belief that truth is your friend not your enemy and know that real truth does not condemn but restores.

4) Confront your fear of the truth with a wise advisor. A counselor, pastor or someone else you know will protect your privacy and has experience in this area.

Written by Scott Hendrickson, MACP