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Knowing What You Want

Sometimes contentment and peace come by managing our expectations.

I recall a video clip from some years ago telling the story of a wise young woman whose insights into wanting produced a beautiful result. It showed a young woman sitting in front of an older male television documentary host. She looked to be in her early thirties, blonde and soft-spoken. Her eyes and facial structure made it apparent that the young woman lived with Down syndrome.

After a few moments of preparation by the TV personality, the interview began. This woman had recently married a man who also lived with trisomy 21, another name for Down syndrome. Since marriage among Down’s persons is rare, their lives become a curiosity.

The interviewer wanted to know how they managed. Were they happy? How did they pay their bills? Since they couldn’t drive, how did they get to work? They would never produce biological children because of their agreement to be sterilized before the wedding. They lacked the intellectual capacity to dive into conversations about politics, religion, and global warming. And the “great American dream” of home ownership seemed far beyond their reach. How could they possibly be satisfied?

The woman paused for a moment after the barrage of inquiries about her happiness. She looked the interviewer in the eyes and said slowly and confidently, “I am happy because I always get what I want.”

Dumbfounded, the interviewer went back over the litany of things the woman and her disabled spouse would never have. With incredible poise, this young woman repeated her point: “I always get what I want. But I know what to want.”

The young woman explained that her happiness was rooted in realistic expectations for her life. She didn’t believe she would be the next Nobel laureate or even a highly skilled white-collar worker. On the contrary, because she had settled in to her place on the planet rather well, she was able to live in contentment.

Can you say that you know what to want? Out of her wisdom and joy, this woman shared the secret to living at peace.

Brad Hewitt is the CEO of Thrivent Financial, an organization who for more than 100 years has helped Christians be wise with money and live generously. He is also the coauthor of Your New Money Mindset: Create a Healthy Relationship with Money (Tyndale House Publishers), from which this article is adapted with permission.

Want to read the rest of the book, which National Association of Evangelicals president Leith Anderson calls “filled with warmth and wisdom”? Christianity Today readers can get a copy for only $5 (the list price is $15.99) and get access to the New Money Mindset Assessment tool! Use redemption code Buybook502 to receive the special discount.
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