Well, I wrote an entire post regarding the quote below. Then my internet had a moment, and as it does from time to time, the page crashed. Everything was gone and apparently, irretrievable . . . at least by me. So let’s try this again.
“Familiarity breeds contempt.”Chaucer (definitely but maybe not originally)
Do I believe this is true?
Yes, in some instances, I 100% believe this is true. It’s why relationships fail after the newness wears off. It’s why people jump from job to job, home to home, church to church, friendship to friendship . . . and are never satisfied. It’s why we want more stuff, and when we get more stuff, we’re satisfied for a minute, but then we’re tired of it. So, we want newer, better, stuff to fill the need we think we have . . . and the cycle repeats. We get bored and familiar and become contemptous.
But I do not believe that familiarity always breeds contempt. Nor do I think familiarity is, in and of itself, bad. There can be a level of intimacy and contentment that comes from familiarity that is very good.
Like so many things, I think we get out what we put in. If we put in constant complaining and griping, then we’re going to end up angry and bitter and full of contempt. And the more familiar, the more comfortable, we become in our situation, the easier it is to fall into the griping and complaining. I do believe that familiarity often magnifies faults and diminishes the good, and if we do not make an effort to actively fight against dwelling on the faults and wrongs in our circumstances and relationships, contempt and dissatisfaction will only grow.
At the same time, familiarity can also bring out the best in us . . . in both our circumstances and our relationships. Familiarity treated well, can make us comfortable and confident in a way that allows us to be who God created us to be. It’s at that point that we give our best and receive from others and are truly free to grow.
Obviously, this only works if all involved are putting in the work, but as I’ve learned in life, I can only really be responsible for my own actions, behaviors, and words. And ultimately, I have to trust God that He’s going to lead me and guide me in the direction I should go, the places I should remain, and the places I should leave, the relationships to keep, and those to let go . . . the key in all of it is not if I ever need to make changes, changes will happen, but the attitude I have as I go about those transitions and changes. Because almost without fail, our biggest transitions and changes in life, come from places of deep familiarity and sometimes even difficulty. So, the question is will I be contemptuous in the changes, or will I go about them from a place of grace and contentment?
Two of my favorite passages of scripture come from Paul’s letter to the Philippians.
Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain. Philippians 2:14-16
It’s not just because this one is fun to toss at my kids when they’re complaining about all the things. I mean it’s a useful one y’all, but there is a purpose to our not complaining. There is a point in our refusal to grumble. When we let the Holy Spirit shut our mouths, believe me I need work in this area, and we allow Him to control what our words and attitudes, we are a light in a very dark world.
And just a couple chapters later, still writing to the church in Philippi, Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Philippians 4:11-13
It’s not something that comes naturally to us as humans, but it is something we can, like so many other important things in life, learn to do. And I’ll go even further and say, if we’re followers of Christ, we have no excuses, and a responsibility to live in such a way that points others to Him. Our contempt, our complaining, our grumbling, and dissatisfaction only serve to do the opposite. We are called to be light. We are called to stand out in all the best ways. So, as hard as it is to fight against the temptation to complain and grumble, we must. And if and when the time does come for us to move on and move forward whether our circumstances be good or not so great, even if we’ve been wronged, we must do so with a level of grace that can only be attributed to Christ in us.
Ultimately the way we answer the question “Does familiarity breed contempt?” is up to us. We can let familiarity lead to grumbling and grumbling lead to contempt and dissatisfaction. Or we can let familiarity lead to a richness in both life and relationships that can only come when you move past the initial stages of a relationship or a circumstance. We can let God guide us in our familiarity and allow us to build intimacy in deep ways. We can let that familiarity lead to gratitude and contentment and deeper intimacy both with God and those around us. Familiarity definitely does not have to breed contempt.