Category Archives: Complacent

The Meaning of Complacent


My once a month meal in November with Bill included a lengthy discussion

that led to a debate about the word, “complacent.” We tend to challenge

each other when it comes to understanding meanings of words. We like to

figure out what we each interpret a word to mean as we would use it in an

every day, practical sense.

Bill thought the word, “complacent” or I have recently seen it written

as “complaisant,” to mean content. He also felt it meant to be satisfied,

accepting oneself’s essence or being. He likes to be a ‘loner;’ while I

like to be a ‘social butterfly.’ He felt we are complacent, in his usage

of the word.

I, on the other hand, felt that the word meant not doing what I was

meant to do, not carrying out my self-expectations. I saw it more as,

in a negative interpretation of the word, not living up to my potential.

I felt being ‘too complacent’ meant that I should be making more of a

difference in the world and people’s lives around me.

Here is the New Britannica-Webster Dictionary and Reference Guide’s

definition of the word in question!

“complacent (adj.)
1. self-satisfied as in a “complacent smile.”
2. feeling or showing “complaisance.”
(In Latin “complacere” means to please greatly. From the two parts
‘com’ + ‘placere’ which means to please. An inclination to please
or oblige.)”

Okay…I am a little more confused about the word, complacent but feel

the idea of finding time by oneself, being able to entertain oneself

by reading, participating in one’s personal hobbies could be good results

of complacent behavior. I can see how this fits Bill’s interpretation of

of the word.

But, I also feel I am “right” in seeing the implied meaning of complacent

being satisfaction with one’s position in life. Along with not wanting to

change or get motivated to strive for a higher level of involvement. I can

see that seeking goals beyond where you are living could push you “out of


In other words, I feel that the opposite of complacency would be not being

satisfied and expecting more out of life. Not expecting others to provide

you with the motivation but finding this within one’s own core of values.

It is like seeking the higher level of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. The

highest level would require going beyond contentment or being complacent

and finding “self-actualization.” Recently, Luanne questioned whether or

not taking for granted what she does have and then getting upset over the

small or little upsets in our lives may be considered ‘complaisant.’ And,

muscleheaded on wordpress, has a great post on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

with the triangular chart included.

Luanne’s post about the Path to Gratitude can be found at:

A great post about the hierarchy of needs and Maslow’s chart can be found

at (reblogged from J.Jane Mackinna):

Bill, to some degree, is complacent in his mannerisms and lifelong way of

living in a couple of ways. He has sought solitude and not tried to join

groups or clubs besides the ones he has been in, through work at the same

place and location at Advance Auto Distribution Center for forty years,

since he was twenty years old! I would highly commend this great record of

job performance in that it shows faithfulness. He did go beyond his original

level of work to advance himself to a manager position. Only recently, when

the company decided they would no longer reward managers’ long hours with

any overtime pay, did he “step down.”

While at Advance Auto, he participated in “the old days when they had

groups with special interests in mind” in golf. There were others who were

on baseball or bowling leagues. He was a big spelunker and gave tours of

Kentucky’s caves as an OSU outreach program for college students. Although

Bill never attended any further than high school, he has always sought

knowledge, interested particularly in history, nature and philosophy.

I would not label Bill “complacent” but he embraces the label. I would say

that ‘being comfortable in his own skin’ would apply to Bill. I am still

struggling with this word!

I feel that I am not complacent because I am not satisfied with my place

or self yet. I still believe there is ‘work to be done’ in my growth

and I am always expecting something new to challenge me to become a

‘better person.’ I would say I like myself but am not totally satisfied

in my own skin!

I like to believe that I will always strive to improve and NEVER wish

to be totally satisfied with my life as it is. I would like to leave

room for growing and learning…

Isn’t it strange that if I were to choose a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ connotation,

I would say it is ‘bad.’

And you know I don’t like to be negative about anything!

How do you interpret the word “complacent?”