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!
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
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?”