Simplicity (noun) quality of being natural, uncomplicated,  restraint in ornamentation, plainness

Although at first glance simplicity, our word for this week, may seem to need no explanation, a second look lets us know that it is multifaceted in both its denotative and connotative meanings.

A few days ago, I received a forwarded e-mail from a friend who has a great sense of humor, and who also has her eyes on the times in which we are living. The writer of the original e-mail gave a long list of situations in the past when life was far less complicated, and nobody was the worse for it. Among them was this: “I  just can’t  recall  how bored we were without computers, Play Stations, Nintendo, Xbox, or 270 digital cable stations.” The e-mail made me think of simplicity, a word out of sync with our modern ways  that push us to go galloping toward the trap of complexity, accumulating more and more of what we do not need.

At the outset, let’s note that simplicity should not be confused with simplistic, which is often misused. Simplistic refers to overly simple answers or applications  to complex problems. For instance, simplistic solutions to social problems are solutions that fail to grasp the magnitude of the problem. Simplistic should not be used when the context requires “simple.” For example, Our trainer gave a few “simple” (not simplistic) steps to developing  an effective exercise  program.

Simplicity, on the other hand, is a positive condition. Those who champion simplicity promote living a meaningful life that minimizes the accumulation of  stuff.  Henry David  Thoreau, in his monumental work Walden, issued a three-fold call to action to get his readers to be less preoccupied with acquiring things. “Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! I say let your affairs be as two or three and not a hundred or a thousand.” Thoreau complained that life was being “frittered away by details.” People needed to face the essentials of life.

The poet William Wordsworth also addressed the matter of simplicity. He penned words that are often quoted today: “The world is too much with us, late and soon/ Getting and spending,  we lay waste our powers.”

Both Thoreau and Wordsworth identify a condition that is with us  even to a greater extent than when they wrote about it in the nineteenth century. All around us we see people laying waste their powers getting things. The focus is on building  “more stately mansions,”  having more electronic gadgets, and owning  better and bigger automobiles that have to be parked in the driveway because the two-car garage is full of stuff.

Simplicity summons us to scale back on our possessions so that we may see more clearly to live meaningful lives. Today, those who promote  the  minimalist philosophy encourage us  to cut away the clutter from our  lives  and focus our energies  on essential experiences  rather than on possessions, so that instead of always craving more, we are satisfied with less.  What the minimalists are doing is directing  us to share the planet.  With more people using less for themselves,  there will be more to go around for the others  who can’t provide adequately  for themselves. In doing so, we  become faithful stewards of the environment,  committed to conserving  what we can so that others might be able to live also.

With our human tendency to measure success by how much we have–the number of  our  toys, the amount of goods we accumulate–there is hardly any  likelihood that we will be rushing toward trimming our storehouse of gadgets, but the times are such that we need to be like sailors on rough seas throwing overboard all that weighs down their ship.  We can jettison the excess baggage that tends to prevent us from  successfully weathering life’s storms.

“Give me the simple life” proclaimed a popular song from years ago.  Let’s strive for the simplicity of the uncomplicated, abundant life that Christ has promised to those who dare to shed  the trappings of the world and concentrate on the essential joy of living that is found in Him.



Simplify, simplify.
Instead of three meals a day,
if it be necessary,
eat but one
Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)


  • Ouida E. Westney

    Thank you. Indeed, for me, simplicity makes life less stressful and more enjoyable. It certainly aids in fostering health and well-being.

    • Judith Nembhard

      Thanks, Ouida, for mentioning the important health benefits of simplicity. It affects all aspects of life. Plain and simple living–that’s what we need. Thanks very much for commenting. JN