I don’t know where I first caught this sentiment, but the average postmodern person in a developed country is NOT BORED ENOUGH! This counterintuitive thought has been rattling around in my mind for sometime now and I increasingly align with it as our world becomes more and more overstimulated. I challenge you with this question: when is the last time you went off the technology grid to truly allowed yourself to be gloriously bored? Here’s the maxim you must own with me: we are not bored enough to reach our full potential as a human being or believers…period.
While boredom itself is not the goal, here are some areas where we are suffering from a serious dearth of it:
We are not bored enough to be creative.
Let’s be honest. We are not the caliber of entrepreneurs and pioneers that our forefathers were largely because we don’t allow ourselves enough white space to even think up a new idea or initiative. As Jon Acuff recently posted, “You have the best ideas in the shower because it’s the last place you still allow yourself to be bored-I wrote that recently when I found my creative tank empty. I used to think boredom was my enemy, but now I think it is to be my laboratory. Creativity needs boredom.” That’s good. Truly boredom, I am finding as a chronically task-oriented person, tends to precede seasons of great creativity. (For me, the “dog days” of summer are some of the most creatively productive moments of my family life and ministry leadership, but…only if I embrace them with intentionality.)
We are not bored enough to passionately pursue our spouse.
I know this sound like the opposite of what is true of a stale marriage, but the problem is likely that we are not bored enough in our marriages. From everything I observe and read, pornography and other sexual sins in the life of a married man or woman is the result of, bluntly put, seeking to avoid sexual and emotional boredom in the easiest, quickest way possible. Marriage is cyclical, a cycle that includes infatuation (honeymoon mindset), disillusionment (boredom), and then either the gradual dissolution of the marriage or renewal on an even deeper level than before. Therefore, the boredom phase is not the antithesis but the glorious means to an even more meaningful and satisfying union. To avoid/deny the boredom that comes into every marriage is to settle for far less than God intended! As Mignon McLaughlin put it, “A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person.”
We are not bored enough to think and read deeply.
Deep words and thoughts have become dinosaurs in our day of “hot takes.” We know how we feel about everything but very little on how we think about anything. As some recently said, “I’m so bored that I am actually googling quotes on boredom.” We know how to “veg out” in front of a social media feed or binge on a Netflix series for hours on end, but we haven’t read a full book in years. At best we tag a book in our social media feed or even buy it out of guilt or impulse, but never get through the introduction. Those mainstream trends are the blight of our day. When is the last time you marked off several hours to not work IN your job, ministry, or family but ON the same? That is likely that last time you had a meaningful breakthrough on perpetual blindspots, habits, or issues that you have grown to tolerate and even accept. As Charles E. Hummel asserts, “Your greatest danger is letting the urgent things crowd out the important.” The only way to think and read on what is important is to open up time in your calendar to do so…and the urgent needs and want will fight you tooth and nail. Be prepared to say no to them by risking boredom.
We are not bored enough to develop and maintain robust skills of conversation.
Have you noticed with me that those with the social media account that is especially savvy tend to be inversely inadequate to hold a face-to-face connection in person. We fill our otherwise-free time with maintaining our sanitized, filter-heavy profile that is little more than a highlight reel making little difference in real time and space. Many of us “have no time” to make that phone call, meet up for that coffee, stop and sit on that front porch because we are running from the very white space that free us up to converse and interact with the things the matter most in our lives, people. Don’t be like the person who claims to “have no money” but only because of massive, unbudgeted spending. Boredom that draws out of us an increasingly skillfulness in incarnate interactions conveying real love and truth with real people ARE GOOD!
We are not bored enough to have an expanding instead of diminishing attention span.
I know I am bucking conventional thought and trends, but our world’s reducing of every news story, speech, and even sermons to a pithy soundbite is not expanding but reducing our mental capacity. In the past, age brought the same breakdown of the body of today but, with it, the increased ability to focus upon the nuances of a thing for longer portions of time…that is not happening near as much in our day. As example, Matt Smethurst recently posted, “Addiction to social media will make you aware of everything and wise about nothing.” The best thoughts cannot be rushed…both in formation and in delivery. I am not saying a public speaker has the unrestricted right to wax eloquent and verbose for no good reason, but should be given permission to give complete thoughts within the constraints of a reasonable, flexible time period. Yes, speakers are not “Hollywood,” but we do see feature films that are easily consumed in one sitting not shortening but lengthening. As influencers, we need to get bored enough to thoughtfully burrow much deeper into our craft and study to fully engage our listener. As a part of the audience, we need to come to our seat with a well-rested eagerness that regularly opts out of consuming the “brain candy” of pop culture that dulls our appetite like a cheat Twinkie or two before the wholesome, slow-cooked dinner. It is less about the speech’s length. It is more about our lack of deep work in preparation.
We are not bored enough in our homes that are raising youth who view “I’m bored” as THE enemy to avoid at all costs.
While I will concede that “idle hands are the devil’s workshop,” there is a difference between idle hands and empty hands. Hands that are frantically filled with an iPhone, Xbox remote, movie-themed snack, or other diversions will tend to be less industrious and inventive. (I have noticed my own, teenage sons are no longer content with engaging with only one distraction from boredom at a time-they want to be on a computer/tablet that is in split screen mode while the TV provides some background noise…convicting as a parent.) In reality, the right kind of boredom facilitates from-scratch ingenuity that does not have to lean upon others, including their well-meaning parents/grandparents to entertain and direct their every moment. Many of us grew up before all of the present distractions were invented; the only thing we had to play with was OUTSIDE and we figured it out. I know it is a different world out there today, but, with some modifications, so can they. Do you kids every say to you, “I’m bored?” They should. When they do, don’t rescue them; let them be bored and see where, within the boundaries of Scripture, their boredom will take them.
We are not bored enough to let go of our love for the world and fully love our Heavenly Father.
Apathy is just misplaced passion, a subtle trend that we miss without down time to not only rest but reflect. As Tolstoy put it, “Boredom: the desire for desire.” It is not that we lack the range or depth to love our God fervently…especially with His Spirit in our hearts. It is that we have given too much of our hearts to the numbing pursuits of this world that clamor to fill every free moment, emotion, and thought. As one writer put it, “I am astonished at people who say they believe in God but live as if happiness is found by giving Him 2% of their attention.” Paul models an alternative approach to it all in Galatians 1. “Immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood: Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus” (Ga 1:16b-17). He could readily have gone to Jerusalem for a seminar with the apostles, but he did not. Rather he went immediately into Arabia. It is doubtful that he went there to evangelize but rather to be away from men and alone with the Lord for personal study, meditation, and to receive further revelation. It was just him and God. Do you have that “Arabian” place yourself? Until you do, your heart will continue to wander from the God who loves you and yearns to get more personal with you. The bored version-the one who values serenity-of you that realizes only He can fully thrill and satisfy. Then we can cry out with the Psalmist, “As the hart (deer) panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God” (Ps 42:1).
Hear me. We don’t need more “boredom busters.” We need more boredom facilitators. Not as as an end but a MEANS to all of the above areas where we are missing out. A void that ultimately makes us, not just bored but BORING to those we are called to evangelize, disciple, engage, inspire, and parent!