Remember those days when you were a kid, and you had just been released from your class at the end of May to enjoy your summer. The anticipation for vacation, the joy of hanging out with friends, swimming at your grandparent’ house, those things filled your heart with such eagerness that you couldn’t possibly imagine doing anything of importance until that final bell rang and you were on your way. Then what happened? Summer actually came, you’ve already gone on vacation, you’ve hung out with your friends countless times, you’ve been to your grandparents’ house almost every night to swim, and now you found yourself telling your parents, “I’m bored; there’s nothing to do.”
You probably laughed at how you would say that on more than one occasion, and then your parents would gripe at you, saying something like how they’d wish they could be bored like you. “Go play outside.” Or, “Read a book.” My mom’s favorite thing to say was, “If you’re bored, then clean the house.” She liked it when we were bored. But the thing is is that even as adults, we get incredibly bored. For me, that has come especially true over the past couple of weeks.
I have said, “I’m so bored,” more than ever in my young adult life. This is my first year teaching in public education (right, I picked the perfect year to start teaching, I know). We started off great, adapting to the situation, and learning how education works within a pandemic. However, it has been a month since we have gone entirely online. For some, that may not seem that bad. It’s definitely much safer. However, since teachers can work individually in their classrooms without students, our school decided that for the rest of the semester, that is what teachers will do. So I have been in my classroom without students, eight hours a day, five days a week for the past three weeks, and I have been so incredibly bored. Honestly, I don’t think I have ever been so bored.
I tried to keep myself preoccupied with different projects and assignments, hoping it would keep me distracted from being bored. And that is when it hit me: I am so bored that I am trying to distract myself from how bored I am. My gosh, such an ironic scenario!
Bored or Boring
A couple months ago, I came across someone who asked this question: would you rather be bored or boring? At first, it doesn’t seem like that significant of a question. Even for me, it didn’t seem like a drastic question. What I didn’t realize then was how I would ironically feel now. I answered that I would rather be bored. The reason then was that I was afraid to be boring because I wanted people to think that I was interesting and exciting. If I was bored, it would only be for a moment. How crazy is it now that I would kill to be boring just so I wouldn’t be bored!
The funnier thing about this is this: however you answer the question, it says the same thing about who you are. What do you mean? I mean that whether you say that you’d rather be bored or boring doesn’t matter. Either way, it says how much you rely on interesting things. Let me explain.
I Would Rather Be Bored
For me, I would rather be bored because I was afraid of being boring. When asked why I would rather be bored, I just said that I hated being boring. However, it’s deeper than just that. I did not want to be boring in front of other people. This has to do with a few things, but mainly two. The first is obvious, which is we live in a world that is idolized by interesting people. I meet people who constantly amaze me with how interesting they are. Anything from athleticism to musical talent to cool-colored hair and tattoos causes others to think that we are interesting. Our world basically requires us to be interesting to survive. Even those who say that they aren’t exciting and don’t want to be trendy actually stick out in an interesting, authentic (and just pure hipster) way. I read how a woman lives on her own, lives off the land, and just wants to live life with pure happiness and peace. That, to me, is so interesting and it makes me want to just drop everything and live off the grid just because I thought that she was so fascinating. We see how fascinating others are and our immediate reaction is one of two things: we immediately want to be like them, or we immediately hate who we are. We either think that they are super cool or that we are super boring.
The other thing that caused me to fear being boring is how exciting and interesting my close friends are. There is this strange idolization in my life, which is also almost some strange fear of mine, that I am the most boring person in my friend group. I fear that when I stand together with my friends, we laugh and cry and goof around, and while we’re doing so, other people look at us and think that we’re so interesting… except me. I think that I am the one that sticks out as the boring friend. So, to combat that, I try to outdo what other people are doing. I try to keep interesting things happening in my life. I listen to the most unique music or watch the most unique movies. I even try to change my perspective on life uniquely just so others think that even my thoughts aren’t boring.
I Would Now Rather Be Boring
It’s a problem, I know. However, there’s another issue with that. You see, I thought that the little moments of boredom would not compare to the dread of being boring. But what happens when those little moments of boredom stack on top of one another? You don’t think much of it at first, but then that stack gets bigger and bigger. It towers over you and you can no longer distract yourself. You feel tired with how bored you are, you’re exhausted, and now you just can’t seem to find any interest in doing anything. The thing about boredom is that it slowly sucks away your interest in things. When you lose interest, you lose feeling. And when you lose feeling… you become numb. For me, there is nothing more I fear than being numb. I fear being numb more than being bored or boring. Being numb to me means that I have lost that special feeling of feeling things, people, moments. I’ve just grown numb. Being numb is terrifying and being bored can lead you and me to that.
Now, being bored isn’t just being lazy. In more reality, being bored is more so the lack of interest in what you are doing. Sometimes it’s even the lack of interest in finding things to do. This can be caused by tiredness, stress, depression, or even too much busyness. So sometimes being bored isn’t cause by nor can it always cause laziness. Instead, it can be a lack of interest in what is happening in your life.
The Problem with Both Answers
The problem with both of those responses is that they are rooted in the same thing: the lack of interest. You’re boring because you have a lack of interest in your personality or in your character. You’re bored because you have a lack of interest in what you are doing in your life. The difference is that one is based on your identity and the other is based on your actions. When you fear being boring, you’re afraid that your identity, your personality, will lack interest. When you fear being bored, you’re afraid that your actions will lack interest. This does look different in everyone’s life. However, it tends to reveal the same thing: we idolize either being interesting or doing interesting things. Some idolize one or the other. I idolize both!
The problem is that as a Christian, I don’t need nor should I have any reason to idolize either one of those things. But I do! Why? Why do I idolize those things? Well, because I forget that I am supposed to be idolizing the image of Christ. I shouldn’t idolize interest in my character because God has excitedly created me in his image. I shouldn’t idolize my interest in my actions because God excitedly does his will through me, whether I realize it or not. My life is always interesting with God. Through the ups and downs and upside downs, there is never a dull moment. Now, this is way harder to actually come to the realization of. It’s so easy for us in our culture to be so sucked into the excitement of the world, to look for things to do or people to be just so we aren’t bored. But continuously, I am amazed by God, whether it’s in Scripture, in my life, in other people’s lives. I am stunned by the fact I am made in the image of God and that the image of God, Jesus, is the Spirit that lives within me. It’s a message that is told in Scripture time and time again. The image of God is Christ and that image lives within us. It’s an astonishing picture that should astound us each and every day. Even in the most random times can I be amazed by God and how he wants me to be so interested in who He is.
Just the other day, I began to think about how bored I was. I was driving around and was honestly quite irritated by how bored I was. Like… I was furious with how bored I was. I was furious because I realized that being so bored and disinterested in the things going on was actually taking me away from my joy for God. I was growing bitter, cold and even began to see how boredom caused me to sin in other areas of my life. Boredom was truly making me disinterested in who I was, what I was doing, who God was, and what God was doing. While driving, I could deeply feel this conviction, but I was trying to ignore it. I didn’t want to think about how bored I was, I just wanted to distract myself from that. I feared being bored. As I was heading home, I missed my turn just because I kept telling God, “No. No, I don’t want to talk about it. No, I don’t want to think about it. No. No. No. No. No.” I was so focused on not addressing how my boredom has changed my spiritual life that I missed my turn. For some reason, probably because I was already irritated about my day but also irritated about myself that I basically just yelled out, “Okay, fine! I’m bored. You win, God. So what? What do I do about it?” I then realized that God had been trying to get my attention in those moments that I was bored. In those moments when I seemed disinterested or I just wasn’t doing anything, God was trying to help me. He was trying to address my problems just so he could help. But I was so bored and was afraid of being bored that I tried to distract myself from being bored. Again, I know, incredibly ironic.
But that is the major problem with many people, including Christians. There are going to be moments in life when we are bored or even boring. We can’t be afraid of those moments. Better yet, we can’t be so engulfed in a culture that tells us we can’t be those things or have those moments that we begin to fear it. That fear then can turn into idolization. We have to be careful and continuously remember that we, as image-bearers of God, have no reason to be bored. We have the source of complete and eternal interest. Let us then be challenged to change our lack of interest in who we are or in what we are doing and turn it over to God to be then used in advantageous and life-changing ways.