The Case for Boredom

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I don’t get bored as much as I should. Chances are neither do you. And the chances are exceedingly good that your children aren’t as bored as they should be.

What’s so good about being bored? Nothing intrinsically, but boredom provides the space for creativity, for mental wandering, for musings, ponderings, and a lifestyle of prayer.

Remember how boring life used to be. You’d wait in a line and just think, or sit on a plane and stare out the window, or relax on the couch and do nothing at all. I think of how much more my mind used to wander on walks and how I was better able to concentrate on books. I think of how bored I was on long car rides and at meals with adults and, yes, even in church. Of course, some boredom is just boring. But boredom also teaches us the discipline of sitting still and the invaluable lesson of being alone with our thoughts.

I’m no Luddite who rejects technological innovation and longs for the simple life when we walked to school in the snow uphill both ways. But there is no doubt that our phones—let’s be honest, my phone—has made us less attuned to the quiet moments of life.

For many people, they grab their phone first thing in the morning. They look at it last thing before bed. They check it at traffic lights and scroll through social media while waiting in line at the bank. They thumb through Facebook when they have 10 minutes to kill. They are tethered to their phone on the plane. They can’t go much more than 15 minutes in a meeting without swiping the screen. They eat with their phones, sleep with their phones, even go to the bathroom with their phones.

Much has been written about the harmful ubiquity of our devices. This post is late to that party. I’m only commenting on these things now because I know I’m not immune to the problem. I believe Twitter and Facebook and Instagram have their place. I’m thankful for all the work I can get done on my phone while traveling. I don’t know what I’d do without Google Maps. And yet, it’s hard to imagine scrolling through social media throughout the day and checking email almost constantly have made me wiser, holier, and godlier, let alone a better husband, a better father, a better thinker, and a better Christian.

In the coming months I am making it my goal to be bored more often. I want to force my kids to be bored too. I’m not throwing away my phone. I’m not quitting Twitter or the blogosphere. I just want more space to endure (enjoy?) life’s dull moments.

One of the things I love about running and swimming and cycling is that I never take my phone with me. I never listen to music in the pool or out on the road. I stare at the black line and breathe, or look at the path ahead and let my mind wander. Often I pray. It’s a sweet time. Try out silence in your life this week. Give aloneness a try. In our crazy busy, crazy connected, need-to-know-now! world, we need the sanity and sanctifying power of boredom every once in a while.

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