Summary: Boredom is a warning sign that we are living for self when we ought to be living for God.
A ten-year-old boy was asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Influenced by the threat of nuclear war and the reality of terrorist attacks around the world, the boy thought for a moment and then replied with just one word: “Alive.”
All of us join him in his wish. The love of life lies deep in the human soul. Jesus summed up his mission to earth with these famous words: “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10 KJV). One man said that he used to hate getting up in the morning because he didn’t like his own life. Sin had gripped him so deeply that he didn’t care if he lived or died. Then he met Jesus. “Now I love my life. I love my family and I love my work. I’m overwhelmed everyday. I know that Christians are supposed to look forward to heaven, but I don’t want to die yet because I’m having so much fun.”
Yet many people, including many Christians, are utterly bored with life. One survey reports that 54% of all Americans go to work primarily to escape the boredom of life at home. And 70% of American teenagers say they are bored with school. The survey also reported that 25% of teenagers said they got drunk on the weekend because they were so bored.
Boredom is a combination of weariness, listlessness, apathy and unconcern that causes a person to feel like doing nothing. Related words include dreariness, flatness, lethargic, and dull. To the bored person, the world is all shades of gray. When you are bored, there is nothing to do because there is nothing to do that matters. To the younger generation, one word encapsulates boredom, the all-purpose answer, “Whatever.” “Did you hear what I said?” “Whatever.” “I thought that was a great movie.” “Whatever.” The word “whatever” in that sense means, “I don’t even care enough to give you an answer.”
There are two primary causes of boredom. The first is overstimulation. We live in a society that encourages us to believe that more is better. If a little of anything is good, then more will always be better. If one drink is good, two is better, and five will send you to heaven. If one pill helps, two is a kicker, three is a party, and five will knock you out. We see this in relationships as people jump from one person to another. We see it in the pressure to constantly move “up the ladder,” so people hop from one job to another, hoping to find the perfect fit. And we move from city to city, and from church to church. We make friends, keep them for a while, get to know them, and then we move on to someone else. Advertisers prey on this tendency when they urge us to buy more, buy new, buy now. We are so bombarded with images, with lights and sound and noise that we’ve grown accustomed to it. Why it is that the TV must always be on in the average American home? Why is it that we must have noise in the background or we feel uncomfortable? We are a TV-addicted generation. According to the Center for Media Education, most children watch three to four hours of TV a day, approximately 28 hours per week. “Watching TV is the #1 after-school activity for 6 to 17 year olds. Each year most children spend about 1,500 hours in front of the TV and 900 hours in the classroom. By age 70, most people will have spent about ten years watching TV.” By age 21 the average viewer will have seen one million TV commercials. Teenagers see 100,000 alcohol commercials before reaching legal drinking age. “Children who watch four or more hours of TV per day spend less time on school work, have poorer reading skills, play less well with friends, and have fewer hobbies than children who watch less TV.” We are so overstimulated by TV, radio, music, movies, the Internet, and by video games, that we are hyped up, tense, wound up tight, and as a result, easily bored and quickly distracted.
The second cause of boredom is undercommitment. This is partly a result of the massive overstimulation. Too many people live at the 20% level of commitment. We’re like the man who, when asked what he believed, replied, “A little bit of everything.” We are like customers in a cafeteria line. We have a “little of this” and a “little of that” and not much of anything. We are 20% committed to our marriage, 20% committed to our work, 20% committed to our relationships, 20% committed to our families, 20% committed to our careers, 20% committed to our church, and we end up being 20% committed to Jesus Christ. No wonder we are frustrated. No wonder we are antsy. No wonder we are bored. We aren’t committed enough to anything to find a reason to get out of bed in the morning.