Idle hands are the Devil’s playground.
Growing up, you probably heard a version of this adage. Whether you adhered to it or not, the statement carries a heavy warning. A centuries-old cautionary message linking inactivity to mischief. Don’t be slothful, you’ll get into trouble.
Though well-intended, I fear this little saying has negatively impacted the way we live life. There is research to suggest that chronic boredom can lead to serious consequences, effecting both mental and physical health. But is “boredom” in and of itself bad? Or have we robbed ourselves of the serenity that can come from a restful day or an afternoon of silence?
“To sit with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden, where doing nothing was not boring – it was peace.” -Milan Kundera
If I’m being honest, I’ve lived my life avoiding boredom at all costs. Always needing to fill my time with something—even if that something is music or a podcast. No silence. No wasted time. Go, go, go is the name of my game and it’s come back to bite me more than once. And in those moments, it would’ve been better if I had been “idle. “
Burnout; the constant companion for many in America. Could it be that part of the problem is we’re not making space for boredom? Think about it. It’s so easy to distract ourselves with technology. Got nothing to do? Turn on some Netflix or pop in some headphones. There’s no longer a need to simply be, attuning ourselves to our own thoughts and emotions.
A challenge: Be bored. Take a rest.
It isn’t shocking that rest is difficult in a society that demonizes “idleness” and “rest” with phrases that seem so innocent on the surface. I think Jackie Hill Perry summed it up beautifully in a reflection on social media,
“Why is rest so hard? It could be that rest imposes certain limitations on us, putting us in the position to find purpose independent of our work.”Jackie Hill Perry
What a glorious thing that would be, to find worth outside of the thing we do.
My challenge for us is to intentionally seek out moments of rest over the next few weeks. Boredom doesn’t have to lead to mischief. Maybe it can lead to a deep and rich relationship with ourselves, a relationship that heals. Don’t deny yourself that. Sit in silence, take a walk without your headphones, relearn yourself and love who you are. We can’t be present to love others to life if we’re constantly distracted. Let’s get bored!
Wow, this is so powerful and so well said. What an opportunity to be willing to “be bored”. What a challenge in itself when we are faced with the narrative that boredom equals lack of production.
So well written Lorelei.