Boredom Can Be Okay

Photo by Artem Kovalev on Unsplash

If you are looking for a riveting interview, read Daniel Silliman’s conversation with Kevin Gary in Christianity Today. The subject? Boredom.

Boredom isn’t all bad. As a parent of two kids, I worry that they aren’t bored enough. Too many easy distractions are at hand, too much entertainment is far too available, and technology, wondrous thing that it is, can constrain just as much as it can free us to explore creative possibility.

And I’m probably not bored often enough. I’m just as prone to reach for my phone, an iPad, or a project in order to occupy my thoughts and my time.

Silliman and Gray talk about boredom: what it is, the problems it presents, and how we deal with it in our moment. At one point, their conversation turns to boredom, and Gray is asked about boredom in church and whether we should, occasionally, be bored during a service of worship. Gray responds:

Church services can be part of a boredom-avoidance scheme: “Let’s try to really entertaining with our music!” I do think that does us a disservice, because we’re guiding people to steer clear of boredom rather than engage with it.

It’s an uncomfortable mood state. But learning how to push through that to get to something enjoyable and meaningful is a discipline and, I would say, a virtuous practice.

With a liturgy, there’s nothing going on and then there are epiphanies where all of the sudden, significance breaks through. There’s a lot of tedium between the beginning and the end, but then there are moments of, Oh my gosh, this is joy. But you have to be patient with the bored state.

Gray is also asked what to do if we find ourselves bored during a church service. He advises:

More often than not, I just sit there in my head and mull around a bit. But I think that’s okay. I think that can be a good practice, to be in your head, thinking about your thoughts. I’ll ponder the Scripture and maybe compose my own sermon, how I would talk about them. That’s a way of attending to the text. But even if I’m not doing that, I think it’s a good thing to practice just sitting.

Apart from church, we no longer have many spaces where we sit with ourselves. I think there’s value in learning how to sit.

Boredom can be a gateway to creativity, insight, and innovation. It can also serve as a great occasion and reminder to just “be.”