Perfect Chaos

The Blog of Author Steven Colborne

When a person says, ‘I’m bored’, what do they really mean?

For many years now I have felt an aversion to ever describing myself as ‘bored’. For the purpose of helping myself to understand why this is, I decided to write this blog post looking in depth at what the phenomenon of boredom is.

It’s strange that while I personally never describe myself as bored, I do not find anything irritating or upsetting in other people using the term — it just seems honest and natural. Why do I see myself as different?

I think my fear of using the term stems from my understanding of God. It somehow feels to me as though I am insulting God, who has provided my life circumstances, if I describe myself as bored. It feels like a lack of appreciation for God. And I suppose this demonstrates that I love or perhaps fear God, and would never want Him to be unhappy with me.

It’s difficult because when I experience the feelings others describe as boredom, but I resist communicating those feelings to others, this creates a kind of suffering for me, because I am not expressing how I truly feel. Nevertheless, this seems preferable to describing myself as bored to others, because if I did so I would be elevating my relationship with my friend above my relationship with God, which I would never want to do, because God should always come first.

This may seem like a case of over-thinking and over-analysis, and perhaps it is, but thinking about and analysing things can lead to a greater feeling of understanding, which can be liberating (thank you, philosophy!).

But what exactly is boredom, in psychological terms? It would seem to be a state of disillusionment and frustration with one’s circumstances. It is not ever the case in normal everyday life that there is ‘nothing to do’, so we should never describe our situation in that way. Instead of there being nothing to do, it would be more truthful to say we are experiencing fear that the things we imagine we could be doing are either too difficult, because they will cause us discomfort, or are possible, but would likely not be satisfying.

Perhaps we find certain activities boring because they are unnatural. The boredom we experience is a kind of wish that we had more freedom and liberty to do as we please. Maybe our cave-dwelling ancestors never experienced boredom, because they were connected to the endless beauty and variety of the natural world. It could never be boring to pick an apple from a tree and eat it, could it? But it could be boring to prepare a roast dinner for six people! So maybe boredom is a feature of the civilised world, and reflects the fact that being ‘civilised’ often makes life more difficult.

I believe boredom is also bound up with the concept of making short-term sacrifices for the purpose of long-term gain. For instance, if I don’t wash the dishes now, they will pile up, and the more they pile-up, the more my frustration will increase. The more my frustration increases, the more I would see the task ahead as ‘boring’. Boredom and frustration are very closely connected.

I would like to end by sharing a tip which I have found to be very helpful, and I know others who I have shared it with have found it to be very helpful too. When it comes to the time I need to clean my home, I set a timer on my phone for 20 minutes, and then I do what I describe as a ‘cleaning blitz’ and get as much done as I can before the alarm goes off. When the alarm sounds, I allow myself to stop, and usually find I have made great progress with the cleaning with minimal frustration. This approach to cleaning makes the task much less daunting.

I hope that, in a time when people are confined to their homes for long periods due to coronavirus lockdown, these reflections on boredom have been helpful, or at least entertaining.

Do you feel comfortable describing yourself as bored? And how would you feel about setting a timer to help you do the household chores? Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments below. Thank you for reading!

(Image by Anastasia Gepp from Pixabay)

8 responses to “When a person says, ‘I’m bored’, what do they really mean?”

    1. Hello! So glad you enjoyed it, thanks for reading! 😁


  1. Once I uttered the words ‘I’m bored’… my dad was having a bad day. He raged for a while then gave me countless chores to combat my boredom. Still to this day I am terrified to allow these words to escape my lips.
    Boredom is actually a very sacred place – it can be the catalyst for creativity.
    Love the 20 minute timer idea, I will be implementing it starting… Now!
    Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha thanks so much! You’re making me wonder whether my hang up around using the term is related to my own at times very moody father! But I agree, ‘boredom’ can be the catalyst for creativity, we just need that spark of motivation/inspiration. Anyway, don’t want to distract you from your cleaning blitz! 😁 Great to be connected!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Funny because we we’re forbidden to use the term ‘bored’ in school, we always had to choose a different word, so it’s still not a word I use to this day! Or maybe I’m just not bored? But I must be because I live in frustration 😂 hmmm. Lots to think about!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow it’s amazing how it seems to be such a problematic word for many people! I suppose an other aspect (which I didn’t really go into in the post) is that if you’re with someone and you say you’re bored, it’s disrespectful to them. And in reference to your comment, I see how a teacher could be offended if a student said they were bored. I suppose it’s a bit like saying you’re not interested in someone. I don’t know, I’m figuring this out as I type! Thanks for your comment! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. She was an English teacher and I think it was more in context of: ‘Why didn’t you read that book?’
        ‘Because it was boring Miss.’
        Or something to that effect!
        It wasn’t me, by the way, I loved English. But the use of the word bored was definitely her bugbear!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Ah okay 😊 I guess she was just trying to keep you motivated then? I guess teachers usually have good intentions, right?

          Liked by 1 person

Steven Colborne

About Me

Hello, I’m Steven and I’m a philosopher and author based in London. My main purpose as a writer is to encourage discussion about God. I write about a wide variety of subjects related to philosophical theology, including divine sovereignty, the nature of God, suffering, interfaith dialogue and more. My mantra: Truth heals.

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