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Thursday, May 3, 2018

Curing Boredom

When I was in middle school, I became addicted to a video game called Age of Empires. For those of you who have played this game, you know how awesome it is! For those of you who haven’t played it, the game allows up to 8 players who all represent different medieval empires to duke it out on a random map. Your job is to gather resources, build a town, create an army, and conquer the opposing players. The best part is that it has a multi-player feature which allows you and your friends to play together either as allies or as enemies. If you like strategy games, then you’d probably love this one.

As both a male (we males seem to love competition) and civil engineer, this game was perfect for me as it incorporated two of my favorite things: building things and competing against opposing players. Instead of paying attention in class, I would spend my school days daydreaming about this game. When I got home from school (before my parents got home), I would sit down at the computer and play a game before tackling my homework. There was no doubt in anyone’s mind that I was obsessed with and addicted to this game.

But there was one problem. I wasn’t very good at first. So I found some cheat codes online and regularly used them to give myself an unlimited number of resources. The best one was a code that created corvettes with missile launchers which I used to obliterate anyone and anything which stood in my way. After using these cheat codes all the time, I got kind of bored with the game. It wasn’t nearly as much fun anymore. It wasn’t until a couple years later that one of my friends unknowingly pinpointed the reason why I was bored with the game and helped me overcome my boredom. My addiction, which had been slowly dying, came right back as my excitement for the game was rejuvenated.

Curing My Boredom

Are you bored like I was? Maybe you’re not bored with a video game, but instead maybe you’re bored with something that seems to matter much more than a video game ever will. Maybe you’re bored with your classes. Maybe you’re bored with your job. Maybe you’re bored with your relationships and/or your marriage.

Have you ever paused to ask yourself why you’re bored? What conclusion did you draw?

As you’re developing an answer to that question, I think it would be helpful for me to define what I mean when I use the word “bored.” I think we commonly think of boredom as times when we aren’t busy. Non busy times are actually some of my best thinking times. I find that some of my best ideas come during times when I’m not busy and have the ability to truly focus on deep meditation rather than on my seemingly trivial laundry lists of tasks.

But that’s not the way I’m defining boredom in this article. When I say I was bored playing Age of Empires, I didn’t mean that I wasn’t busy. Certainly I was busy. The boredom I experienced was brought on by a lack of mental stimulation. The challenge and competitiveness of the game was totally lost. When I would start losing, I would whip out the corvettes and obliterate my opponents. They didn’t even stand a chance at defending against my heavy onslaught.

Early into high school, I found out that one of my friends also liked to play Age of Empires. So when we’d hang out, we’d spend the majority of our time playing that game. When he observed that I always wanted to play on Easy, he challenged me to crank up the difficulty level and stop using cheat codes. Do you know how hard this was for me? I had always been so focused on winning that I really didn’t care how I won or who I trampled over in the process of getting there; all I cared about was that I won. How was I supposed to win all the time if I was playing on Hard?

Nonetheless, I took his advice and turned up the difficulty level one notch. I forced myself to avoid using cheat codes and found that I lost a lot of games. But in the midst of being defeated, I began learning more and better strategies to win. I became what I’ll call “a student” of the game. As time went on, I got better and better to the point where I could defeat opponents on the hardest difficulty level almost every single time. And all the while, even in the midst of losing many games, I was being cured of my boredom.

The Life Lesson

What does playing a video game have to do with our lives? After all, a video game is nothing but a fantasy world we escape to for a little while before we have to reenter reality. Actually, I’m very thankful to my friend for encouraging me to crank up the difficulty level because of the life lesson I learned through those experiences.

As I shared in an article I published a few weeks ago titled, “5 Places We Search for Security,” it seems that security is the greatest longing of humanity. To be secure is to be comfortable. Who doesn’t want that?

I’m no different than anyone else; I long to reach a place where I feel super comfortable and therefore have no reason to be concerned about anything. My whole life I’ve been trying to reach this place of comfort. However, it’s fascinating that when I reached this place of comfort playing Age of Empires, a place where I didn’t ever have to worry about losing, I got bored. Was this experience isolated to merely playing a video game or was it a more wide-spread problem I was experiencing?

As I began evaluating other situations in my life, I realized I had similar experiences which went well beyond a simple video game; I was doing the exact same thing with everything in my life. I was regularly setting easy, attainable goals so that I was sure to accomplish them. I was hesitant to try new things like food, jobs, and sports because I wasn’t confident in my ability to succeed at them. My approach made my life pretty comfortable, but I was continuously bored. When I finally decided to force myself out of my comfort zone on a regular basis, I found life to be so much more enjoyable.

Understanding God

As a Christian who sought to reach a place of comfort, a tough challenge I faced was that I was worshiping a God who I didn’t fully understand. His character and actions didn’t fully make sense to me. I couldn’t explain everything in the Bible. Why does God choose to offer grace and forgiveness to some people but not others? Does it make God selfish if his intent is to bring glory to his name? Furthermore, I couldn’t predict God’s next move. Since these realizations made me feel uncomfortable, I decided to embark on a journey to comb the depths of the Bible in an effort to fully understand him.

As I encountered truth after truth about God that I couldn’t explain, I began to realize something: there’s no way I was ever going to understand him fully. I was never going to reach a spot where I would know everything I could possibly know about him. For obvious reasons, this realization was very discouraging and uncomfortable. But after I began to realize that if I ever reached this point with God then I would probably get bored with him, I found joy in not being able to fully wrap my arms around him. If the excitement I experience is found in the process of seeking, then I can certainly count on many years of amazing mind stimulation as I continue getting to know God. I’ll never get bored with him!

Final Thoughts

I hope you’re not bored, but if you are, I want you to know that there is hope of seeing a change, most of the time without changing your circumstances as much as changing your perspective on your circumstances. I share my introspection on this topic with you in hopes that it will encourage and challenge you to embark on a similar journey.

I would love to hear your thoughts. Do you think you might experience a similar connection between being comfortable and being bored?

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