Living in Contradiction and Being OK with It

The title of this article may strike us uncomfortably. But the fact of the matter is, we all hold to conflicting values and pursuits—and we have to be okay with that. I’m talking about values that seem to pull us in different directions.

For instance, who hasn’t wrestled with finding harmony between spending time with family versus spending time at work? At times, the two seem to conflict and we have to agree that striking the right balance between the two can be a challenge. Both are vitally important. We must attend well to both. And when we over-emphasize one to the hurt of the other, we reap the negative consequences.

What about the two values: ambition and contentment. There’s an unlikely pair! How do we reconcile ambition with contentment? Both appear to be honorable values, yet they seem to contradict one another.

One way to think through their seeming contradictory pursuits is to consider what they are and aren’t. For instance, the opposite of ambition is apathy. Would we equate contentment with apathy? I don’t think so—or at least we shouldn’t. But we might call ambition a holy discontent.

The Apostle Paul made it his ambition to preach the gospel in places where Christ was not yet known (Romans 15:20). Yet he also explained that he had “learned to be content whatever the circumstances,” (Philippians 4:11). And in the context of his current circumstances, he was in prison for preaching the gospel.

Ambition and contentment don’t have to contradict each other—but they can. James explains, “For where jealousy and selfish ambition exists, there will be disorder and every vile practice.” (James 3:16) One thing we can glean from James’ statement is that we have the ability to pervert a perfectly good value by attaching sinful motives to it. James’ example reeks of both discontent and misplaced ambition.

In helping us sort out seeming contradictory pursuits, the Bible urges us to “Stop thinking like children. In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults.” (1 Corinthians 14:20)

God has revealed to us his character and he has given us his Spirit. He also gave us the power of reason and he filled his Word with examples for us to follow. The key is to imitate Christ’s character. Now that’s a righteous ambition! And as we imitate Christ, let’s pursue other godly ambitions, while learning contentment.

©2015 Rob Fischer

 

Boredom!

From time to time most people seem to pass through a phase or spurts of boredom. Some teens complain of boredom almost daily! I must confess that I too occasionally feel bored.

Instead of boredom, or being mired down in the mud of being bored, we long for the new, fresh, exciting, invigorating, interesting, motivating, appealing, stimulating, energizing, challenging, thought-provoking, etc.

What makes something boring? Is it purely a frame of mind? What is the anatomy of boredom?

Is boredom sin? The words boring and boredom do not appear in the Bible, but is the root of boredom discussed there? Is boredom a problem to be overcome or just a fact of life to endure? Why do I feel guilty sometimes when I’m bored?

What’s the connection between boredom and the routine? Is variety the simple answer to boredom? What if variety already exists in the routine?

Is boredom purely an internal reaction or is it brought on by external factors?

Is there a connection between passivity and inactivity and boredom? Why is it that periods of intentional contemplation are not boring? Can boredom exist in an engaged, active mind?

Is boredom strictly a modern malady? Does our culture with its barrage of sensory stimulation lead to moments of boredom when entertainment is lacking?

How can a job be boring one day and invigorating the next?

Is boredom actually an expression of discontent? Is it possible for one to be bored if one is contented? Does boredom reveal a deeper or different core issue?

What’s a proper response to boredom?

How do we overcome boredom? What role does a clear focus or goal play in alleviating boredom?

After pondering all the above questions and more, I’ve come to the conclusion that boredom is actually a passive form of self-pity. Think about it. When we’re bored we feel sorry for ourselves. We’re discontented with our current situation. We’re focused on how boring our life appears at the moment and before we know it, we’re preoccupied with self. Being bored detaches us from others. All we can think about is self and how miserable we are in our current state of boredom. Then we plague others with our boredom, complaining and moping about.

If boredom is a form of self-pity and discontentment, then the remedy as well as the prevention is to be others-centered and to cultivate a lifestyle of gratefulness. Consider the following passages in terms of avoiding and overcoming boredom:

“Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.” – Philippians 2:3-4 NLT

“Serve one another in love.” – Galatians 5:13

“Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.” – 1 Peter 1:13

“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” — 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

©2010 Rob Fischer