Being ‘good’ is REALLY boring

being good is boring

by Kenneth Justice

~ Yesterday over a cup of coffee I had a lengthy conversation with a stressed-out and worn-out divorced dad. His wife had developed an alcohol problem while they were married and coupled with numerous affairs she committed….they are now divorced and he is barely making it financially…

Kenneth, after I pay taxes, alimony, and child support, I barely squeak by paying all my bills each month. I watch movies of people having fun in distant lands and I wish I could just drop everything and disappear to a more exciting life

His children are young and he is a faithful father. He spends more time and energy with his children than any other divorced father I know. Because the mother is still struggling with alcoholism, he picks up the children throughout the week and on most weekends. The only reason the children live with the mother at all is to ensure that she gets a child support check from him which she uses to live on since she doesn’t work……

I used to live the wild life before the marriage; parties, women, drugs……my life was out of control but extremely exciting……I gave everything up when we got married….now I’m trying to do what’s right by my children and by God, I haven’t drank in years… life is really boring but I want to be there for my children” he said

The simple fact of the matter is that in many ways; doing good can often be boring. Helping people and making a difference in someone’s life isn’t always very exciting…..and in many instances it is rather dull and uneventful;

—-) Helping clean a single mother’s house isn’t what most of us would call ‘fun’

—-) Watching three little children so two young parents can have time to themselves isn’t as fun as having a night out on the town with people our own age

—-) Having coffee with people who are lonely and depressed isn’t as fun as hanging out with our friends at a party

This past week I’ve been highlighting the people without faces, the people we see every week but never truly notice; the people who are starved for someone to invite them out for coffee or to lend a helping hand in their lives…….and the truth of the situation is that adopting an attitude in which we reach out to such people is no simple task.

When movie stars and celebrities come into the cafés I hang out at….everyone wants to sit and talk to them……but throngs of people are not standing in line to have coffee and a conversation with the people who are lonely, the homeless,  the stressed-out single mom or the divorced dad…..

For the last 20 years of my life I have been asked repeatedly how I meet so many people at coffee and have so many conversations about the things that matter most with total strangers; well, its not nearly as exciting as it sounds. If I write about a conversation I had with someone…’re merely getting the abbreviated highlights. You’re not experiencing the time and energy that went into getting a brief excerpt of the conversation….you’re reading an 850 word article about the conversation and I’m leaving out the other 200,000 words, many of which are the hum drum bylines of normal dialogue.

When I was in college studying psychology and counseling I couldn’t wait for the day when I could begin working with clients; when the time came that I finally did one-on-one counseling and I became a group counseling leader; I found that it wasn’t nearly as exciting as I thought it would be. Having to deal with clients who broke down in tears day-after-day as we worked through their various problems became extremely repetitive. Thousands of different clients, thousands of faces, thousands of tears….at times it all became a blur.

Being good, doing good, pursuing a life in which we make a positive difference in the lives of others…..can often be very boring.

—-) Being a good father….can be boring

—-) Being a good mother…can be boring

—-) Being a good employee…can be boring

—-) Being a good student….can be boring

Its not that we can’t receive joy or satisfaction out of those pursuits…..but I want to emphasize that the day-to-day moments of those callings can often involve quite a bit of dull triviality. Its easier to stay up late on a Friday night and get wasted at the bar with friends….than to get to bed early to wake up and make breakfast for your children on Saturday morning.

It can often be more thrilling to jump into bed with a stranger….than to stay in a committed relationship with someone you have had sex with more than a thousand times……

I’ve met many men and women who want to become priests, pastors and ministers.The majority of them have always associated their pursuit with getting to talk and preach sermons or homilies to large crowds of people; where are the minsters who want to imitate Jesus? Where are the ministers who want to hang out with the poor, the downtrodden, and the outcasts of society? Its more exciting to stand in a pulpit and have everyone look at you…..than to have nobody see you as you sit quietly in the corner having coffee with the homeless.

I can smell the aroma of a fresh brew of coffee in the air, time for another cup.


Categories: People Without Faces

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58 replies

  1. Amen and amen again! Pinging going off here: “Jesus is my role model. I wanna be Him! I think Big!” Having a thought growing right now – The bigger God becomes, the smaller I become. The next door neighbour, a smile, a chat, one on one, being me not Jesus. A sort of “We do – God works” approach. Me being me is what he wants. Not me being Him. You being you – it ripples – He works. Me being me – I ripple – He works. We all need to ripple. Not endlessly debate the gold medal triple back flip impress the crowd dive. Put a toe in the water. Make just one ripple at a time. And the ripples after that – they are God’s. (and my coffee intake has shot up hugely since I started following your words!). 🙂

  2. I belong to a business networking group in which the motto is ‘Givers Gain’, meaning that if you pass referrals to those in your group you receive the same.

    I have found this to be productive not only in business but in all facets of my life. The more I ‘give’ to others, the more I receive in my life and my life has become richer and more rewarding as a result.

  3. I usually have a negative reaction to the words “boring” or “bored,” and try to avoid using those words. But I’m glad I read this today. Thanks for sharing your wisdom and insights.

  4. Yes, being good can be boring…but you missed the upside to being good and those who have experienced being bad, first…will probably agree.

    I think more than “excitement” in life, people want to be at peace with themselves. A person who lives life large may have a lot of excitement but often they don’t have much peace. Think of all the drama connected to living life large. How many of those guys, a few years down the road wish they hadn’t wasted so much time…look at the whole picture.

    Being good gives you that feeling of wholeness…and accomplishment, knowing that you could have done it another way. Life has less drama when you are good.

    What many people forget to do is to acknowledge the strength and fortitude it takes to do the right thing. This can leave you feeling like the victim.

    In the case of your guy at the cafe, I’d bet he is less concerned about sowing his wild oats and more concerned about the trap that has become his life, in which he feels he has no control…his alcoholic wife. I’d bet if he had the kids full time, wasn’t forking out all his money to support a person who selfishly used the money on herself, I’d bet that he would be a lot happier. Until he gets out of the trap, because legally he is bound to it, he will have to get creative about bringing joy into his life…or fully take responsibility for his kids and legally get custody of them. And, honestly, if he was doing the right thing…those kids would not be living with an alcoholic mother. IMHO

    • Mrs p,

      Many good points you make…….sadly, sometimes the law doesn’t benefit to “good” person or in this case the “better” parent

    • Mrs. P, I believe you are onto something. Genesis suggests the answer to boredom. Because we are sinful, our life is filled with pain and drudgery.

      Whenever someone speaks of being good as boring, I am reminded of an old Chinese curse.

      May you live in interesting times.

      What makes for interesting times? Have you survived a hurricane. Do you know what it is like when it takes a week to restore the power?

      I suspect that this now faithful father is paying a price for his formerly “exciting” life. He married someone who is now trapped herself. And so he is trapped.

      How will he get out of that trap?

      John 8:32

      Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

      When Jesus spoke those words, he was talking about freedom from sin.

    • Not all traps are indicators of someone having sinned. A person could be trapped in a dead end job in which he barely makes enough money to provide for his family. He could be a very good and honest employee. Potentially the thing that allows him to remain trapped is his own fear. That could be fear of change itself, fear that he is not good enough, fear that comes about from lack of self confidence or the idea that maybe this is the best that he is going to be able to do.

      An honest person does not have the myriad of problems that a dishonest one has. But if a man were able to face his fears…his personal demons so to speak then he would have enough courage to remove himself from the traps that he has created.

  5. Thats why people go ice skating

  6. I really liked this one Kenneth!

  7. Thank you. I too want a more exciting life but then I defined my version of exciting and that was a worldly view! What can be more exciting than the opportunity of raising my kids right so they grow up to be caring, unselfish, helpful, respectful, daring adults or to be a spouse that devotes their life to making sure their partner feels loved and cherished and honoured. That’s my ‘boring’ life and I love it!!

  8. on the ice skating theme. “I wish I were a I could skate away on it”.
    I knew that the right things for me to do in my life were going to be full of
    sacrifice and long boring days. Boring only in that I felt I was not doing the
    things I thought would get me that new exciting life. In hindsight the discipline
    I developed “suiting up and showing up” is exactly what helped me find joy.
    The river is a metaphor for finding times to escape to selfishness in the midst
    of all that “goodness”, so I would not feel like a victim.

  9. We choose the road that has something good in it for ourselves. Our greed is sometimes bigger than anything else. We think to short term. If it isn’t paying back straight after we kindly say no while in the long run it saves us all. It is cold out today, I will go out and share my coffee with someone who is colder than i am.
    A smile and a conversation is sometimes all they need to feel human again and not an outcast.
    Cheers on the coffee who brings people together.

  10. This reminds me of the prodigal son vs. the one who stayed with the Father. He was miffed too. I have lived both lives– the partying, reckless, Godless life and also the peaceful, yet adventurous life in submission to God. I think I have more fun now because I don’t have the valleys of despair and regret over what I did at those “parties.” I don’t have to chase after strokes anymore or keep tabs on who owes me for this or that kindness. Yes, life can appear boring at times– when you’re responsible. Responsibility is about as lauded fidelity or integrity by our culture, which is why Western civilization is going downhill faster than an olympic skier…

    • Kelly,

      For many people; they have to take a severe left fork in the road for a season in order to learn the joy of traveling up the straight more “boring” path 😉

  11. Great writing, Kenneth!
    We have a saying “being good is being stupid” I like to be fair, not good nor stupid. Another one goes “there is a time for all” like there is a time to have fun, a time for family, a time for being bored etc. It’s all about acceptance or balance of life. Personally, I dislike those who are “victims” by/with their will. Call it selfishness or not.

  12. Confession time – growing up I was the typical first-born-people-pleaser personality type. My sister was much more wild. And I wouldn’t have admitted it then, but I was so terribly terribly jealous of her. She went out with friends (hell, she had friends) and had fun, got into trouble, and recovered. If I did something wrong, my entire world fell apart.
    Your title about being good being boring struck a chord because I remembered feeling trapped just like that when I was younger. And while I’m doing well now, there is a part me that wishes I’d raised a bit more hell when I was younger. I can see where the divorced dad was coming from.

    • Deweydecimal,

      Great comment dude….I think you perfectly expressed what many people felt who grew up not venturing out into the things that their siblings did; and now many years later many of those people are left wishing they had ventured out a little bit more than they did

      I just finished watching the Kristen Bell movie “the lifeguard” which I surprisingly enjoyed; one of the characters who is a school principle is in a marriage to a good guy, but she wonders what life would be like if she just ventured out just a bit; she starts smoking pot, getting drunk….well….it was an interesting film 🙂

    • Wow. That SO describes my experience, and the first of my three younger sisters. I was definitely a first-born-people-pleaser, too. However, my “black sheep” sister– no, I don’t think I envy her anymore. She is very distant, saying she’s overwhelmed with her own problems to even deal with any of the family’s problems. Actually, the bitter irony is that she talks with my parents and my other two sisters, but we have not said much in 15 years. I am told part of that is because she (and much of the rest of my family) don’t know how to interact with my wife. My father gets my wife, but, that’s about it.

    • My sister and I had our time like that, too. People are funny creatures; that’s all I can say.

  13. True!
    Being “Good” can be boring, but it pays off. Listening and reaching out to other people it’s the highest form of endeavor. There are people that won’t waste a smile, much less talking or listening of what others have to say, need,wish. I know that it would feel better spending the week in Costa Rica, rather than Michigan 😃.
    you got me stick like a glue to your blog view😃

  14. …you never know who Jesus is…

  15. Life is not always greener on the other side. You should be careful what you wish for. The older I get the more I realize that you need to be grateful for what you have and do the maximum good that you can with what you have. Otherwise, you will spend your life regretting what you did not get and not be able to use what you have.

  16. Well spoken. In part I left my denomination and became independent because I saw so many in the ministry for the money and fame of it. Boring isn’t always bad – it also has its own excitement I think in that the results over the long term are far better.

    Blessings and Cheers!

  17. Beautiful article. I think it touches on what I view as ‘life-long’ or ‘lasting’ happiness. Getting drunk at a bar and staying up late is fun in the moment, but if you repeat that over and over, the day will come where you realize life has passed you by. However, if you stay home so you can wake early and make breakfast for your kids, you get to enjoy the life-long happiness of watching them grow-up. You get to enjoy family love.

    Sometimes, I think people choose not to do something because it is boring and/or depressing for the moment, not realizing that it could bring them greater joy in the future than the easy road ever could.

    • TK,

      “Getting drunk at a bar and staying up late is fun in the moment, but if you repeat that over and over, the day will come where you realize life has passed you by”

      ya, and I probably should add that I totally would never judge people who want to drink or get out and have excitement…..but its important that we have perspective on those things and realize that its probably not best if those things become a part of our long-term lifestyle……

  18. So true. Every bit of this. Great post. Thanks for the kudos to the single parents-those little nuggets of appreciation go such a long way : )

  19. I have experienced some of the ‘quiet desperation’ somewhat like that in Pink Floyd’s “Time”. But it’s more wanting a little more support and comfort in times of hardship. I briefly shed my straighter-laced people-pleasing (as I mentioned earlier) to walk on the wilder side in previous years, but most of it was to drown sorrow and pain, and any excitement was tinged by fear, because “wild” usually meant loss of control in a different way. I don’t want to go back to that.

    I also recall a friend saying “boring” usually meant, for him, that things were going fine, and there wasn’t much mess with something going wrong. I tend to agree. I’d rather be bored, domesticated, and stable, than afraid, wild, and unstable.

    • Jaklumen,

      Great comments dude….I think a lot of people though have to experience certain things in life in order to value what you mean by ‘bored, domesticated, stable, etc”……sometimes its through experiences that we can truly appreciate stability 🙂

  20. I believe it’s easier to get over the “boring” part of our duties if what we are doing is aligned with our values. The sense of satisfaction, in the end, makes it all worth it. Not about doing what makes us happy (that could be getting wasted on a Friday night) but doing what has meaning. Nice piece.

    • Claudia,

      “Not about doing what makes us happy (that could be getting wasted on a Friday night) but doing what has meaning”

      dude, 100% agree “but doing what has meaning”…yes, yes, and yes 🙂

  21. In answer to your question that you ask in your entry, they are all over, sitting next to you, living next door to you, they, indeed, are all over the place. You notice only the ones at the pulpits because they are at the pulpit, because they have the official title of Minister or Pastor or Rabbi, so, they are quite noticeable.

    There are millions who do the same preaching, the same reaching the same and more , more of the human stuff, like opening doors for people, like sharing conversation, like just talking, millions more on the sidelines but the sidelines never get front page news.

  22. Being “Good”, i.e. doing something out of the kindness of your heart for someone, is rewarding, It’s not boring, you can’t do it everyday, and shouldn’t because that would be weird. Telling someone they look great is a good thing, smiling at a child is great, being an adult to adult with your child is great. You shouldn’t be bored of these things.

    I found that everyone else had a more exiting life than me, and you know what everyone else thought the same things, But you have to tell people how you find their things more exiting, and then you realise that you have a bit of a lark going on too.

    We’re all challenged by what we have in front of us, some of us embrace it and move on, some wear it like a jacket. A heavy heavy jacket, don’t be that person.

    • Pdubyah,

      “We’re all challenged by what we have in front of us, some of us embrace it and move on, some wear it like a jacket. A heavy heavy jacket, don’t be that person”

      excellent statement 🙂

  23. Every time I read your post it makes me stop and think. You have a great gift of perception. Good blog.

  24. This is just so sad….especially the man with an alcoholic ex wife where children are involved.

  25. Reblogged this on Veritas: A Discussion on Truth and commented:
    This article touches on the truth and reality about “being good.” It’s the path that’s less traveled and it’s one that takes a lot of work. I highly recommend reading this article for those that are interested

  26. I always thought that the most interesting people are not the stars that everyday are in the spotlight or try to be (because sometimes they are actually the most boring ones), but the ones that are in a coffee shop alone maybe reading a book, and you ask yourselves I wonder why they’re alone…that wondering brings always a story, either way you portray it, I think people sometimes need to write down a list of the 10 things you are grateful in life and that will make you smile. I did it just yesterday! 🙂

  27. Oh how this takes me back to a different place and time of my life….

    I adore this phrase:

    “the hum drum bylines of normal dialogue”

    Personally, I have enjoyed some times with those faceless people and I wouldn’t doubt that I still do it on occasion when the times come, but I have found that some of the people I had been attracting were sapping my energy and positivity. I had to love some from afar because I, too, was going through a lot.

  28. I know being “good” is boring, that’s why I’m not. Anyone trying to lie to us and theirselves by saying being “good” has it’s “rewards” and all of that other bullshit is WRONG, period.


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