It’s a Tedious World

As a creative type, I consider tedium the definitive curse invoked on work by the Fall. The technical aspects of maintaining a freelance business are boredom personified; volunteering to tend public library shelves murders my love of neighbor; and filling out a standard job application evokes seriously vicious thoughts about the people who are to receive it. You clean up the same jumble day after day, and all the thanks you get is to have someone mess it up again without a second thought. People who see you as no more than a piece of paper in the resume pile want your life history before they even decide if you’re worth acknowledging person-to-person. No one seems to care about your needs and interests as an individual; to half the world, you’re a piece of machinery existing for the sole purpose of making their business easier.

Tedious, repetitive work and dehumanization–dehumanization sprung from lack of purpose–do seem to go together. A team of researchers hired people to move the same pile of rocks from one side of the yard to the other and back again, day after day, doubling the salary each morning; within a week, all the subjects had quit, saying no amount of pay was worth keeping this up. A similar “experiment” in a Nazi concentration camp drove a dozen men to suicide. The human spirit wants more than material compensation for its work; it wants, often desperately craves, emotional compensation. To feel that you matter as a person, not just for what you can do. To hear a word of appreciation. To be thanked for your trouble. Lack of such emotional support is for many the first part of the road to  despair, even insanity.

Selfish? Prideful? Not at all. God made us with the need for caring relationships of give and take; it’s the central essence of humanity. And even if we have no present human relationships on that level, even if the only work we can find (or the process of looking for that work) is tedious and serves no purpose we can easily rejoice in, God stands ready to grant us both the ultimate relationship and the ultimate sense of purpose–if we are only willing to accept them on His terms instead of fighting Him for the “right” to define the terms ourselves.

We may not see any immediate purpose in “tedium.” But if we accept that it fills a role in shaping us for the greater purpose of building God’s whole Kingdom, that alone will heal much of the futility-feeling that makes it tedious.

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3 Comments

  1. A few times I’ve thanked people for doing what they considered tedius jobs and they were all amazed. Even the small things we do can make a positive difference in the world in the long run.

    Reply
  2. Jerrie

     /  August 23, 2012

    My favorite line:
    if we are only willing to accept them on His terms instead of fighting Him for the “right” to define the terms ourselves.

    Reply

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