Let me start out by saying this. There’s no such thing as wasted time. I mean, I’m not prepared to say that is a completely indisputable fact. Maybe if you’re locked in prison, you could be wasting time. Then again Hitler wrote Mein Kampf while in prison… okay, bad example. How about this: Paul wrote Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians in prison. And people still quote those works like every day. Philippians is even my favorite book of the Bible. So I don’t think anybody would consider that “wasted time.”
In most of the developed world, and especially in America, we measure the value of life based on the concept of productivity. Productivity leads to money, and money leads to success. So, we think, anytime we’re alive we should be building up to the end goal of being productive. We should be working, or we should be advancing our education to one day make more money, or we should at the very least be taking care of someone who can be productive. I’ve got to say, though, that this mindset alarms me just a bit.
First, we shouldn’t be defining our lives using materiel concepts of success. Do I want to make a ton of money one day writing books and blogs? Sure! Why do you think I’m so persistent at it. But do I want that as much as, say, developing my relationship with my fiancee, moving people in the direction of salvation, or helping people in need? Absolutely not. For me, money is merely a means to an end. So anyone who tells be I’m not being productive because I’m not making money is… well, they’re dumb.
Second, people learn and mature by experience. Doing nothing is an experience. So, even if you’re just sitting there listening to music, you’re still growing and maturing as a person. Even something as simple as looking up at the clouds is not wasting time. In fact, I would propose that it’s far more productive than grinding away for that next paycheck (no matter how many digits it contains).
Third, let’s talk about long term stuff. Something like “I’ve been in a relationship with a person for a year and it just didn’t work.” This is difficult because it’s easy to feel like that entire year of your life was for nothing. But it wasn’t. What you’ve learned about people can easily be transferred to your next relationship or series of interactions with people. We’ve got to learn how to slightly change our outlook about what constitutes wasting time. This is going to sound super trite, but we need to shift our perspectives from measuring success from outward accomplishments to inward exploration. Life is about finding good in yourself, and it’s about helping others discover the things that truly matter. I think bad relationships and bad work experiences exist to help you put the pieces together so that, as Paul says (in Philippians, no less), you can learn to be content in any and every situation. By this logic, I think bad relationships are valuable because they truly show you by contrast what good relationships look like.
So, yeah, I’m sticking to my guns and saying that there’s no such thing as wasted time. If you’re alive, you’re maturing and developing.