There is a habit which prevails too extensively among all classes, of killing time. And as this is an evil into which many people fall without being aware of it — it may not be amiss that I should put you on your guard, by mentioning some of the ways in which life is frittered away without the accomplishment of its object.
1. One very effectual means of killing time is by sleep. It is true indeed, that a certain degree of sleep is necessary alike to the physical and intellectual constitution. Sleep is the kind restorer of the human faculties from a state of exhaustion — and is an evidence of the wisdom and goodness of God.
No doubt also, an individual may err in taking too little repose — as he may thus not only abridge his period of usefulness — but his amount of exertion during that period. For if he brings to his work faculties which have lost their elasticity through the lack of sleep, he may indeed keep himself busy — but there is reason to fear that he will be busied in a way that will be little better than killing time.
But the error to which I designed here to refer, is that of excessive indulgence in sleep. And the evil of this in respect to the loss of time is twofold: not only the time which is occupied by sleep is lost — but the mind acquires a habit of drowsiness or indolence, which greatly abates the vigor of all its operations. That different constitutions may require different degrees of rest, there can be no doubt. How much is necessary in any given case, is to be ascertained only by experiment; and everyone ought to make it a matter of conscience to consume as little time in this way as is consistent with the most healthful and vigorous state of the faculties.
2. Another means not less effectual of killing time, is the indulgence of a wandering imagination. It is an employment to which some minds are exceedingly attached, to allow their thoughts to wander uncontrolled, in any direction they may happen to take. Sometimes they may fall into one channel, and sometimes into another; but let them assume whatever course they may — no effort is made to direct or restrain them. To say nothing of the fact that where such a habit exists, there must be many trains of thought which could not be uttered without an offence to the purity and even the decorum of virtue — there can be no doubt that nearly all these operations of the mind partake deeply of vanity, and are unworthy of an accountable and immortal being. At the same time, useless and sinful as this employment is in itself — it occupies the fleeting moments of man’s probation — moments that were given him to prepare for eternity.
3. I may instance vain conversation as another means of frittering away time. The social principle which was implanted for the most important purposes — is too often brought into operation for purposes which God, and reason and conscience, unitedly condemn. But to say nothing of the more flagrant vices of the tongue, who does not know how strong is the tendency, I may say, in most people — to indulge in idle and frivolous discourse? Such a habit is exceedingly fitted to dissipate the mind; but the least you can say of it is, that it is attended by a criminal waste of time. It is robbing one’s understanding and heart — it is also robbing God.
4. And the same evil is accomplished by light and foolish reading (or in our day and age: TV/Movies). I have elsewhere dwelt so much upon this, that I allude to it here only as it stands connected with the loss of time. And there are no people probably who are more liable to fall into this error, than young girls! Many of them will even consent to deprive themselves of sleep for the sake of going through with some ridiculous love-story, or following out the fortunes of some imaginary hero, as they are depicted in a novel. If you should ever find yourself engaged in this miserable employment, just pause, at least long enough to inquire of your conscience, whether that is the purpose for which your precious time was given you.
– William Sprague