What Is Laziness?

Laziness is one of the seven deadly sins. At one time or another, we have all felt lazy. But what, exactly, does laziness even mean?

The classic conception of a lazy person is someone who sits around all day, doing nothing. But even a “lazy” person is doing something, right? They are not in a vegetative state.

For as example, let’s pretend that the lazy person in question sits around all day playing video games. They contribute nothing, just hours and hours of Xbox.

But isn’t that video game play, in itself, something they are working quite hard at? They are advancing in the game, learning playing techniques, maybe even reading about cheat codes or Easter eggs. A decent amount of time and effort might go in to learning how to play. Can that really be considered lazy?


Related: Listen to an episode of the Intellectual Roundtable Podcast, where Lee and Michael discuss this question: ‘What is the value of inefficiency?’ We discuss another question as well, ‘How can we encourage debate?’


Admittedly, playing video games doesn’t really improve life in any way. Or does it? There are people who upload videos of themselves playing video games to YouTube, and make hundreds of thousands, or even millions of dollars in doing so. Are they lazy?

The difference there may be one person is earning a paycheck, and the other is not. Is laziness tied to money? One person doing something is lazy, someone else doing the exact same thing for pay is not lazy? Does that make any sense?

It may be that our classical definition of “lazy” merely means “disinterested”. Perhaps someone who is late for work, doesn’t try very hard, makes a lot of easily-fixed mistakes, is simply not interested in doing that job. That same person might be totally invested in playing video games, or managing their fantasy football team, or even working at a more engaging job.

In that case, a different definition of “laziness” may be in order. Can you think of one?

Related questions: Pride or humility? When do you need inspiration? What gives you purpose? What is the worst job you’ve ever had?

6 thoughts on “What Is Laziness?”

  1. Laziness is sometimes when one chooses to remain inactive when other important things are piling up. Possibly put an exclamation point on this if the inactive person’s non-activity requires more work on others.

    That noted, some things are mistaken for laziness. First, laziness is not necessarily when someone takes a break — sometimes a very long break — so their mind and body can recuperate from prior work. We need some R & R, at times, if we are to come back to activity in ways we can fully contribute. Second, laziness is not necessarily when choose to watch mindless TV, listen to pop music while doing nothing else, or read fluffy magazines. Our brains need to engage in a little mental bubble gum now and then. Third, laziness is not necessarily when we lie down on the couch and do nothing for a while. Sometimes “spacing out” is where sparks of creativity might hit us. Allowing our brains and bodies to rest for some time can be very productive on a subconscious level. And fourth, sleeping in is not necessarily lazy. Proper amounts of sleep contribute to our long-term health.

    Notice I used qualifiers — like “sometimes,” “necessarily,” and “possibly” — in making each of my points. Everything is in context. Sometimes we must work when we are body- or brain-tired, especially if others close to us must do the same. But with that exception, I tend to think that rest plays an important in future productivity.

  2. I think of laziness as avoidance. Avoidance of responsibilities, to oneself or to your community. Sometimes that avoidance can take the form of inactivity or sloth; sometimes the avoidance can take the form of doing many smaller trivial tasks when a larger, more important one looms.

  3. This is a really interesting question. My house is not clean by most people’s standards, I sit around for much of the day and sleep in whenever possible. From the outside, I could be considered “lazy”. What can’t be seen is that I have fibromyalgia, chronic migraines, spina bifida occulta, and ADD. I am in constant pain and have trouble focusing on certain tasks.
    My oldest son sits around much of the day playing video games and chatting with friends. His room is very messy. From the outside, he could be considered “lazy”. What can’t be seen, is that he has ADHD, anxiety and is partially disabled due to a badly damaged shoulder.
    My youngest son sits around much of the day listening to music and watching movies. From the outside, he could be considered “lazy”. What can’t be easily seen, is that he has ADD, Autism, anxiety and depression.
    I think that true laziness is extremely rare. The truth is that most people who are seen as “lazy” have underlying issues that cannot be easily discerned from the outside.

    1. Cecily, thanks for your response. There are obviously many ways to read and answer this question. Your response is not one I had thought of as Lee and I were asking ourselves yesterday: “What question should we ask on Sunday?”

      While I believe laziness exists, you make clear that you and your sons are not — even if that’s what it may look like from the outside. Humility should instruct us that we may really have no idea why some people live life the way they do.

  4. We may think of ourselves as being lazy when we don’t have the self-discipline required to get up and work to accomplish what we think we should do.
    I might think of other people being lazy when I see them not moving enough to keep their body and mind active and healthy (though I know it is not good to judge others).

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