For those that know me, words carry a lot of power. They define behavior and thought. In this light, I hope to share my thoughts on a very important word, passion. I hope those that read this will find this thought-provoking and helpful.
The modern use of the word passion has little to do with its root or original meaning. This change in meaning and its use in our modern world has caused some reflection on my part for the last two decades. It is something that I have discovered to be undesirable in its modern use.
The root of the word passion is patior, meaning to suffer. We see the use of this word in early Christianity. The Passion of Christ, or His suffering in Gethsemane and on the cross. Or the passion of the early martyrs of Christianity.
However, in today’s usage, the word now means extreme emotion, compelling one to irrational behavior or blinding one to sensibility. The most common phrase I hear goes something like this, “I’m sorry if I have offended you; I’m just so passionate about this.” In other words, I can’t control my passion, and my passion is to blame for any wrongdoing.
Passion, in the modern sense, has never benefited me in my professional career. Rather I go through great effort to make sure I avoid it. One such rule I have implemented to counter this is I avoid making difficult, non-life-threatening decisions for at least 24 hours. Doing so will help ensure that emotion is not getting the best of me. There is an Arabic saying, let the words roll on your tongue seven times before speaking. In other words, think thoroughly before speaking. Don’t speak with emotion, or else you are likely to say something you shouldn’t.
In my career, I tell those I oversee I don’t want their passion. Rather I want them to love what they do but to be rational, sensible, kind, and considerate. I need them to be open to ideas and able to discuss solutions. I need my team to be level-headed and temperate to allow thought to flourish. Passion is the enemy of team-based creativity. It causes others to be silent in fear of speaking in contradiction to passion. Passion leads to tyrannical leadership as it doesn’t allow for the leader to listen and contemplate. It is the antithesis of unity.
Yet, for some reason, passion is used as an acceptable excuse for poor behavior. I think this is due to a misunderstanding of the word and its usage. My hope is that in educating others on what the word means, I might be able to improve behavior and thereby improve the ability of those I lead to work together in unity.