Passion, Anybody?


“What are you passionate about?” Anyone’s who’s ever had a job interview has had to endure this question. It’s first up on the eHarmony profile (and if you’re afraid that, despite your best efforts, your response will be a cliché—‘family and friends!’—there are coaches who will help you write something catchier).

I bring up passion because Christians are heading into the week that lifts up “The Passion of Christ,” and if we don’t understand what this word means we will miss the whole point of Christ’s passion—and ours.

“Passion” comes from the Latin root passio and means simply “suffering.” It carries the connotation that some outside force presses upon you and compels you to undergo suffering for something or someone. By that definition it’s easy to see, then, why we refer to the last days of Jesus’ life as his “Passion.” He suffered. For others.

But, by that definition, how in the world are we to understand the insistent probing for what you are “passionate about”? Clearly, it’s not about suffering. The answer to that oddity lies in the centuries of shifting and shading in the meaning of “passion.” Gradually the word came to mean any strong feeling or emotion, especially sexual desire. The modern use of the word now has nothing to do with passio—suffering.

I have always bristled at that query, What are you passionate about? I’m Norwegian, for heaven’s sake—we don’t get passionate, we just get to work. Actually, my problem with the “passionate” question is that it can be wholly personal and private. Recovering the original sense of passio, I would rather ask people (especially young people), “What are you willing to suffer for? Who are you willing to suffer for?” I don’t mean the heroic or romantic invocation to blood and anguish. I just mean, Will you wash the dishes when you don’t feel like it, so that someone else is free? Will you spend an hour with a child, an hour you don’t have? Will you visit that one in the hospital, when to do so makes you feel old or vulnerable or helpless yourself? Will you give away your money until it stings, so that someone else can live? Will you open the way for others to succeed even if your own career may suffer?

It’s fine to follow your passion, whatever that means for you. Just remember (this Week) that your soul cannot live on that. I’m only telling you what you know: the deep and abiding joys, the ones that bind your little life to something so much bigger—for them you have to suffer.

6 Responses to Passion, Anybody?
  1. Michael
    March 22, 2018 | 6:18 pm

    Thanks David. Good reminder that what I’m passionate about i’m willing to suffer for.

  2. Sue
    March 22, 2018 | 7:22 pm

    Thank you David, that was a very thought provoking piece.

  3. Clark Johnson
    March 23, 2018 | 10:49 am

    David, Always look forward to and receive a lot from your blogs! !

  4. Julie
    March 24, 2018 | 9:28 am

    Your words bring us to a clearer understanding of suffering.

  5. Johnna
    March 24, 2018 | 4:27 pm

    Thank you for the words, David. Peace and grace as you walk through these days.

  6. Karen
    March 25, 2018 | 8:21 pm

    Another great piece, David! Thanks for reminding us that true joy comes from serving others–and not ourselves–and for that we have to suffer.

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