I attended a 4-year Christian college. Several, actually. And among the usual required courses (English, math, science, humanities, etc.), we also had to take a number a of theology-based courses. It was during these classes that I first learned the value of passion.
The willingness to suffer for a thing. That’s how it was defined to me. Definitely not the traditional understanding, which involves love, desire, even obsession. Well, those can all be elements or effects of passion, certainly, but I gained a keen appreciation for the way my Christian professors described the concept.
Now relax. I’m not about to proselytize or speechify about doing all things with passion. That’s silly and, in my opinion, not at all possible. I admit, it’s a common Christian tenet, but I firmly believe there are lots of things to do without passion. Worthwhile things.
Passion is a great thing. It can provide strength, focus, stability, joy. Passion can provide endurance and purpose when you’ve run out of both.
But passion is also a terrible thing. It can frustrate, bring tears, enervate, and worst of all–make you question yourself. How? Well, as I said, passion is great–so long as you possess other complementary traits. Motivation, energy, strength, focus. In my experience, passion rarely manufactures these independently. In my experience, one or more of these must already exist. Or you will be miserable.
But that’s the whole point, the whole validation of my original meaning. Passion simply is the willingness to suffer for a thing. You may disagree, and that’s fine. I’m not proposing a universal truth. We experience things in different ways.
My mother asked me a few days ago what I’m passionate about. Of course, my response was immediate: writing. Storytelling. Stories in general. I love and live for story. Creating it, receiving it, experiencing it. But she persisted. What else? I must confess, that question still hangs over me. What am I willing to suffer for? Family? Friends? Perhaps. But aren’t most of us? That hardly seems a worthwhile confession. God? Country? Now that appears much more oblique, not terribly personal unless I’m in the ministry, military or government. What am I passionate about?
What’s your passion? I wonder. Is it a simple exercise for you?