To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.

~ Steve Prefontaine ~

Passionately Wrong

December 8th, 2013 ~ Est. reading time: 1 min, 46 secs

Enthusiastic? Yes. But right?

Enthusiastic? Yes. But right?

Being passionate is widely regarded as an admirable characteristic. Unlike the lukewarm level of engagement that commonly features, fervent desire is inspiring. Except, when it’s horribly wrong.

We all know about the zealous fanaticism of terrorists and warmongers, hell bent on wreaking havoc for the sake of their cause. Not to mention the vehement idealists, who insist (no, demand) that everyone must obey what they say. Be it that women be forbidden to make their own choices, that gay people must be killed, and that only a select few are right, leaving all others condemned, berated, and excluded.

Legalistic fundamentalists of all kinds purvey an antisocial approach that denigrates, criticizes, and threatens. Despite being fired up with fervent passion, they live a frightfully misguided life.

Mind you, you don’t have to be a member of the Westboro Baptists in America, a bomb-toting terrorist,  or even an extreme cult member.  Passion without insight is actually a common phenomenon.

Sometimes mad passion is embedded in the socially justifiable. Like the angry caregiver fighting for the rights of people with disabilities. She might win awards. But if that campaigning is driven by a passionate belief that we need to protect the “wretched”, then it’s also condescending, and offensive.

My faith might compel me to enthusiastically berate others for their wickedness. But this kind of impassioned hate fest does nobody good. If anything, it generates a form of like-for-like loathing that makes us all lesser women and men.

Passion is powerful, yet in itself: mindless. It may be directed by noble intent for worthy cause. Or, it can also be a destroying force driven by sinister commitment. To stop it from doing this, social energy requires the refining effect of character and reason.

When I wrote Happy, I spent a long time reflecting about the complexities of passion, happiness, and pleasure. After all, one man’s delight could lead to another’s nightmare. We need to refine the raw energy of our passionate engagement with qualities and purpose, to prevent earnestness turning into ugliness.

So: question, be open to potentials, and always include the truth that there is a universe of knowledge that we just don’t know. Far from making us uncertain, this awareness generates humility and a reluctance to do harm for the sake of shallow justification.

We have power in our passion, to do good or ill. But for it to amount to anything  worthwhile we need to steer it with wisdom and a questioning mind.

There’s Love And Well, There’s Love

Looking For Love

Failure City




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