Passion and Passivity

Over the next few months, readers of this blog should get used to commentary about rejecting passivity. I will be working on a project with my comrades in the Brotherhood of St. Joseph. We will create a men’s study guide on five general principles of character development that our church’s men’s ministry emphasizes. Those five principles are:

  • reject passivity
  • accept responsibility
  • lead with courage
  • stay with it
  • seek an eternal reward.

These principles can be thought of as “Five Steps for Becoming a Man of God.” [Four of the five principles are borrowed from a book by Robert Lewis, Raising a Modern-Day Knight: A Father’s Role in Guiding His Son to Authentic Manhood (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1997). “Stay with it” does not appear in the book, but is implied therein.]

(Note to any women reading this: Feel free to continue reading. Although men are my primary target audience here, women can gain something from these principles too. By the way, that “something” is not “ammunition with which to nag your husband.)

So, since rejecting passivity is the first step to becoming a true man of God, I will be reflecting on it a lot in the coming months.

It occurred to me today that “passivity” starts with the same five letters as does “passion.” Yet, these words are virtual opposites. Someone who is passionate cannot be passive at the same time, about the same thing.

Think of the passionate sports fan. A guy who loves football will plan his weekend around the schedule of games on television. He will schedule his other activities to make certain they do not coincide with the “important” games. He may invite his buddies over, and he will be certain the appropriate refreshments are handy before the opening kickoff.  Chips, salsa, and beverages should be right in front of him at game time; he will not have time to move from the couch after that. If, heaven forbid, somebody else forces him to do something that they deem important, at the same time as the “big game,” Mr. Football Fanatic will be certain to set his TiVo, DVR, or whatever other recording device he has available, so that he does not miss it.

My friends know I am not a passionate fan of American football. I will occasionally find myself watching a game, but it is not something I plan. I admit, I am much more passive about football.

In fact, there are really only two sports I am passionate about: soccer and hockey. I will schedule my weekend around a soccer or hockey game. In the case of most other sports, my attitude runs from passive to apathetic. I will watch baseball if I have nothing else to do; I enjoy it, but I can live without it.

Most men are passionate about something. Our problem, though, is that we can get passionate about the wrong things. I have known a few too many Christians who skip church throughout the NFL season. They say they love God, but they are rather passive about their relationship with Him. Their true passion is football, not Jesus.

If you want to know what you are passionate about, just think: What sort of things do you pursue? What do you go out of your way to obtain? There is a huge difference between the things you are passionate about (the things you pursue) and the things you just casually accept (the things you are passive about).

Sadly, many marriages can see this difference in action. How often do young lovers passionately pursue each other? Every waking minute can be a countdown until the moment they will see each other again. When they cannot get together in person, they may spend hours on the phone, talking about the most trivial details of their days as if they were headline news events. When they were together, their eyes were glued to their beloved’s face.

A few years into marriage, and the wife might sit on the husband’s lap, and he will say, “Hey, you’re in the way! I cannot see the TV!” Passion gives way to passivity. He will get around to her when he cannot find anything on TV. Other passions have taken her place in his heart.

So, perhaps rejecting passivity is not really as hard it may sound. Perhaps the key is to develop a passion for the things that matter to God. What are some of the things that matter to Him?

  • My relationship with God (including prayer and Bible study)
  • My relationship with my wife
  • My relationship with other family (son, grandson, etc.)
  • The ministries He has called me to serve in
  • My job, particularly as a means to serve others in His name

It is not wrong to have other passions. However, the man of God must develop a passion, first and foremost, for the things that matter to the Lord. When a man lacks passion in any of these important areas, it might mean he has invested passion in something that does not matter.

Once you find a passion, you need to hold onto it. Humans can be incredibly passionate, but we can also be fickle. We stay passionate about something for as long as it is new, exciting, unusual, or for as long as there are new things to learn about it. Once it becomes comfortable, familiar and reliable, passion gives way to passivity.

So, take a look at yourself: Do you have a passion for God? Do you have a passion for the people God wants you to be passionate about? Are there areas where you should have more passion? If so, what can you do to develop a passion in those areas? These are the questions I will be asking myself in the coming months. I hope you ask yourself the same questions, and ask God to show you the truth about yourself. Then, may He ignite a fire in your heart for the things He is passionate about.

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