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The Crime of No Passion

Collected thoughts from a speech I’m giving at my Rotary Club Leadership Retreat today. It applies to life, not just to Rotary.

Why do human beings fear passion? Down the tunnel of time, people who exhibit passion have been called….crazy. Cuckoo. Nuts. Overbearing. Other Unflattering Adjectives. A crime of passion doesn’t conjure anything positive, as we recall the scenes of murder, suicide and mayhem that parade across paper pages and blinking screens.

Most people spend their lives suppressing their passions, lest they be viewed as one of the Nut Jobs Who Scare People by the People Who Are Too Scared to Care Too Much About Anything. They don’t throw an ember of sizzle into their jobs, lest they fail to achieve their dreams. True friends never know how much they matter, because showing it is mushy or uncomfortable. Spouses languish in the corner, oblivious to how passionately they might be loved or cherished. Children learn early to suppress their passions from parents who teach them to avoid it rather than to embrace it.

We make lots of excuses for the crime of no passion. My passion won’t really make a difference anyway. It’s too much emotional effort and hard work to care this much. My friends know they matter to me, really. I would never stay married to someone about whom I’m not passionate….and my partner KNOWS it. Somehow. Deep down, I’m afraid to look ridiculous, hanging out there as the only person who cares, risking taunting jabs from my peers when I ultimately fail.

In my life, my misguided passion has destroyed many things. A first marriage. A relationship I wanted to be a marriage. A volunteer effort. Even a job. So, how can I possibly muster the will to care, to burn that flame of heated passion, ever again?

Perhaps I never learn.

I’m passionate about Rotary because of what it does. Take our Happy Feet program, which buys school shoes for needy kids in our community. I readily admit that some of the kids who come for freebies don’t need them. But, I show up every year to see the explosion of wonder behind the guarded eyes of a child whose shoes are two sizes too small and duct-taped together. Once she realizes she can pick out a new pair of shoes – any shoes – and wear them home, she stands taller, steps truer, grins wider. The echoes of her thank-yous ring in my ears for months, riding a wave to the next one. And the next one. And the next one. A tidal wave of passion.

I cannot make anyone else have passion for a thing. No amount of goading or begging or manipulating will ignite the true fires of another’s passion. It has to burn from within an individual, and most people will decide they don’t need it.

But.

Inciting the fearless pursuit of passion in a few can build a team of people who will impact the world for the better. If that’s all I accomplish in my year as President of my Rotary Club……..I’ll take it.

What’s your passion?

60 Comments Post a comment
  1. I love your passion for everything that you do, knock em dead at your Leadership Retreat, wish I could be there.

    May 16, 2012
    • Aaaaaaaaaand, I CRIED in front of everybody at my Leadership Retreat, which probably mortified them to death more than anything else.

      I hope you and Miss TK are well on your way to Venice. I’m so glad you are taking this trip and cannot wait to hear about it.

      May 16, 2012
  2. That would be an accomplishement and a half. I don’t doubt your ability to do it either!

    May 16, 2012
    • I appreciate your vote of confidence, Fiona. I still doubt myself regularly. :) And, then I bulldoze ahead and do it anyway.

      May 16, 2012
  3. Go for it Andra!

    May 16, 2012
    • I’ll do the best I can, Jim. I need much more Oily and Aunty Bill and Fanny Redcrack to keep my sense of humor honed. :)

      May 16, 2012
  4. If I could live in a world where people didn’t look at my like I have turned bright fuchsia and set my hair of fire for exhibiting a little more happiness and passion than the next person I would be in heaven. Thank you Andra I think I needed to hear this this morning.

    May 16, 2012
    • Meg, I hope you light the world on fire. :) That’ll show them.

      May 16, 2012
  5. As you probably know (since my bladder is so close to my tear ducts) I cried reading your blog this morning. Partly because your words touched me for the little girl who received such a startling and much needed gift of shoes (of which I am a fan…shoes), and partly because I believe my passion pilot light has gone out and I’m just existing. Whatever the reason I do so enjoy reading about your passion and I’m glad that you forge ahead. You are a force Andra. :)

    May 16, 2012
    • Lori, your passion for so many things shines through in the things you post and say. Life shifts and it changes, and it does have a tendency to douse our flame with water from time to time. It’s happened to me…….it happens to all of us. We’re all pulling for you. xo

      May 16, 2012
  6. mtm #

    Lori: As you so poignantly put it, all it takes is to strike a simple match to re-ignite your ‘passion pilot light’…doesn’t take a blow torch, a flame thrower or a miracle of spontaneous combustion. You will do it, and we all hope you share it with everyone here.

    May 16, 2012
  7. Indeed, Lori, I’m a bit teary-eyed myself . . .

    Thank God, Andra, that there ARE people like you to ignite (or re-ignite) passion in those who never had such fire, or those who, for whatever the reasons, have lost it along the way. The Rotary group over which you will preside this next year had best polish its passion gene as it’s gonna get a workout for sure!

    May 16, 2012
    • I can’t make them care. All I can do is set an example. Being the example is a scary place to be. :)

      May 16, 2012
      • Being in a bit of a scary place is not necessarily a bad thing….keeps one humble. Lord knows we have plenty of evidence of “leaders” who are not so!

        May 17, 2012
  8. Andra, your passion, and fearlessness in the face of life is an inspiration to me. Thank you for inspiring this morning. And Lori, I understand the feeling of the ‘passion pilot light’ having gone out. Sometimes the knocks that life deals or the decisions we must make take a long time to learn to live with…and for a while, life can feel like a wet blanket smothering the flame. But keep feeding the flame with the right mix of air and fuel, and it will roar! (Words I’m taking for myself too.)

    May 16, 2012
  9. James Moffitt #

    Wow, a very powerful post Andra….. :) I used to be passionate about ministry in the church. Your post reminded me of the time that I was on fire for God and wanted to do his work in the Baptist denomination (about 25 years ago). Then I got a divorce and I was told that I would never be used by God again. That lesson sent me into a tail spin that has lasted way too long. Maybe my passion for reaching people and doing good does not have to be in christian ministry? Do not get me wrong, I believe that Katy and I let our light shine for our faith and when the windows of opportunity arise we share our faith in Christ. Your post may have just given me a renewed hope that there is a channel or place that I can still be used…. You have given me something to think about.

    May 16, 2012
    • This sort of things makes my blood boil, James. I suppose those people who told you that had a different Bible than the one I’ve read, because God tended to use people who weren’t perfect, who in many cases were the most imperfect examples of people on hand. I have known so many judgmental people just like that throughout my life, and they are a detriment to the belief they are so proud of.

      Enough of that.

      I hope you find a place that fits you, James. Rotary would certainly benefit from your membership, wherever you decided to participate.

      May 16, 2012
      • James Moffitt #

        You have certainly sparked a LOT of interest in me with regards to Rotary. :) Katy and I both love people and we want to DO whatever we can to bless others. I believe that Rotary certainly could provide an avenue to do just that. As I have said before, I LOVE the fact that Rotary is not motivated by political or religious agendas. Maybe we (the four of us) could sit down and chat about this more over a cup of coffee or whatever. :)

        May 16, 2012
      • Always happy to talk Rotary with interested people, James. Let me know what might work for you.

        May 16, 2012
    • They obviously did not live the faith they professed to believe. If they were to listen, Christ would tell them to accept you for who you are. God uses all, high and low.

      May 16, 2012
  10. May I also add that you have passion for your writing. The kids your Rotary helps are lucky indeed. AND I like your willingness to touch on the fact that not everybody accepting help necessarily “needs” it. But I love even more your willingness not to judge. They are there. The front the family is putting up may be a false one, and the kid who seems to need shoes the least may actually need them quite a lot.

    May 16, 2012
    • In my talk, I did use the example of my passion for writing, and how I’ve had to develop a standard response if someone asks me about it. “Do you REALLY want to know how my book is going? Because, that’s a long-and-passionate discussion. Or, do you just want the standard – it’s going?”

      May 16, 2012
  11. My passion is lost in a confusing maelstrom of emotions right now, but I think that I am most passionate about pursuing passion. By this I mean, finding that spark that motivates you, living the dream, and not giving in or accepting life that just is.

    May 16, 2012
    • The pursuit of passion does give enhanced meaning to life. I know you will find what you seek, Lisa.

      May 16, 2012
  12. Watch Equilibrium. Christian Bale. Taye Diggs. All of the passion and none of it. (warning, yes it is philosophical action movie)

    http://ia.media-imdb.com/images/M/MV5BMTkwNzU3NTExNl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTYwMjYyMzE3._V1._SX485_SY320_.jpg

    May 16, 2012
  13. Totally agree.

    “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” – Howard Thurman

    May 16, 2012
  14. Hadn’t considered it the pursuit of passion that caused medical professionals to label me “bipolar”–passionate in the extreme–passionate in both directions, good and bad. Love the implications of this–and it sounds like Rotary is doing amazing work. Hope you’ve had/are having a great retreat. Your speech will be a treat, at least, to others in attendance.
    Hugs,
    Kathy

    May 16, 2012
    • I don’t know how much of a treat it was, Kathy, but it is done. I don’t mind talking in front of groups. In fact, I’ve been a paid speaker here and there.

      It is interesting that bipolar disorder could be associated with passion. In most cases, I’m sure it would have to be.

      May 16, 2012
  15. Wonderful.

    May 16, 2012
  16. Passion makes it happen! What a FEELING!

    May 16, 2012
  17. I love this and in my opinion people who do not have a passion are D-E-A-D already. Their body might be here but it is without soul.

    May 16, 2012
    • Marie, one of the things I love most about you is your passion. You are one of the most passionate people I’ve ever met.

      May 16, 2012
  18. I know you did well at your retreat… your passion showed through your tears and made a difference. Those you spoke to went away better than they came in, and no doubt will be better leaders. We are all afraid to be seen as ridiculous… as long as there is a purpose, don’t ever doubt yourself.

    May 16, 2012
    • It was just one of those things I knew would happen no matter what I did to not cry.

      May 16, 2012
  19. Happy Feet! What a great outreach to participate in. Your words made me tear up a bit, Andra. I’m sure your speech went well and that you will have a great year as pres.

    May 16, 2012
    • I can just do the best I can during my year, Penny. I hope that is inspiring.

      May 16, 2012
  20. If your definition of your passion is that you’ve never learned, then all I can say is I’m glad, because I’m sure your passion influences many people in positive ways.
    Your energetic posts are a joy to read every day. :)

    May 16, 2012
    • Aw, Heather. Now I’m tearing up again. :) Thank you for saying such a nice thing.

      May 16, 2012
  21. The Good Luck Duck #

    So true, these things you said. Passion is terrifying. And exhausting. And often disappointing.

    I didn’t know about this Happy Feet program of Rotary’s. How wonderfully front-line! The pictures look like Rotary takes over a shoe store – is that how it happens?

    Roxanne
    The Good Luck Duck

    May 16, 2012
    • We partner with Target to do our event. They open the store early for us and dedicate one register to run everything through. They give us a price break on each pair of shoes so that we can give more in total.

      May 16, 2012
      • The Good Luck Duck #

        Awesome!

        May 16, 2012
  22. Lovely to know thy self and thy passions, Andra! Sadly, my passions come off too self righteous when I get going…making me a force that even I have no control. (dig the bean…sigh, need to hit chicago some weekend..another passion ;))

    May 16, 2012
    • I often get carried away with my passions and have to remind myself to shut up. :) Rotary was founded in Chicago, so the bean was an homage to that. MTM lived there for six years, and it is a favorite of ours to visit. Always, always fun for me.

      May 17, 2012
  23. If you can just embrace the exuberance you carry naturally, Andra, you’ll accomplish so much more than most! I don’t know why people hang back. Maybe it’s simply that passion is exhausting, and sometimes we can be lazy! You weren’t elected President because you were the only one who could do the job. You were elected because others recognize that you care, are passionate about everything you do, and have an ability to energize others. That’s a gift! oxo Debra

    May 17, 2012
    • Passion is exhausting. I hope I have matured enough to keep my eyes and ears wide open to gauge those around me. Thank you for these kind comments, Debra.

      May 17, 2012
  24. I’m glad you embrace your passion! You’re right, too many people are afraid to.

    May 17, 2012
  25. Insipidity is something I have always despised. Whether we like it or not, our passions are there and they run deep. Those who claim to have none have them buried deepest of all. Passion is what informs the greatest steps mankind has made, and the greatest words every written. And incidentally, it informs that wonderful writing of yours. I know every other person who comes here to read will agree.

    May 17, 2012
    • Thank you, Kate. It is always a joy to meet others who embrace life with passion, and you are one of those people. I was so lucky to meet you.

      May 17, 2012
  26. Passion is important to thriving. Your inspiration can drive passion in others that you influence. To often, some leaders think they have little influence in motivating others to greatness.

    It’s so good to see that you are infusing your passion in to those around you. I look forward to hearing more about the impact of your leadership throughout your year as president. Great things will happen because of who you are and how you inspire others.

    May 18, 2012
  27. These days, I’m doing more reading than commenting but had to come back here and tell you how much I loved this one.

    May 22, 2012

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