There Is A Difference

According to the good folks at Merriam-Webster:

passion: ardent affection : LOVE b : a strong liking or desire for or devotion to some activity, object, or concept

charisma: a special magnetic charm or appeal

personality: the complex of characteristics that distinguishes an individual or a nation or group; especially : the totality of an individual’s behavioral and emotional characteristics

I’ve been hearing a great deal about passion lately. Seems lots of people want that from their pastors, or potential pastors, these days. They use it in sentences like, “I really like that guy when he teaches, man. He’s full of passion.”

The problem that I have is that people are usually using the three words I defined above interchangeably. See, when I think of passion I think of the definition above.

And I am passionate about some things: Christ. My wife and kids. The study of God’s Word. And I’m also passionate about things of a more elementary order. You know, like Auburn football. Mississippi Delta blues. Reading/Writing (hence, words).

And my personality demands that my passion be displayed in different ways at different times. So, for example, when I was growing up in church it was highly liturgical…we listened a lot. We were really somber. We were wrangled by parents. Auburn football games we attended were loud, raucous and intensely emotional. Some of you know what I’m talking about in both cases. But both were passionate pursuits for me, but the “totality of behavioral and emotional characteristics” were displayed in both instances–simply in different (and may I suggest, appropriate, ways).

In the charisma department we’ve all met people that could just walk into a room and have a certain quality that drew others to them. Think of Gwen Stefani or Justin Timberlake…I mean…they’re full of charisma. That’s what makes them stars in an industry full of incredibly talented people. They just have “IT”…which is a vague intangible, when it comes down to it. But we all know people that just have whatever “IT” is. I mean, you have other celebrities that you like or don’t like and you really don’t even know them. Usually that’s because some are more charismatic than others, for whatever the reason.

Why am I telling you this?

Because I don’t want people to mistake passion for charisma or personality. Do you think that The Ramones could have the same intensity for their music on night 186 of a 220 night tour? Likely not…but they could be just as passionate about the music, or entertaining their fans or whatever else their motivations might’ve been each night. But fans could think they did, because their charisma or collective band personality got them through it.

Do you think a school teacher can have the same intensity for a subject on the 4th of 5 class periods that day? Probably not…although that might be a little easier. But a teacher’s charisma or personality combined with their training/classroom style could still show an effectiveness with students in both content and presentation. We all had teachers we liked and didn’t like as much, but we learned from each one, didn’t we?

And it’s the same for pastors, too. We all have our “complex characteristics” and backgrounds and training (yes, seminaries have different styles of training in the pulpit) and some have “IT” and others not so much–

–all of which have different responses in different arenas. I mean, we’re going to behave differently in various circumstances. You know, a pastor at a baseball game might be different in a worship service (even if not leading that service) and most of that behavior is going to be driven by those “complex characteristics” that come out through their personalities–

But that doesn’t mean that they aren’t passionate about what they do.

So, why am I telling you all this today?

Because words mean things.

And it’s important that you make sure you say what you mean.

Because you can cheapen passion by mistaking it for charisma or personality.

Because any professional in any line of work can handle it if you say they don’t have charisma, or maybe you don’t like their personality.

But make very sure you mean what you say when you say somebody lacks (or doesn’t have) passion. Because if they do have passion and you accuse them of not having passion, you might just see a side of their personality you don’t like when they choose to say what they mean.

And they won’t care about their charisma rating, either.