The Perils of Passionate Speech

I hear the excuse of passion often. Someone says something outrageous and their defenders say:

You can’t blame a person for being passionate.

Sure, but you have to love their passion.

Yes, but that was the passion talking.

To which I would answer:

Yes I can.

No I don’t.

Tell the passion to pipe down.

Here’s the problem with letting passion rule one’s words: it eventually rules one’s actions as well, and at times with disastrous results.

“From … passionate intensity emerges the totalitarian impulse. By their very nature, passions are deaf to reason and blind to limits or distinctions.” Elijah Mvundura.

There is a better way. It does not deny passion but it does call for sober control of all you are.

  • Your hopes:

Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance.(1 Peter 1:13-14.)

  • The way you love others:

The end of all things is near. Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray. Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. (1 Peter 4:7-8.)

  • Even your very faith in times of trouble:

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. (1 Peter 5:8-9.)

God has given you the mind of Christ. (1 Corinthians 2:16.) This includes being of sober judgment in addition to the ability to experience passions. Jesus sure did, and deeply. (Luke 22:44.) Your passions are a part of you, but don’t let them rule you or become an excuse for ill-advised words or actions.

Exercise your mind to glorify God, whether with your passions or otherwise.


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11 Responses to The Perils of Passionate Speech

  1. Well, that phrase “passionate intensity” got me thinking of Yeats’s “The Second Coming” which caused me to google the poem and read it, which somehow made me think about Donald Trump, and now I feel really (passionately) bummed. But seriously, these words are pretty sobering and a good warning.

    • Tim says:

      I didn’t mean to apply this to any particular modern person, Jeannie, since the portion of the article I took it from is a historical view of where this type of speech has led and it made me think of even more ancient cautions on speech from Peter’s first epistle.

      But on the Yeats poem, what do you think about writing a post on it and letting me run it here as a guest post?

      • Actually I think I’d be a bit out of my depth with that one, Tim — it’s really just that I was so struck by how timely the words are. (To me it’s no stretch to see DT as a rough beast with a pitiless gaze, surrounded by indignant birds — whoa!!!) Right after the bit you quoted above, the writer says how “Primal passions: fear, egoism, anger, and hatred, the kind that Mussolini and Hitler exploited and mobilized, are once again potent factors in the politics of Western democracies.” The old adage about learning from history so that we’re not doomed to repeat it seems pretty apt too.

        • Tim says:

          That’s where I think the writer is focusing too narrowly. These are potent factors in politics across the globe. There is no region immune, and there are countries in some that have fully succumbed to them.

  2. The best lack all conviction, while the worst
    Are full of passionate intensity…

    I think a lot of us need more passion. Perhaps the key isn’t how well thought through your passion is, the intensely passionate ‘worst’ keep telling very well thought through and logical their views are. They just have a blind spot in their ‘logic’ about how unjust and oppressive it is to those on the receiving end. I think passion for social justice and to end oppression is much safer than passion to punish whoever the scapegoats *cough*Mexicans*cough* *cough*Muslim refugees*cough* are. Of course we are in as much danger ourselves when our passions switch from the oppressed to those responsible for the oppression. That is when we need a more sober and dare I say compassionate judgement.

    And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
    Slouches towards the White House to be born?

    • Tim says:

      I don’t mean this to become a discussion of the present political landscape, since we can let our passions rule us wrongly in so many aspects of life that are not at all political. The issue I saw in the problems with passions is when they are the ones ruling us rather than the other way around. That can happen with me in so many ways.

  3. From Psychology Today posted 11/28/2012 and written by Jennifer Kunst Ph.D: “Not only is the musical, The Book of Mormon, a side-splitting parody of religion, it offers keen insights into human nature as well. As a psychoanalyst, I was particularly struck by their vivid picture of how we foolishly try to manage our difficult feelings by turning them off like a light switch.”

    The PhD here is referring to the 5th song in the musical, “Turn It Off”. When I saw this off-Broadway, this song went to the point of my own denial of feelings due to programmed religious constraint. Granted I am in no way Mormon, however, this song had a message for me. Kunst goes on to explain in her article, that we need to manage feelings.

    As a Christian, I believe the Bible does actually teach us how to manage with maturity rather than deny with disdain or burst with boisterousness our feelings. However, we need to discern this from the Bible ourselves as the church or group think does not always get it right.

    Thank God for our feelings and our passion – we can own them. And thankfully the Holy Spirit guides us in using these for good and for God’s glory.

  4. Tina Seward says:

    Part of the fruit of the spirit IS “self-control”.

  5. Pingback: Men and Women: a false gender dichotomy of being rational and emotional | Tim's Blog – Just One Train Wreck After Another

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