Monday, December 31, 2012

A Perpetual Resolution of Principled Passion

About five years ago, I received the church bulletin in the mail from the congregation where I grew up. In it, there was a short passage purportedly from a 12th century monk that I have since kept on my refrigerator. Perhaps because it is almost new year and personally that means I will also be exiting my twenties in a few short weeks, that Monk's words have resonated with me even more so than usual. The passage reads:
When I was a young man, I wanted to change the world. I found it was difficult to change the world, so I tried to change my nation. When I found I couldn't change my nation, I began to focus on my town. I couldn't change the town , and as an older man, I tried to change my family. Now, as an old man, I realize the only thing I can change is myself, and suddenly I realized that if long ago I had changed myself, I could have made an impact on my family. My family and I could have made an impact on our town. Their impact could have changed the nation and I could have indeed changed the world.
I've never had any grandiose plans to change the world, but I've always wanted the world to change--to be better. I don't advocate the kind of holier-than-thou collective introspection (a contradiction in terms) that liberal politicians advocate when there is a tragedy, an attempt to implicate those who had nothing to do with whatever horrific event happened. However, I think that introspection can be fruitful in helping us have a better understanding of our vice and our flaws, but also our passions and our strengths. How can we get rid of our vices and mitigate our flaws? How can we grow our strengths?  How can recognize our passion and turn that passion into action? What can we change in ourselves to have an impact on our families leading to that ripple effect that changes the world?

There is more than just acting upon a passion.We have to remain firm in our principles that are the foundation for that passion. If one of your passions is your faith, in a fallen world, you will face adversity if you stand firm. If one of your passions is service to others--the poor, children, the elderly-- you may face distractions from life's busyness. If one of your passions is politics, you may face the temptation of compromising your ideological principles for the sake of politics. Despite adversity, distraction or temptation, remain strong in your conviction to change yourself to in turn, impact the world around you. Susan B. Anthony, no stranger to principled passion nor adversity, once said:
"Cautious, careful people, always casting about to preserve their reputation and social standing, never can bring about a reform. Those who are really in earnest must be willing to be anything or nothing in the world's estimation, and publicly and privately, in season and out, avow their sympathy with despised and persecuted ideas and their advocates, and bear the consequences."
Reputation and social standing are fleeting, but principled passion is long lasting. Which is more important? A fleeting social status in an every changing world or rock solid principled passion that changes the world? My flaws and vices are numerous and my passion is too often hidden by timidity, but they aren't too numerous for a faithful God to overcome in my life.  As 2012 transitions into 2013, I'd like to prayerfully resolve myself to a perpetual resolution (that knows no calendar) of principled passion, eschewing timidity and embracing assertive confidence.

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