Passion Needs Clarity

Most leaders intuitively understand the importance of passion. Leading without it is painful and ultimately either impossible or futile.

Most followers look for a passionate leader.  Nobody really wants to follow a leader who doesn’t wholeheartedly believe in the cause. If you’re not motivated, how are you going to motivate others?

While many ingredients that go into creating passion, an often overlooked ingredient is clarity.  In fact, you might really only see its value when you imagine its absence.  Imagine trying to lead passionately about something you are unclear about – it’s totally a losing battle.  You just can’t get passionate about fog.

Clarity and passion are linked in so many ways.  Here are just a few areas where clarity and passion are game changers:

  • Sort through what you are trying to communicate until you can summarize it in a single sentence.  Then deliver the message with passion.
  • Decide what your organization stands for and write it down, succinctly and clearly. Live it out convincingly.
  • Think and pray through a complex problem until you get to the core of it, then tackle it with enthusiasm.
  • Plot your future and get a clear sense of God’s calling on your life and chase it down with single hearted devotion.

The best thing is that clarity is something you can work on.  It’s hard work, but so refreshing when you arrive at it.

Everyone has a different process for finding clarity.  Mine often looks like this:

  • I work alone on an issue without distraction, often at home (I work out of my home two days a week – it’s empty, the office is not).
  • I think about a problem in all kinds of settings – while ‘working’ and while not working.  I process things while on bike rides, while I’m at the gym, doing yard work, driving, even in down time.
  • I come up with an outline of a problem or a message I’m working on and usually take a stab at writing what we call a “bottom line” – a single sentence that encapsulates an issue or main point of a message.
  • I then walk my rough notes and draft bottom line into a meeting and we talk about it as a team.  Usually we’ll find angles and perspectives I never would have thought of.
  • I revise my outline and bottom line as a result of the team’s input.
  • I repeat the process until it clicks – until we reach an ‘aha’ moment.  When you find clarity you just know it. Don’t quit until you find it.

That’s me.  How about you?  How has clarity helped you find passion?  What do you do to help you arrive at clarity?


  1. Gordon Lacharity on March 10, 2011 at 4:32 pm

    Actually, I’m very anxious now to try your suggestions here. I’ve got that problem of being so over analytical that I miss the simple point. As a result, there never is complete clarity, and therefore my passion always has a limitation!

    I find it so hard to be succinct, or to work something down to a simple sentence, or decide on a precise direction. Perhaps I am approaching all this wrong. Perhaps I ought to use that over-complicating, analytical side as an advantage rather than a hinderance, and use it to reduce something to its simplest point before really tackling it.

    Yes… it certainly is hard work.

  2. rob duncan on March 9, 2011 at 9:30 pm

    Hmmm…I know so many Christians who seem passionate about the Lord but sometimes find it hard to convey exactly what it is about Him that they are passionate about(and I guess I’m one of them!) It’s difficult to put into concise form or words exactly what Jesus means to me. And maybe that’s the key: the fact that we can’t put Him into words. He goes beyond words. It may be something esoteric, I guess. Unless the Holy Spirit reveals it to you, it won’t make sense. I’m not a speaker of tongues, but I understand the concept. That’s about as clear as my passion for Christ gets! Thanks for keeping us engaged week by week, Pastor Carey. You are appreciated!

  3. Chuck on March 9, 2011 at 12:47 pm

    I think passion also needs ACTION.

    I think that one of the reasons I’ve gotten so much out of this entry, a lot of entries like it (and let’s face it, sermon after sermon from Carey….) is what I would call a very consistent James-2-esque attitude. Atti2de? (Urge to be humorous squelched…).

    I mean, look up there…

    “Live it out convincingly.”
    “[T]ackle it with enthusiasm.”
    “Chase it down with singlehearted devotion.”

    Lots of action verbs….lots of active tense…lots of doing…

    But to what end? There it is, right there: clarity. I know so many preachers, so many authors, so many small group leaders who can’t get their passion or drive or vision out of their heads. They know what they want to do and how they envision doing it…but for them it’s hard to articulate, hard to pass on to others. It might be for any number of reasons. They just don’t have the right “language” or means to convey that passion to others around them. I am a chief sinner in this category…

    As highly cheesy as this is going to sound, I was absolutely FLOORED several weeks ago when I found myself one night engaging in an old graduate school pasttime: watching a now-ancient re-run of “Star Trek: the Next Generation”. The episode was called “Darmok”. I’ve seen it 100 times or more, but I must’ve had small group or something on my mind this time… The premise is simple: the Enterprise encounters a race of aliens who speak only in historical metaphor. That is, they spoke to each other in ways that conveyed actions of past figures or ancestors in places that the viewer (or anyone else) can’t understand in proper context because they lack familiarity with the culture. They lack the cultural references and experience to understand the significance and relevance of the metaphor and thus put it in current perspective.

    To spare this blog the diatribe, the alien captain decides with great passion to overcome this obstacle by sending himself and his counterpart on the Enterprise to a planet nearby to battle this dangerous life form…the beast as they would later call it. The captains struggle to understand each other’s language, as do their ships’ compliments in orbit above them. It was only by doing…together…that context, then clarity were finally reached. The alien captain’s passion to see this through to its end resulted in his own death, but earned him the respect of both ships.

    Let me exit “nerd mode” before I bore everyone to tears. Still, I wonder… am I DOING everything that alien captain did with the same passion even up to being ready to give my life to see the fruits of that passion borne? That captain put his and his counterpart’s life in harm’s way…even gave his own, willingly…to break through the barrier.

    Am I willing to do that? Do everything I have to do, even up to and including give my life, for what I’m passionate about?

    I’d better be.

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