Suffering For Your Passion

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Our culture loves to talk about passion. It’s a hot word. “Find your passion.” “Follow your passion.” Etc. etc. etc.

I’m as guilty as the next person of using and misusing that word. Passion is about what moves you. Passion is about what makes you come alive. In short, passion matters.

What we don’t realize about passion is that it’s not just a feel good fun word to throw around (like it’s cousin “yolo”). Passion costs you something.


If you look up passion in the dicitonary, you’ll find something like this:

pas·sion (ˈpaSHən/) noun
1. strong and barely controllable emotion.
2. the suffering and death of Jesus.

If you look up the origin, you’ll find that “passion” come from the Latin, pati — which means “to suffer”. (Here’s proof: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/passion .)

We don’t talk about passion in terms of suffering, but it’s time that we started.

The things you are passionate about are not simply the things that make you feel good and come alive– they are also that things that you’re willing to fight for.

What are those things for you? What would you go to battle for? What do you so deeply desire enough to endure heartache for? What’s the hill that you’re willing to die on?

I know , I know, that is all very dramatic, but it’s also a helpful measure of what matters to you.

If you truly desire something, you will be willing to work for it.

If you know what that is, then you should pursue it. If you simply enjoy something, but don’t want to suffer for it, then you have a nice hobby. This is one of the differences between hobby and life-work.

Here’s a caveat— if you have no idea what you truly desire, and the question of “what are you willing to suffer for?” is utterly confusing and unhelpful, don’t be discouraged! That’s because you have other questions that you need to ask first.

In the comments, I’d love to hear your thoughts on suffering for your passion. What is the meaning that you desire to make? Click here to leave a comment!

Dan Cumberland is on a mission to push you into the places meaning, life, & work intersect. He is the author of The Meaning Manifesto. Read more about him here, and connect with him on facebook and twitter.

There Are 8 Comments On This Post.

  1. Interesting interpretation, Dan. When I was first reading through, though, and read the definition (which felt like an aha! moment for me), I thought you were maybe going to go another way. As I read it (and have been pursuing my passion as a vocation over the past year), I interpreted it to shine light on the reality that following your passion also at times comes with suffering, because our passion comes from the core of ourselves, which means the core of ourselves is also exposed to the world’s sometimes harsh realities (and also asked to do some pretty hard stuff).

    In my experience, the suffering that comes with following your passion is just that: part of following your passion. But in the midst of a season of suffering, I’m not so certain my feeling is “I’m willing to suffer, because it’s my passion.” The suffering just is. In fact, what gets me through in those moments is not simply my passion (because really it’s hard to locate at those times), but my commitment to my passion as a vocation. So, I suppose, in a way it is something I’m willing to suffer for, as you said, but I guess I also feel like the suffering is not just a part of knowing the strength of your passion, but also simply part of the greater process. Which I think is what you’re saying… This is long…maybe we should have just talked about this in person 🙂

    • Also, excited for part 2. And parts 3-10. This is a 10 part series, right?

      • Yes to all of this. I really like your lens on this. Right now this is a two part series, but I’d welcome a guest post for part 3 😉

  2. Joanne

    Yes! After eight years of teaching in both private and public school settings, I am coming to realize that each year doesn’t exactly get ‘easier.’ Suffering comes with following my passion as a classroom teacher. There will always be highs and lows, celebrations and failures, excitement and frustration; but the highs can seem fleeting and the lows can feel like they’ve lasted too long (I’m sure everyone knows that feeling). There are definitely many days I want to just stop and quit, but I am learning to continually refocus on my core desire to teach and mentor kids (that has been instilled in me) to help me through the hard work, difficulties, and conflicts I encounter on a daily basis. On a slightly different but related note, I like to write lists of things I am grateful for when I need some refocusing…but wondering what other people do to help them through their seasons of suffering?

    Thanks for writing about passion and suffering. It is encouraging to be reminded that we are not alone in our journey to create meaningful lives. 🙂

    • I love this, and I love your list making.

      I make things (art, projects, food, etc.) to remind myself that good things can still happen when it feels like they can’t.

      You’re not alone in your journey.

  3. Jens

    Great article!
    My passion was fly fishing.
    In the beginning it was a healthy giving happy sport, but it completely took over my life. I actually left my job and wen’t all in for 18 months before i snapped out of it.
    It was eating me up and consuming me, and i was suffering. In the end it did not bring me happiness at all, but i just had to go anyway.”luckily” i had an accident where i almost drowned, and it became a wake up call for me. That was 2 months ago.
    I have not fished since that incident, and my mind is in such a peaceful place now.
    So in my experience…the suffering part begins, when you continue your passion even though it brings you no joy, but because you simply can’t stop.
    Something has taken over…something that isn’t you.

    • Ryan

      I would say to this… your passion become an addiction. An addiction is never pretty, but only leads to death. It’s so important to use wisdom in all things, especially towards the things we love. You can take something beautiful and completely pervert it into something shameful. All things must be done in moderation… Yes even our passions!

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