Follow Your Passion?
Follow your passion! It is a common message you hear in the 21st century USA. Get excited and run after your dreams! It is exciting even to type that out. Find the thing you are good at today, the thing you really enjoy doing and make your life about that. I could never tell someone not to do that, but what if the thing I enjoy isn’t the thing I am good at? What if the thing I am good at, can’t provide clothes for my back, a roof over my head, or food on the table? A table! I have to get a table too?!
You see what I did right there? I mentally took a step back. I let myself transition from feeling to thinking. There is nothing wrong with emotion. It has its place, but this is the place for critical thinking. The Apostle Paul used a word to describe this, "Sophron" or the verb "Sophronizo." It means to have a “sound mind.” It describes someone whose thinking is healthy, logical, rational, reasonable, beneficial, reliable, and authoritative.
We know this is an important spiritual characteristic because Paul uses these words to describe the ideal Church leader. The task of leading, guiding, and spiritually growing is impossible without clear thinking.
What does it look like practically to be sophron, have a sound mind? When planning about what to do with your life, it means thinking through the details. It doesn’t just matter what you are passionate about, necessarily. It doesn’t just matter what you feel comfortable doing today. You need to think through some questions such as “how much will that cost in time and money?” “Is that a reasonable cost for what I am getting in return?” “What skills will I need in the future to be able to do that job?” “Are there fears I need to face or personality traits I need to shape?” A clear-thinking mind can answer those questions.
As plain as being “sensible” or “prudent” sounds, there are not many things that can have a greater effect on your life. Making career choices set the tone for the rest of your life. Prudent thinking also helps you navigate all the voices in today’s media telling you what you should think about current events in the news.
Let’s face it. Those voices often lure us toward controversy. The culture is in flux. Values are shifting. How can you be sophron as you are confronted with ideas and people you really, really disagree with? First, you have to listen to the other person. The person you are talking to is not the article you read on Facebook that made you angry. It isn’t the group of people doing horrible things on the news. That person isn’t the political party or celebrity that has offended you deeply. The person you are talking to has a unique perspective and set of beliefs that are his or her own. Get to know that person. Second, find common ground. As different as you think they are from you, if you take the time to listen and think, I am confident you will find much more in common with them than you could have guessed. Even when, you find a disagreement or hurt feelings, ask them why they think that way. Ask them what is the ultimate goal they want to see carried out? As you get underneath the slogans and memes, like I said before, I think you will find that there is much you agree about.
No situation or subject matter can be properly understood by staying on the surface level. Many times an event or a person seems one way on the surface, but you shouldn’t stop there. Look at the issue from different perspectives to see how they reflect the truth. Investigate the details. It is under the surface where the essence lies. The events and the issues of the day are always way more complicated than the talking heads on TV screens are willing to admit. Rush Limbaugh and Rachel Maddow both don’t get paid for nuance.
So the next time you get into a disagreement with a neighbor, coworker, or acquaintance, give them the same invitation God gives us all in Isaiah 1:18 “Come now, and let us reason together,” says the LORD.”