Partial Credit for Passion

Proverbs 19:2 says, “Enthusiasm without knowledge is no good; haste makes mistakes.”

Maybe you’re familiar with similar proverbs like “Haste makes waste” or “Measure twice, cut once.” They all speak to the value of taking your time in order to execute a task at the highest level.

But let’s face it, precision and patience aren’t exactly sexy virtues these days. 
 In high school, I remember hearing different strategies for taking exams.
One was “Always check your work.” The other? “Always go with your first instinct. Trust your gut.”
In hindsight, this is confusing advice.
If my gut is dependable, why do I need to circle back and check? I don’t want to spend energy second-guessing myself. Trusting your first answer is easier; checking your work is tedious.

As a result, when faced with the choice between passion and patience, we tend towards passion.
We want passionate athletes, passionate employees, passionate spouses and passionate preachers.


These are compelling and contagious character traits. 
We want them and we want to be around those who have them.
And yet, Proverbs tells us that, as good as these are, they only count for partial credit in life.

Enthusiasm isn’t bad. But when it’s not paired with knowledge, it’s not helpful. There’s a classic scene in a film where a guitarist is bragging about an amp that doesn’t just go to a 10; it goes to 11. Louder, or the perception of louder, is always better, right?

Not exactly.
Passionate athletes without knowledge of the game don’t win championships.
CEO’s who don’t understand their business, even if they give great motivational speeches, can’t lead companies to greatness. And yes, even preachers can’t preach churches to transformation without knowledge: of themselves, of the Scripture and of their context and culture.

I remember working with an emerging leader once and I shared this concept with him. 
He was nonplussed. Maybe he wrote me off as an old-timer who couldn’t match his energy level. I wasn’t asking him to turn down his passion; I just wanted him to complement it with wisdom.
Because passion + perspective always results in increased capacity for spiritual influence.

Think of a blacksmith forging a sword. He starts by putting steel into a fire- that’s passion. If, however, he never hammers that soft steel into something sharp, all he’ll have is a white-hot metal stick. Knowledge, wisdom, experience and perspective are the hammer and tongs that give that steel an edge. They give it form and precision.

Enthusiasm is great. It’s just not enough. So be enthusiastic, just make sure you temper it with insight.

Craig Custance