Sitting in a doctor’s office waiting for a cancer treatment, Susan Komen looked at her sister Nancy and said, “As soon as I get better, let’s do something about this. You can find a way to speed up the research. I know you can. And I want to fix up this waiting room and make it pretty for the women who have to be here. This isn’t right.”
Sadly, Susan didn’t win her fight with cancer. She died in1980. But her vision was carried forward by her sister Nancy Brinker.
In 1982, Brinker combined something she liked to do, running, with a cause she now cared deeply about, breast cancer. The first run was in Dallas with eight hundred participants. It’s now an annual event held all over the world. As of this writing, the Susan G. Komen non-profit has invested over $3 billion in research, advocacy, and community health in over sixty countries.
Two Streams of Passion Potential
There are two streams of passion potential in everyone. Both streams flow from self-directed sources of motivation. The first stream of passion is interest-based. These are things you do for fun that bring you pleasure. The second stream is your issue-based passions, activities you find fulfilling that give you a sense of purpose.
Passion, both interest-and issue-based, is rarely produced in a vacuum. Don’t expect a randomly occurring spontaneous combustion of passion that instantly prioritizes the opportunities available to realize your potential and make a difference in the lives of others.
Interest-based passions form when ability and opportunity converge. Some people are passionate about chess, others running, still others, handicrafts, and so on. We tend to like what we’re good at and be good at what we like.
Issue-based passions develop at the intersection of experience and empathy. If you talk to someone who is passionate about homelessness or sex trafficking or curing breast cancer, just to give a few examples, you will discover somewhere in their journey, one or more meaningful experiences that unearthed a heightened level of empathy, the headwaters of a stream of issue-based passion.
Sometimes interest and issue-based passions converge into one. I call this incarnational passion, because it allows us to live out our passions even more fully. Incarnational passion allows you to combine something you like to do with a cause you care deeply about.
Nancy Brinker combined her interest-based passion for running into fundraising for her issue-based passion of cancer treatment and prevention, forming an incarnational passion that’s become her life’s work.
You’ve no doubt seen this happen in others. Most expressions of incarnational passion don’t have global brands and million-dollar budgets. And they don’t have to be birthed by tragedy. I know of people who combined a love of sports with a passion for community service to help kids in under-resourced neighborhoods. Women from a church near me use their interest in sowing to help refugees develop skills and start their own business. The possibilities are as many as the passions you can imagine.
This is what happens when two streams of passion, interest and issue-based, converge into one river of incarnational passion. You shouldn’t try to force this on yourself or others. But you should be aware of the possibility and embrace the opportunity when it surfaces.
If you found this blog helpful and want to learn more, check out the latest episode of Learning @ the Speed of Life, The 5 Most Common Questions About Passion.