Passion is defined as a strong feeling of enthusiasm or excitement for something.
Compassion is defined as a feeling of wanting to help someone. It is a conscious sense of another’s distress and a desire to alleviate it.
A leader can be a person who possesses either one of these traits. A leader can demonstrate influence through either one of these traits. But may I suggest that a true servant leader must possess compassion.
Leaders can be excited and enthused over many causes and from a variety of motives. A leader can be enthusiastic about the next hill to climb or objective to be reached. A leader can also be motivated by the excitement of a new title or position. A leader can become enthused by the very nature of power. Therefore, passion requires a strong governing center.
Compassion is other-centered. Its focus is on the wellbeing of another. True compassion has little chance of being about the leader.
Passion only requires an outside stimulus. Something that taps into what already lies within–positively or negatively.
Compassion requires focused observation. Compassion requires deep listening. Compassion by definition is aware of need in someone else.
It is stated in the Bible that there were seven instances in which Jesus felt compassion. Certainly these were not the only occasions where Jesus felt this sensation. But these are the ones recorded for us to study and understand. The compassion of Jesus was a feeling always expressed towards the crowd or an individual. The action of alleviation was varied. In one instance Jesus fed the crowd. In another, he requested prayer for the crowd. On another occasion, Jesus healed the sick that were part of a gathered crowd. Once, the corresponding action Jesus took was to teach the crowd. On one incredible occasion, Jesus raises the dead son of a grieving widow, because he felt compassion for her.
Twice, Jesus tells a story of compassion to make a teaching point for his hearers. Both stories are quite familiar to us. One is the story of the Good Samaritan. The other is the account of the Prodigal Son. One story teaches us that our compassion should lead us to meet the needs of anyone who comes across our path, the one in need. The other teaches us about the gracious and lavish love of a father–literally God, our Father.
The common Greek word for “passion” in our Bibles is almost always negative in its connotation. The Apostle Paul in Colossians 3:5 tells us to “put to death that which is earthly in you . . . (including our) passion.”
Our life in Christ is the governing center that allows our compassion to well up and be expressed in the most generous way. Compassionate leadership serves because He served.
Compassion asks us to go where it hurts, to enter into the places of pain, to share in brokenness, fear, confusion, and anguish. Compassion challenges us to cry out with those in misery, to mourn with those who are lonely, to weep with those in tears. Compassion requires us to be weak with the weak, vulnerable with the vulnerable, and powerless with the powerless. Compassion means full immersion in the condition of being human. Henri Nouwen
We live in a passion saturated world.
Not every passion is bad.
But we could certainly use more compassionate leaders today!