Passion and Safety
I had fascinating discussion with a safety person this week about passion. We discussed an acquaintance who we both considered naïve but my friend thought this was OK, excused by an extreme passion for safety. I disagreed. Passion, the intense sense of conviction and desire, is dangerous when based on naivety. Passion should always be moderated by Wisdom.
We use the word ‘passion’ in several ways, in speaking about love of another or love for a principle or belief. Passion is an emotion and sometimes describes a conglomeration of emotions. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes we need a level of passion to help push through things to reach a goal. But passion in itself can also be a hindrance and harm when Wisdom is needed.
We sometimes are advised to follow our passion when choosing a career. Similarly, we are told to pursue our dreams. However, raw passion can be dangerous without sensibility, wisdom and realism. For example, it’s easy to be passionate with unreal expectations eg. zero, perfectionism. Pursuing your passion can also lead to disappointment when perfection is not realized! This is why perfectionism is listed as a mental health disorder along with OCD . I’ll never be a great guitar player, nor will I climb Mt Everest.
It was interesting in the 16th Century when the Anglican Church was formed they constructed a model of god ‘without parts and passion’. Formed by the Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Cranmer who knew all about passion, hiding his secret wife in a basket smuggled into his rooms each week. For Cranmer and the church, passion was understood as being out of control similar to how we understand uncontrolled emotions today and such had to be excluded in any creed about god.
Passion without balance, wisdom and intelligence, is often dangerous. So, being passionate about safety is not enough when it comes to the ethics of respect for persons and the humanizing of safety. The trouble is, we often hear in safety about unqualified passion as a good, without an equal emphasis on wisdom.
Whilst there is nothing ethically wrong with the emotions and passion, we need to also balance any sense of passion with ethical trajectory. You can be as passionate about zero harm as you like, but such passion leads to the dehumanization of persons. Perfection is a mental health disorder.
We often associated the idea of passion with being ‘single minded’. This is another way of saying ‘blinkered’. Such passion most often leads to delusion, non-learning and closed-mindedness. In safety, I have found that there are many well intended people who are passionate about saving lives but this most often leads to ‘crusading’. Crusading usually leads to unethical outcomes (https://safetyrisk.net/safety-crusading-on-full-show/ ). Rob Sams put this so well many years ago in relation to leadership (https://safetyrisk.net/are-you-a-safety-crusader-or-a-safety-leader/ ).
So, what do we do with passion? Passion for safety needs to be balanced with ethics, method, learning, wisdom and worldview. We need to be talking just as much about wisdom in safety as we talk about passion for safety. Do a search and see what you find? Is there a balance?