This familiar phrase gave me pause when I heard it on the radio recently, used in praise of a cast member who passed away. It was a tribute to a loved colleague, but I thought to myself: “I hope they don’t say that about me.”
Intensity can be a virtue. Passionate commitment can change the world – but direction matters. “Passionate in their commitment to insert cause here.” is much better.
Better still to say something specific about what they actually worked for: “… working to help people in poor communities gain access to clean water, driven by their belief that a better life should be possible for everyone,” or similar.
Better still if they have something to say about the way you did it: “They were known for countless small kindnesses and many large ones, and for (only rarely stumbling in) their graciousness toward those they disagreed with… and for having fun along the way.”
At the end of the day, though, I’m not sure that passion is as important as commitment,* and – to misuse Eugene Peterson’s phrase – “a long obedience in the same direction.”
*Though in my experience they feed each other