Passions and Actions

Photo by Arina Krasnikova on
The Business Class Podcast

I read this article from about the morality of human actions and the content of which is something that was discussed previously in one of our circles. Allow me to share it and apply in the context of work.

I cannot help but notice that since the past decade, people value so much to the word authenticity. We can even hear the words of Pinoy Big Brother Housemates say, “nagpapakatotoo”. Thinking about it, I couldn’t help but cringe. It appears to me that what they are trying to say is this: I say what I feel or do as I feel even if it is hurtful because the most important is what I feel. This makes feelings, not objective truth, the most important thing in this world.

It is first important to differentiate passion from action. Passion is our feelings and actions is our voluntary act. Anger from a word we find offensive, happiness hearing of being awarded, or sadness of hearing a friend resigning are feelings, or according to the article, “psychic states which occur without our consent (to which we are, so to speak, passive subjects), are commonly called feelings or passions.” Voluntary acts on the other hand are how we respond to happiness, sadness or anger. Throwing a punch or keeping quiet when angry are voluntary acts, but one is directed towards good and the other, not.

In the world of work, uneducated feelings cannot rule our actions. And this is one of the foundations in building one’s professionalism and work integrity. If negative feelings rule our actions, we will be inconsistent in our productivity, teamwork relationship and come up with inconsistent quality of work.

Yes, you read that right, feelings can be directed and educated and it does not mean you lose your authenticity. When I say educating the feelings, I am referring to the process of becoming more aware of our emotions, understanding where they come from, and learning how to regulate and express them in a healthy way.

The article states the downside of not educating our feelings, “If the inner world of feelings is not guided and educated, it will be difficult to discern what is good, because the negative passions darken the mind, and one will often yield to them and do wrong, and the continual struggle may well lead to discouragement or exhaustion.” In other words uneducated feelings will be an obstacle to our work and life.

Contrary to what media is telling us to do, to be “authentic”, I suggest we go a different route, to educate the feelings. In Christian formation and life, it is crucial to educate oneself about the complex realm of emotions. This involves shaping and cultivating our feelings in a positive and Christian manner, so that our spontaneous emotions can aid us in discerning and performing good deeds quickly, accurately, and pleasantly. The way to regulate our passions is to develop good moral habits or virtues such as prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance, which can alter the underlying inclinations that give rise to our emotions. When our feelings are ordered by virtue, we are naturally drawn towards doing what is good.

In the context of work, someone who is virtuous practices integrity. They are honest and shows more consistency in the output of their work. This leads people to trust them better. They also practice humility by understanding their limits, so they ask for feedback and are open to constructive criticisms. Since they know their limits, they also improve themselves. They also practice prudence so they are more careful with their decisions. They do their research or consult more people before arriving at a decision. Finally, they demonstrate courage. They are not just afraid to make decisions and be accountable for the results, they also speak up when there is something that is not aligned to their values.

Directing our feelings towards the good is essential to our personal life and professional life. Educated feelings lead to right actions in personal life and professionalism in work life, and this is done by cultivating virtues.

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