Preachy vs. Passionate?

The Thinking Mind – Art by Girish Nath

Prepare yourselves, because I really need you all on this one. While it may be all 3 or 4 of you, I need your voice regardless. But, you’ll have to read through my wordy thoughts first (evil laugh). Upon being inspired by one of my great pals Megan, I've been pondering the difference between being preachy vs. being passionate. Here are definitions of the two words from Dictionary.com:

Preachy: Inclined or given to tedious and excessive moralizing; didactic

Passionate: Showing or expressing strong emotion; Arising from or marked by passion

It seems that we tend to view preachy in a negative light, and passionate in a more positive light. Why is this? Is this appropriate? I’m asking because I’m not sure myself.

First, let’s discuss how we often talk about being “right or wrong”. We know that this verbiage can lead to feelings of judgment, which can lead to misunderstanding and resentment. I think perhaps it’s more appropriate to say “better off or worse off”. I do believe there is, and can be, a subtle but marked difference. For example:

– Are we right or wrong to not recycle?

– Or, are we better off or worse off for not recycling?

Now, I’ll bring it close to home:

– Are we right or wrong to have a homebirth (or hospital birth)?

– Or, are we better off or worse off for having a homebirth (or hospital birth)?

When asked in this way, the questions shouldn’t necessarily leave another feeling judged as being completely “right or wrong”, black or white. In truth, my belief is that there is no “right” answer to most questions, as it would vary based on numerous circumstances and facts. But, I do believe there tends to be a “better” answer. I’m going out on a limb here, but I am reminded of the principle of Occam’s Razor, which suggests "when you have two competing theories which make exactly the same predictions, the one that is simpler is the better." Just throwin’ that one out there for you to “marinate” in (my husband’s pet peeve use of the word marinate).

Speaking of my husband, I’ll never forget his mantra about drinking alcohol. Instead of going into the rights or wrongs of it, he would simply ask “Are you better off for drinking alcohol?” In his opinion, if one couldn’t answer “Yes” with fervor, then they shouldn’t need to drink it the first place.

In my experience, I’ve deemed individuals preachy when they, in a very straightforward manner, explain how they are right and I am wrong in that judgmental way. That doesn’t make them bad, just preachy. I guess I’ve found that preachy people fail to compel me both logically and emotionally. Passionate individuals, on the other hand, tend to evoke emotion in me by challenging the concepts of traditional values, mores, and practices. Typically, passionate people give me the knowledge and then seek to leave the “right or wrong/better off or worse off” part up to me. While I absolutely don’t always agree with them, and they can’t always sway me, I respect them for that ability to evoke something of inside me.

The other compelling and confusing thing to me is that it seems people can be both preachy and passionate. For example, Hitler. I realize this is an extreme example, but it’s one we can all understand. Then there are respected passionate people such as Martin Luther King, Jr. or Mother Teresa. Were they also preachy? If so, did that turn people away? Can we be successful if we are both preachy and passionate?

In the end, I must honestly admit that being judged isn’t something that’s ever really bothered me. I guess I have felt judged all my life by my non-conventional choices and it’s not something I resent. In fact, I feel that if I’m not being “judged” to some degree then I’m not really doing my life’s work. I try to see that “judgment” as an opportunity to listen, to learn, and then to educate. Wasn’t it said that “We must seek to understand before we can be understood”? Sure, judgement can feel uncomfortable, but perhaps we truly need to feel judged in order to solidify our own values, faith, and beliefs. I think the only danger in feeing judged is in being complacent.

Alright, I do realize that most of this boils down to semantics. But I think it’s important to ask the question, so that we can seek to understand how our writing, our speaking, and our actions affect others. While I want my writing to evoke emotions (even anger), I don’t want it to ultimately turn people away without leaving them with thoughts or questions. I may be talking out of my preachy, passionate ass, but oh well. Judge me if ye may.

So, finally, I ask you:

1. What do YOU feel the difference in between someone who is preachy vs. someone who is passionate? To help me better understand, I’m looking for examples of perhaps language/words they use that cause you to label them as such.

2. And if you want, expand on what feeling “judged” means to you.

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2 thoughts on “Preachy vs. Passionate?

  1. Interesting topic. I think preachy implies that the person believes what they are saying is Right and it is what others should do/believe. Passionate would mean the person has a deep personal feeling, but doesn’t neccessarily believe it’s what’s right for everyone.
    Mothers are often preachy or passionate about child rearing. When women say things like “Oh you can’t…” or “you have to…” that sounds preachy to me. A mother talking with personal, positive adjectives about what she does/believes comes across as passionate. For example — “I loved the feeling of knowing the baby was safe by me in my room” versus “You have to have the baby in your room. Don’t put them in a crib, they’ll feel abandoned.”
    I believe something that is right for one person may not be right for another. Feeling judged is hurtful and closes down communication. I have no problem talking to people with varying view points and experiences, as long as they don’t make me feel like what I’ve done is inferior.

  2. I agree with Beth.

    Someone who is preachy believes that the way they do things or the things they believe are the only way, and they take it a step further by trying to convince you that YOU should also do or believe those things. There can be subtle judgement in the way we feel after we’ve spoken to that person…ie. “I didn’t want to tell her I do something else, because she would look down on me”. Those who take it really far will pass judgement and explain the consequences…(forget about subtle!), i.e. “I’m telling you this to save your soul”, “if you don’t do this you’re going to hell”.

    I think someone passionate carries deep personal feelings…but may or may not use them to sway others. I don’t believe their intent is to change anyone else’s behavior…just share their personal experiences.

    I suppose one could be a) preachy, b) passionate, or c) both a & b. Personally, I’d rather deal with someone “passionate”…it’s how I view myself. But then again, I am big on encouraging educated, spirited discussions and letting people decide for themselves. I don’t like to use my words to sway people…but if engaging in a deep discussion and thoroughly exploring issues causes someone to decide their heart and mind, then I feel I’ve done good.

    What’s right for one person is not right for another, and we shouldn’t pretend it it.

    That’s my 2 cents worth.

    Oh, and Leigh…I view you as “passionate”, not “preachy”.

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