It would be ludicrous for a human being to attempt to subdue a horse by brute force. Yet by placing a small piece of metal against sensitive areas in the horse’s mouth, a human can guide the animal with relatively little effort (See “Bit by Bit,” Equestrian Magazine, November 2007).
A passion is a “strong and barely controllable emotion” (Oxford English Dictionary). Another definition is “the state…of being acted on by external agents or forces” (Merriam-Webster). The connotation is that intense emotions are like external forces acting upon us and compelling us to take actions that we would not otherwise take.
A leader in the Book of Mormon named Morianton discovered how our passions can conquer us. As he prepared to execute a military strategy, he became angry with a female servant and beat her. She ran to the leader of the opposing army and provided valuable information which led to Morianton’s defeat. Morianton’s inability to manage his emotions was his downfall (Alma 50:30).
The prophet Alma counseled his son Shiblon to “bridle all [his] passions” (Alma 38:12). He didn’t say to suppress or contain his passions. He said to bridle them. If we simply wanted to prevent a horse from doing damage, we might place him in a stall or inside of a fenced-in pasture. We bridle the horse when we want to direct its energy toward the accomplishment of a goal.
It’s the same with our passions. We might have strong emotions about many good causes, such as feeding the hungry, strengthening families, improving the administration of justice, or creating inspiring works of art. Any of those passions could lead to positive action, but only if we are able to channel them and covert them to a coherent plan. If we simply act spontaneously based on how we are feeling at the time, we may believe we are accomplishing something meaningful and valuable, but our actual impact may be minuscule if our efforts are dissipated across numerous impulsive activities. Only by harnessing that emotional energy to execute a coherent strategy can we achieve the outcomes our passions inspire us to pursue.
Today, I will bridle my passions. I will recognize that they can be channeled to accomplish great things. But I will also remember that I must intentionally govern them in order to achieve meaningful goals.