“Well done is better than well said.” Benjamin Franklin
“The superior man acts before he speaks, and afterward speaks according to his actions.” Confucius
We’ve all had the experience of being moved by clear, persuasive language. Whether it’s an impassioned speech, profound poetry, a heartfelt apology, or just a well-crafted commercial on TV, we’ve all been affected by words and know how powerful words can be. However, when it comes to living the best lives we can, good words, or what the Buddhists call “right speech,” is simply not enough. Our “right speech” must be accompanied by “right action”. Our words and our actions must align.
If we say that we value hard work, then we should work hard. If we tell our friends that we’ll help them move, we need to show up and lug boxes. If we say our kids are the most important people in our lives, we need to be fully present and give them our full attention whenever we’re with them. Whatever we say we care about should be readily apparent from our behavior. In fact, people should be able to tell exactly what commitments we’ve made and what values we hold merely by watching what we do.
Think about it like watching a movie with the sound off. What’s truly going on in the story can easily be deciphered just by watching the actions of the people on the screen. By paying attention to their behaviors, we can tell the “good guys” from the “bad guys”; who is scared, confused, or in love; and what goals the characters are pursuing. In some cases, spoken words might help clarify people’s motivations and feelings. In other cases, the words might confuse us…precisely because the words stated don’t match the actions witnessed. We are all defined by our actions, not our words.
How closely do your words and actions align? If someone never heard a word you said, would their description of you match the words you use? Would they be able to tell what you care about, what’s important to you, merely by observing what you do? If not, try making a deliberate, intentional effort to pay closer attention to how you can make your behaviors accurately reflect your words. Tell your story through actions…not words.