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There is actually legitimate and ongoing scrutiny about whether actions speak louder than words all of the time and in all places. Words are important, and people do listen to them. They don’t always wait to judge whether words are backed up with action, though this might be the wiser course.

Words certainly have the capacity to harm or elevate, and they may sometimes speak louder than actions. Even in ancient Greece, Plato was strongly against the Sophist teaching of rhetoric because it might be used in immoral ways to convince people to think in unethical ways or draw false conclusions. Some of his contemporaries, like Isocrates, stressed that the power of language had to match the power of morality, and that rhetorical language should only be used in an ethical manner. Isocrates also embodied the actions speak louder than words philosophy, and very much used his rhetorical skill to attempt to bring about unification of Greece by frequently writing to Grecian leaders of city-states to plead for this.

Are the effects of each of them to the same caliber and/or degree? Is one easier to come back from than the other? Is one more memorable than the other is?  Who is to decide? This is where “To each their own” comes into play. The sentiment behind the saying actions speak louder than words is expressed in many cultures. There are certainly references to sayings like it in antiquity, but it may have been first expressed in English in the 1700s. The first reference in English very similar to it is in the book Will and Doom, written by Gersham Bulkeley in 1692, who speaks of actions as “more significant than words.” The basic idea of Bulkeley’s, which was not new in expression, is that actions speak louder than words as a greater determinant of behavior and character. People can say anything, but when what they say and do are contrary, it’s easier to judge by what is done instead of by what is said. The phrase “saying one thing and doing another,” is related to this idea.

Similarly, when people ascribe to certain belief sets, like various religions, that emphasize humility, but then do not act in a humble way, their actions are more telling than their professions of faith. The car with the bumper sticker “What would Jesus Do?” that cuts a person off and drives recklessly is sending a dual and contradictory message. St. Francis noted this in particular when he suggested that people preach the gospel but “use words if necessary.” His idea is that preaching could be active instead of verbal, and that words were secondary to action, and could be expressed in the common phrase, “practice what you preach.”

Never act until you have clearly answered the question: “What happens if I do nothing?”  ~Robert Brault

Words certainly have the capacity to harm or elevate, and they may sometimes speak louder than actions. Even in ancient Greece, Plato was strongly against the Sophist teaching of rhetoric because it might be used in immoral ways to convince people to think in unethical ways or draw false conclusions. Some of his contemporaries, like Isocrates, stressed that the power of language had to match the power of morality, and that rhetorical language should only be used in an ethical manner. Isocrates also embodied the actions speak louder than words philosophy, and very much used his rhetorical skill to attempt to bring about unification of Greece by frequently writing to Grecian leaders of city-states to plead for this.

Maya Angelou once said, “People will forget what you said.

People will forget what you did but people will never forget how you made them feel.” This quote applies to both sides of the debate however, the reaction is the same. Either way, caused by words or actions, people will never forget the way you made them feel. This takes us back to the questions at hand.

I am an optimist. I like to believe that when someone tells me something or says they are going to do something or I ask them a question, I like to believe their response are truthful, unfortunately, that is not always the case. I have been told by people they would do something and then they would do the complete opposite. I am sure all can relate to that. Author Rinatta Paries wrote “Moved by the emotions and the excitement of the situation, a person can get carried away with words, saying things to the other that later won’t be backed by action. People who want a healthy relationship will show what they want by their actions, consistently, over time.” In her opinion, Actions win over words. Benjamin Franklin thought the same “Well done is better than well said.”  In the Italian Proverb, it reads “Between saying and doing many a pair of shoes is worn out.”

We can create and develop words and utilize them to convey thoughts, feelings, emotions, and ideas. They have the ability to start wars and to end them. They have been used throughout history as a weapon far greater than an army of one hundred-thousand. The pen, as they say, is mightier than the sword. In addition, history proves that. The Declaration of Independence, the most obvious case where this is true, is proof that words do mean a lot and carry a heavy burden. The Romans expressed their entire culture with words, the Chinese appreciated words as the wisest historians, and the Egyptians clearly recognized that communication was so important; they created the first “Google Translate”.

Alfred Adler said, “Trust only movement.  Life happens at the level of events, not of words.  Trust movement. 

While in college, I ate at the same restaurant every week. It was close to campus and affordable. One day a couple of friends and I were walking to go eat and I saw this man sitting on the ground leaned up against a wall. In passing, I said hello and asked how his day was. It was short and sweet. We continued on our way to go eat. On our way back, he was still sitting there. When he saw me again, he stopped me to thank me for smiling at him, saying hello and asking him how his day was. I was shocked. We ended up getting into a great conversation about life and his past and the future. We talked for about an hour. The next week, I go to eat and when I walked in, the hostess said she had something for me. It was a letter from the man, Charles. In the letter, Charles thanked me for our conversation and then went on talking about more details of his past and then I read the most shocking part “Before you had said hello to me, I had planned on killing myself that day. I bought a bottle of cheap liquor and some rope. I had the place picked out and my letter written. I had given up on life and hope. When I asked you why you smiled at me and you told me that quote ‘Be nice to strangers because everyone is going through some kind of battle’ it gave me hope.” I saw him a few weeks later, cleaned up, he had gotten a job at Burger King and was staying at a shelter rather than the streets. This is just a personal experience but it shows that just saying hello to someone can change their entire day. “For me, words are a form of action, capable of influencing change.” -Ingrid Bengis

Inspirations never go in for long engagements; they demand immediate marriage to action.  ~Brendan Francis

This is not always the case, truth be told, it is rarely the case. Words have the power to build someone up or destroy him or her. Often words can be misconstrued, twisted, misunderstood, taken out of context, or honestly, they have just been worn out. We are more likely to believe complete strangers than people we already know. We are more likely to believe strangers because of what they are…strangers. Why would a complete stranger feel the need to lie to you and why would you feel the need not to believe them? They have never lied to you, lead you in the wrong direction or hurt you in anyway so you have no reason not to believe them. We are more likely not to believe someone we know more than a stranger. We already know the people we know all too well and if they have lied to you in the past, you are less likely to believe anything they say, ever, even if what they say might be the complete truth. So this brings me to my next question: What good are words when they lack or have completely lost their meaning?  “Words can be twisted into any shape. Promises can be made to lull the heart and seduce the soul. In the final analysis, words mean nothing. They are labels we give things in an effort to wrap our puny little brains around their underlying natures, when ninety-nine percent of the time the totality of the reality is an entirely different beast. The wisest man is the silent one. Examine his actions. Judge him by them.” ― Karen Marie Moning

“Your beliefs become your thoughts,
 Your thoughts become your words,
 Your words become your actions,
Your actions become your habits,
Your habits become your values,
Your values become your destiny.”
 ― Mahatma Gandhi

However there is certainly evidence that actions speak than louder than words in a variety of circumstances. The parent who tells a child not to smoke and then lights a cigarette is unlikely to convince that child of the evils of smoking. This has been proven by statistical information showing the greater likelihood of children becoming smokers if their parents smoke. Clearly, in some instances, actions will influence more than words, and though words remain powerful, how people act may mitigate the effects of language, or prove its power. The real question is not, which is more important, powerful, meaningful or fulfilling. The question is what will happen when we combined actions and words together. We have already determined that both actions and words are important and powerful so why not back up our words with actions and do not act on something that cannot be reassured by words.