“The world is changed by your example, not by your opinion” (Paulo Coelho)
While meaningful words do have positive impact and can indeed encourage, persuade and influence, actions speak louder than words. Though opinions are important, though convictions carry a lot of weight, though what we think and what we say are both important, they rarely rise to the significance of our example – nor are they generally as influential.
We may certainly value what someone has to say. It is important to know the opinions of others and for them to know our respective opinions. When it comes to real influence, however, or when it comes to making an impact on the world — this is usually achieved through example. Words don’t cost us very much. Words are often cheap. Words don’t require much sacrifice on our part, but actions do. What we do is almost always more significant than what we say.
Foundationally, our actions need to demonstrate care. We need a predisposition of love, compassion and humility that translates into empathy and acts of kindness. This is especially true for those in leadership positions – servanthood needs to be demonstrated. As Dr Martin Luther King Jr powerfully suggests: “We need leaders, not in love with money, but in love with justice; not in love with publicity, but in love with humanity”.
I’ve always appreciated the following poem by Edgar Guest:
I’d rather see a sermon than hear one any day;
I’d rather one should walk with me than merely tell the way.
The eye’s a better pupil and more willing than the ear;
Fine counsel is confusing, but example’s always clear.
And the best of all preachers are the men who live their creeds;
For to see good put into action is what everybody needs.
I soon can learn to do it if you’ll let me see it done;
I can watch your hands in action, but your tongue too fast may run.
And the lecture you deliver may be very wise and true;
But I’d rather get my lessons by observing what you do.
For I might misunderstand you and the high advice you give;
But there’s no misunderstanding how you act and how you live
Actions do speak louder than words. While the words of the wise certainly challenge the mind, the deeds of the compassionate bring change to the world.