The idiom or proverb, “action speaks louder than words” is hundreds of years old. In its earliest form in the Book of John, it suggests that saying you love someone is not the same as doing things for them, “My little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.” -1 John 3:18 And yet those three words–“I love you”–can hold the weight of the past, the joy of the present, and promise of the future in their utterings. It’s complicated.
As a writer and devotee to literature, words are foremost to me. I agonize, examine, and invest time and energy selecting the perfect words to convey an observation, feeling or thought.
I sit with them, read them to myself, whisper them and then throw them out into the air to see how they land I won’t stop until I feel a settling in my gut. Only when I have a sense that the words will accurately convey my intention. Accurately create an image. Accurately provoke my reader to believe me. Then I move on. That is my hope and faith as a writer. This process happens whether I am writing a blog or a chapter. It’s my routine when I am sending an email, text or note to someone.
Yet when it comes to reading words in messages from others to me, I am frequently sceptical of their depth and meaning. I know why that is. For me, words and actions need to align. One needs to confirm the other for them to be meaningful. For them to be believable. Heartfelt words with genuine intention are what sell greeting cards. And they are lovely to read and fantasize about. How indulgent to imagine surprises of special attention and gifts, somehow translated from the Hallmark card. Yet often when I read the words I am sceptical. I admit that I tend to judge people, not by their intentions, rather by their actions. In my world, it’s an action that confirms the truth beneath the words.
Such a conundrum. Such a choice of how to use my energy. How to connect? I catch myself sending a text, agonizing over the right words to tap into the small rectangular box. My intention is to show someone they matter. To let them know that I care about how they are feeling. With words on a screen to be read whenever, maybe never. Sometimes, though not often enough, I punch in a telephone number and hear a voice. It’s then a whole-body experience, in the moment. It feels to me that in that moment I am acting out my feelings. I care, I call. I find myself using texting as low energy, low engagement default. I can still tick off the box that says I’m to connect with the person. Or can I? Is texting really a connection? Is it a word or an action? For me, talking is far more compelling than texting.
What about the gaps and mixed messages? I recently received a card with messaging that should have warmed my heart and brought nostalgic tears to my eyes. Instead, it created confusion and rekindled a raw resentment. I cast it aside – “ya right.” Their actions, in my experience, were anything but aligned with the words of loyalty and endearment. So there’s my anger. Next time just send me a funny card or one with a cute animal on it. If this was an attempt at an amend, it didn’t work. I need action.
The exponential growth of the greeting card industry and the varieties of technological “touch” have further complicated human connection. This is my declaration: intention with action. Talk is cheap: show me.
This is a pivotal time as COVID isolation rules ease up and we are now allowed to expand our bubbles of human contact. More than ever, we need to mobilize our physical energy. And be creative. And come out from behind our screens whenever possible.
The challenge for all of us is to ensure that our words and actions send the same message. That intention and behaviours are conjoined. That we make the choice to invest energy in our relationships: those are the ingredients for deep connections.
At least, that has been my experience.