One of my favorite Chrisette Michele songs begins with, “Say it with your actions. Saying those words to me doesn’t mean anything.”
Though she's singing about a boyfriend who says but doesn't show that he loves her, I’ve taken this as one of my favorite lessons on life in general.
Say it with your actions.
Why? Because sometimes word isn’t bond.
Now before you write this off as the laments of a jaded, distrusting individual, I state this disclaimer: I don't mean that we should never believe a single word that comes out of someone’s mouth. Instead I've learned how important it is in relationships— whether a friend, acquaintance, or lover— to determine if their words and actions are in agreement.
The late great Maya Angelou once said, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them." Discovering the character of those close to us involves more than just our sense of hearing. And yet so many times I chose to believe what I heard even when it contradicted what I saw – whether I was promised dependability, only to find them undependable; or a promise of support to find them nowhere to be found. Sometimes our hearts want to hope for the best even when our brains really know what's up.
Jesus even speaks similarly of this when He tells us that we will know people by their fruit: "A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit." No, not literal apples and oranges. Instead think of fruit as what our life produces - our character. A person can only produce or act out what's embedded in their roots. To expect otherwise leads to disappointment and frustration.
We owe it to our hearts and emotional wellbeing to hold the people in our lives accountable to their word. Without accountability or consequence, we are only setting ourselves up for continuous disappointment.
Back in undergrad when I studied journalism, it was stressed that people should be held accountable for what they say. If a politician promised more funding for education and yet two years into his term there was no money to be found, they should be called out on it. One of my professors even made the joke that facts are still necessary to prove your mother’s “claim” that she loves you. Though meant for laughs, there is more truth than humor in this. For instance, if someone calls themselves your friend, the facts proving it should be there. Can you confide in them? Is this person trustworthy? Are they there for you in your time of need?
Very often in relationships we act like potential employees at a job interview. We build up our qualities and abilities more than we should. And what happens to employees who don't live up to their hype? Well, they tend to become former employees...
Unfortunately I've been guilty of this. As someone who prides herself on being good ol' reliable Tara, I tend to overextend myself. Sometimes at the cost of falling short on promises because I’m just too damn tired. I’m learning to be mindful of the promises I make to others, because they often come at the cost of discrepancies in what I say and do. It also means growing comfortable with saying no if I know I can't do it. As the saying goes, “A promise made is a debt unpaid.”
It's not enough to mean well; we have to do well too. The words we speak or the promises we make are merely a contract. Our actions are what truly seals the deal and are the proof of our character.
Like Ms. Michele crooned, “It’s all in what you do.”