There is an old, anonymous saying that goes: “After all is said and done, there is much more said than done.” Another old saying is: “Talk is cheap.” Among other well known ones: ”Put your money where your mouth is” or “They can talk the talk, but can they walk the walk?”
Words are the primary tools for communicating, person to person. With them, we can try to share our thoughts and feelings, to show love, to build up, to comfort, to teach, to convey a multitude of emotions and meanings. The words, though, are only part of the building process that goes on between family members, friends, work associates, even nations. Bridges are built between people when those words are backed up by actions – in the way in which we live –by our works.
I have pondered over the things I might have said that were not backed up by my actions. Having a dear and strong testimony of the gospel principles, what have I taught – with my actions – as well as my words? I’ve wondered what kind of example I was to my children or friends without realizing the impact I may have had – or the impact I missed having because of a subtle double standard. Maybe you have wondered about these same things.
As we are building our lives here in our mortal probationary state, are the things that we say matching the things that we do?
No Guilt Trip Needed
Without taking an all-expenses-paid guilt trip, I have looked back at my track record from time to time. It has been a means of measuring progress in doing the things I have said are important to me. For instance:
- Going way back in time, what kind of message did I send my school friends when I said I liked everyone at our school, but I spent most all of my time with my ‘group’ of friends, and hurried down the hall without noticing a student who felt out of place or intimidated?
- When my children were small, on the days when I was “too busy” or “too overwhelmed” to spend some time reading the scriptures, what double message did that send to my kids?
- How many times have I left the television on, even when it offered nothing of value and raised the decibel level in the house, instead of working more intently on creating a peaceful atmosphere for the family?
- Appreciating the value of being of service to neighbors and friends, how many opportunities have I squandered to have my kids go with me as I tended Sister So-and-So or took a small gift to Mr. and Mrs. Such-and-Such?
- “Family time is so important!” But have we let that time slip because everyone had a different direction in which to go, or because I was too tired to come up with any ideas that seemed workable?
The answer to all the above questions is, of course, a resounding YES. I have dipped into the double standard lots of times. And I can attest that one or more of the children have reminded me that my words and actions were at odds. I used to lash myself with a wet noodle, proverbially speaking, for “messing up.” Finally, I am coming to understand that we simply need to keep on trying. Eventually, with a focus on the important things, our actions can catch up to our words.
The guilt trip is not needed. The realization of continually becoming more aware is my goal. I have found I need to revisit this idea often, because it can get lost in the busyness of those daily actions that we may tend to do in an almost remote-control fashion.
Making a Living or Making a Life
I have often thought of Winston Churchill’s words: “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” This idea, married with walking the walk, gives us a perimeter for making our actions integrate more fully with our words. There are so many blessings for us and others, when we are willing to walk the walk, and do what is required! There are everyday heroes who teach me by their manner of living:
- Paul Bishop, a friend and fellow contributor to Meridian Magazine, has recently taken a public stand that allows him to show his faith. To do something for righteous principle, he has written the recent Meridian Magazine articles on the immediate effects Proposition 8 has had on the Latter-day Saints in California . In so doing, he is teaching – by his example – that we can lovingly continue to reach out to those of any faith (or even without faith) as we do what is right, act according to our feelings, yet show concern and love for those who feel differently.
- A number of good youth in my ward have constantly, consistently been the example of righteous choices in a high school where most students know what they should do, but many choose to do something different. This is one way that they show their faith.
- My friend Vicki shows her amazing faith and strength as she finds ways to serve others, even while she is going through breast cancer and chemotherapy for that disease. She continues to stay active, riding that bike of hers miles and miles, every week.
- My bishop, a young man with a young family, prayerfully and faithfully juggles all the demands of a busy work life, family life, and all that is required of him to be the father of our ward. Humbly and sweetly, he does what is needed, showing great faith and being an example of righteousness.
We are a living example all the time- like it or not, aware of it or not, good or bad. From us, others may see a faithful sermon in action that makes a difference in their lives. As we move our feet and work at what we say we believe, the “Lord will magnify us in both subtle and dramatic ways.” But he can “only guide our footsteps when we move our feet.” (President Marion G. Romney, Ensign, May 1981, p. 91.) Whether our actions bring accolades or condemnation of others, who are we to care, as long as we are faithfully doing what is required of us?
To Secure Eternal Life
President Brigham Young made a remarkably clear statement when he taught, “They who secure eternal life are doers of the word.” (Journal of Discourses, 14:37).
In a world where there is so much talk, there can be huge misunderstanding. With so much information available to us, and with so many ways of sharing it, our ability to share words may be much greater than our ability to follow through with action.
It is sometimes easy to give voice to feelings and to ideas. Working at them can be harder. Making them understood is more formidable. Whether on a global scale, or between us and one other person, the ascertaining of intent comes by our “fruits”. Ours has to be an active role and not a passive one only.
Elder Joseph L. Wirthlin has wisely taught, “Love of God is something that requires action, for men cannot have faith in God, nor love him, unless they are acting in his cause, with their whole heart constantly thinking of him and giving of their physical strength in love.” (Ensign, Conference Report, April 1948, p. 147.)
The idea of making a LIFE – of an eternal nature- gives us extra fuel to fill our testimony tanks and do the things we say are important. When all is said and done, won’t it be wonderful to know we have done all we can?