I don’t want just words. Who really does? Do words have any value at all without actions?
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I don’t want just words. If that’s all you have for me, you’d better go. ~ F. Scott Fitzgerald from “The Beautiful and the Damned”
F. Scott Fitzgerald rephrased the expression “Actions speak louder than words” so eloquently, didn’t he? A simple statement that has so much meaning hiding behind it. I haven’t read “The Beautiful and the Damned”, but I don’t think it is necessary for anyone to have read it to relate to this line from the novel. Keeping one’s word seems to be low on the list of more and more people’s priorities anymore. If I didn’t know any better, I would think that integrity is seen as a vice these days rather than a positive character trait. Hmmm, I’m sounding more than a tad jaded here, aren’t I? I suppose I kind of am. I guess I’ve heard enough of people’s bull to have a free pass on the Jaded Train. The only problem is that as I look around the passenger cars, I can’t find a place to sit because it’s jam packed with fellow passengers. There are simply far too many of us taking this ride these days. But how to get off?
I think the key is to look at the big picture. Sometimes, of course, that’s easier said than done. Have you ever tried to ask this of a mother of three who kills herself everyday as both the family breadwinner and caretaker of her children, who only hears empty promises of assistance from an absentee father? I have. I find myself cringing whenever the words come out of my mouth in my attempts to make her feel better. I know what her response will be. She’s too kind and loves me too much to tell me to take my bigger picture and shove it where the sun doesn’t shine, but I know she’s thinking it. This beautiful friend of mine who I’ve known and loved since childhood occupies a first class seat on that Jaded Train and she not only knows it but embraces it. To be honest, knowing all of the complexities of what she has to live with, I can’t blame her. It’s hard to look on the bright side when you can’t see any sun peeking through the clouds. Despite the dark clouds, let’s get back to trying to look at the bigger picture.
What a lot of us don’t understand, or perhaps simply takes us a lot of experience and introspection to understand is that we can’t control what other people do, nor are we responsible for their actions. Everyone has a choice as to how to behave. They can make a million different excuses about why they do what they do but when it comes right down to it, we all make a choice. When someone chooses to either blatantly lie to you or simply not keep their word because they won’t or can’t, that is their choice. What we are in control of is what how we respond. In the grand scheme of things, the reality is that no one “owes” us anything. We only owe it to ourselves to protect ourselves. When others disappoint us by not following through with their promises, we have two choices – either we lose faith in humanity or we understand that the world is made up of all kinds.
Personally, I’ve got my hand on the Jaded Train’s emergency brake. When you get to the point where you lose faith in people, it’s a process to re-evaluate and begin to trust people again. Yes, despite the fact that so many people have lost their sense of integrity, there are many more who have theirs firmly in place. Getting to the point of internalizing this thought instead of just entertaining it requires looking at those in our lives who are all about the words rather than the actions, and respecting ourselves enough to utter Fitzgerald’s words to them – if that’s all you have for me, you’d better go. It may be hard to believe but there are many, many others who have a hell of a lot more to bring to the table that can take their place. ~Gia