“What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.” –
Ralph Waldo Emerson
The above quote was one that I heard many years ago and has stayed with me.
What does it mean? To me, it’s about integrity. About having it, or the lack of it. Integrity is the quality of having words and actions that back each other, that you’re “walking your talk”, doing as and what you say you’ll do. Your actions correspond with your word and vice-versa.
Over the years, it’s come to make more and more sense to me. There was a time, when I’d listen to partners, friends, relatives, telling me that they’d do something or be somewhere and I had inkling, from previous experiences with them, that they wouldn’t.
Of course, they’d let me down, arrive late etc. Back then, I wouldn’t say anything, I’d either ignore my “gut feeling” or if I did raise the issue with them and they told me, hand on heart, that they wouldn’t let me down, etc, I’d back down.
Often though, when they did let me down, or not do as they said, I’d get annoyed with myself, for trusting them. For putting their words, before my own experiences, what I’d seen with my own eyes and heard with my own ears.
After years of “beating myself up”, feeling sad and angry with everyone and concluding that I couldn’t trust anyone to do what they said they would, I chose a different tack.
I started to look at my own integrity. I looked at where I was truthful and lying to myself about my own life. I took a personal inventory or my own personality, skills set and behaviour to get clearer about who I was.
What I found was the more “in tune” and honest I was with myself about who and how I was, truth and lies, the easier I found it to perceive other peoples levels of integrity.
What has this done for me?
It’s meant that when relating to others, I can be more direct and honest. I don’t have to lie to myself and pretend that they’re going to do what they say they will, even though I know they won’t. I can factor this in and make arrangements that are truer to what they actually will do, or I simply ask someone else instead.
Over the years, the more I’ve refused to collude with another’s pretence about their behaviour, the more it’s helped me live my life greater and greater integrity.
It’s now easier for me to say what I will do, and do it, as well as say what I won’t do and don’t do it. It’s meant that not only can I commit more “whole heartedly” to the things I wish to be involved in, it’s also meant that I’m more reliable and “true to my word”, and that for myself, I’m more at peace within myself and my relationships.