Actions are more important than words. Anyone on my email list knows I am fond of the quote (often attributed to St Francis): “preach the Gospel at all times, if necessary, use words.” Pee Wee Reece’s stance next to Jackie Robinson is a classic example.
My favorite recent example, of actions speaking louder than words, involved a friend who brought a cold beverage to a person with whom he disagreed – while that person was protesting outside a church. The person was protesting because the church had taken the position with which my friend was then aligned.
Words, however, don’t exist in a vacuum. They incite actions. The words in Patrick Henry’s speeches, and Jefferson’s words in the Declaration of Independence, emboldened colonists. Our Constitution is brief, but its words bind us. The words in Matthew 25:31-45 unite (otherwise divided) Christians in service to the least of their brothers and sisters.
Words are dangerous too, and incite evil. Hitler’s and Goebbels’ words stirred a significant portion of a populace to hate and commit, or stand silent in the face of, mass murder. The “Turner Diaries” stirred a miscreant to plant a bomb outside a federal building; resulting in the murder of innocent people and children. The reckless revisionist history spewed by get-rich-quick pseudo-ideological pundits stirs us to shout at (and think less of) each other – it is deliberately designed to divide us.
Words matter because they unite and/or divide. Words matter because our choice of words often exposes our propensity to act appropriately, or not. Words matter because we use them to express our opinion of the value of those with whom we co-exist.