Deeds, Not Words

By | February 13, 2021

[February 13, 2021]   Since the first thinking humans walked this Earth, the eternal question, “Who am I?” has been asked.  There is general agreement that it is our character that defines us and thus best answers that question.  This fact is why I chose Deeds Not Words as the title of today’s article.

Bad things happen, and it is how we respond that defines our character.  We can choose to sit on the sidelines and watch life go by or choose to be part of the game.  Regardless, life will be difficult.  But only through our thoughtful, moral acts can we do good for those around us and make the world a better place.

“Goodness is about character – integrity, honesty, kindness, generosity, moral courage, and the like.  More than anything else, it is about how we treat other people.” – Dennis Prager

Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. often spoke of character.  As a young man in his seminary years, he believed that every person bears the responsibility to live according to God’s teachings.  In 1958, MLK preached two sermons, “What is Man?” and “The Dimensions of a Complete Life.”  He said that we could talk all we want about saving souls from hell, but only through action can we accomplish it.

Deeds, Not Words.

Rev. King possessed the fundamental belief that action is what character is about.  Words are easy.  King’s Christianity plays a crucial role in his understanding the character of a person.  Without it, we cannot be truly human.  But we can choose to be good, bad, or indifferent. What we do is hard.

Many years ago, I asked a senior officer to take on the unpleasant task of eliminating a part of our headquarters that employed over a dozen civilians.  All but a few of the employees, mostly junior civilians, were to lose their jobs.  My only guidance was for him to be open and honest with those about to be removed from civilian service.

I selected him because I knew he was a ‘man of character’ and I knew that he cared about those people.  I would not have chosen someone weak or a pushover for the job.  It took six months, but in the end, he had worked with every one of the civilians to obtain a new job elsewhere in the community.  He went beyond his given task.  I knew he would come up with a solution, and only a person with good character could have accomplished so much.

Character matters and character is measured by proper action.

We are fortunate whenever we meet or get to work with someone who can be trusted (integrity, honesty, kindness …).  We know who they are.  In addition, we know they will be there when we need them.  When the going gets tough and we call upon those men or women of character, they will be there.

There is an old catchphrase of militaries around the world, “Ride to the sounds of the guns.”  The symbolism is clear.  If you need me, call, I will be there for you regardless of the danger to me.  Deeds, not words.

Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article every day on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

20 thoughts on “Deeds, Not Words

  1. Yusaf from Texas

    Thanks you again, Gen. S. for another article that makes me think. At first, I wasn’t clear where you were headed with your article and now I see it.

  2. Doc Blackshear

    Hey folks on Gen. Satterfield’s leadership forum. Tomorrow (Feb 14th) is Valentines Day. Don’t forget your spouse and let them know you love them dearly. Just thinking that ‘action’ here is far more important than just words.

    1. Scotty Bush

      I’m on it. Valentines Day certainly is not going to pass me by. I stand up for my wife and kids. They will “see” me in action. I’m cooking a HUGE dinner for her and doing the dishes and cleaning up the apartment. I promise also to do more of that in the future as well. I show my love for her and our family all the time. Talk is cheap (although it can be important when you say “I love you.”).

  3. Willie Shrumburger

    Another excellent article and one that got me to thinking about whether I am doing enough to help my family, community, and country. I talk a lot. But actions do mean more than just talk. Maybe that is why we don’t have much of a good opinion about politicians or used-car salesmen … they talk a lot with little to show for it.

    1. Nick Lighthouse

      You are spot-on with that comment, ‘all talk, no action,’ that describes a lot of individuals that I know.

  4. Kenny Foster

    Gen. Satterfield, it is of interest to me that you use Martin Luther King, Jr. (reverend and deep believing Christian) as a symbol of ‘deeds, not words’ and I fully agree that he is a great example. But let’s also not forget, like all humans, he was deeply flawed man. He ran around with other women and damaged his family in other ways as well. So, my point is that, yes, we can be a purveyor of great deeds and great words, while simultaneously not doing so when we should be. Does this make sense?

    1. Douglas R. Satterfield Post author

      Kenny, yes, that is the challenge for us all. Life is certainly not easy but we must remind ourselves that others will see us, God will judge us, and we will be used as an example of leadership whether we want that to happen or not.

  5. Doug Smith

    “Manliness consists not in bluff, bravado or loneliness. It consists in daring to do the right thing and facing consequences whether it is in matters social, political or other. It consists in deeds not words.” said by Mahatma Gandhi

      1. Lady Hawk

        Thanks folks for the links. Many good articles out there on this. I will also add that this example reinforces the points made by Gen. Satterfield. Let’s keep that in mind.

  6. Frank Graham

    Another excellent topic from Gen. Satterfield and one that again, I think, should be further developed. “Deeds, not words,” or the equivalent has been around a long time. “Walk the talk” is another with the same meaning, IMHO. Develop it further for us and keep these articles coming our way.

    1. British Citizen

      Great suggestion, Frank. I think this website is really great. We get to hash over ideas in the forums and get a quick peek into the world of leaders. 👍


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