[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.