“Actions speak louder than words.”  At some point in our lives we’ve all heard this.  It comes up in all kinds of contexts.   It shows up most pointedly in politics but it’s a common place issue between people who have authority and/or power and those who are affected by authority and/or power.  Because it’s not what people promise that’s important, it’s what they do about that promise.  In fact, don’t promise anything, just do something.

Ok, with that out of the way, let’s talk about the doing.    Leaving aside the involuntary actions with their fight/flight, need to do it to live connotations, voluntary actions come in all colors of the rainbow.  And not all of these actions are equal.  Well, I should say, the meaning and the outcomes of these actions aren’t necessarily equal.  Actions are influence by the intention of the actor and this can influence the effects of that action.  Showy acts of kindness can have the meta message of showing that the actor is better than the receiver.  There’s less of kindness in it and more of aggrandizement.  On the other hand, actions which are not announced, which come quietly can communicate support and connection and acknowledgement to the recipient.

Actions speak of the character of the person doing them as much as to the need for action, which is why we are amazed and touched when a banker saves a duckling or veterans come out to meet new veterans as they get off the plane and touch home soil after a long tour.  The selfless act makes us think, makes us feel, stirs us out of our normal groove and into thinking about others and what we can do to continue that feeling and spread it farther.  Acts of kindness which hide ulterior motives, which come from a need to feel better about the self, that react to perceived rather than factual need, that require the receiver to be convinced or flattered into accepting them are more than likely not kindness at all.  So when thinking of taking an action to help, check where you’re coming from first.  Sometimes the best way to help is to ask if help is needed.