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Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Posted by Elyse Bruce on November 18, 2010

We all know that it’s better to do something rather than just talk about the problem or talk about doing something.  After all, actions speak louder than words.  Leading by example is something that society has cherished for centuries now.  So who first coined the phrase actions speak louder than words?

In Miranda Stuart’s book, “Dead Men Sing No Songs” published in 1939, the author wrote:

Deeds speak louder than words. First she tells you the most damning things she can, and then she begs you to believe he’s innocent in spite of them?

Her words paraphrased Abraham Lincoln’s comments when, in 1856, he wrote:

Actions speak louder than words’ is the maxim; and, if true, the South now distinctly says to the North, ‘Give us the measures, and you take the men.’

But in 1736, in a work entitled “Melancholy State of Province” the following is found:

Actions speak louder than Words, and are more to be regarded.

Back on American soil, in 1692 Gersham Bulkeley wrote in his book Will and Doom:

Actions are more significant than words.

Reaching back a little further, in the “Hansard Parliamentary History of England”  J. Pym is credited in 1628 with these words from a speech he made:

‘A word spoken in season is like an Apple of Gold set in Pictures of Silver,’ and actions are more precious than words.

Just a few years earlier, in the 1500s, French writer Michel de Montaigne, is quoted as stating:

Saying is one thing and doing is another.

But wait — the journey back isn’t over yet!  If one travels back two more centuries, one learns that Giovanni Francesco di Bernardone — also known as St. Francis of Assisi — made the following statement sometime between an epiphany he had in 1206 and his death in 1226:

Preach the gospel at all times. Use words if necessary.

But if you really want to get back to the roots of the phrase, credit goes to the Bible and the writings of James and John.  Yes, in James 2:15-17, one can read:

If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,’ and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? Even so faith, if it has no works is dead, being alone.

And this is found in 1 John 3:17-18:

But whoever has the world’s goods, and beholds his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.

Yes, the spirit of the phrase “actions speak louder than words” goes back … way back!

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