It turns out I was spoiled as a child. Not with material things, but with honesty, with integrity. I was raised by people who said what they meant, and meant what they said. I was raised by people who believed deeply in bettering themselves. My childhood was built on awareness and introspection, and using words only after the fact. No one yelled. No one said mean things that required an apology. And most importantly, words were always followed by action.
Integrity is when thoughts, words, and deeds are all consistent. Many of us struggle with bringing our thoughts in line, but usually words and deeds match… except for a group I call “dreamers”. We all dream, it’s a vital step, but this group stops there. There’s never any action taken. Their words describe their dream of who they want to be, or what they want to do, but their behavior remains unchanged.
Theoretically, I knew these folks existed, but I’ve always been surrounded by action. All the jobs I’ve had, all the close relationships, involved action. I made it all the way to my 40s before I actually met some dreamers. Now I understand why there are so many warnings about actions speaking louder than words, and believe what people do and not what they say. It’s tragic, really.
I see the beautiful light of their soul, hear them speak of great things, and then have to say, “I hope you actually do that.” I really hate not being able to take people at their word, but it’s worse to believe them first, and have to recover later. This could be anything from plans for lunch to changing a habit of substance addiction to not being so vocally judgmental. Some people do, and some people just dream.
For the others out there who have met with confusion over people’s words not matching their actions, I will share what I’ve discovered, in the hope that it is helpful to your journey.
Pay attention – Really be aware of how closely the actions follow the words. Is the behavior actually reflecting the reality they speak of?
Call them on it – Kindly and gently point out the inconsistency in words and deeds. Many of us get stuck in a past loop, and need to be awoken. Bringing awareness to the issue may change it.
Beware false promises – If they have already shown a discrepancy between words and actions, don’t believe their promise to “do better”. Now it’s time to heighten your awareness, and really watch for changes.
Be honest with yourself – If you are already in this pretty deep, you obviously love them. Really be honest with yourself about how many times you’ve had this discussion, how many times they’ve sworn to change, and how many times you’ve ended up in the same loop. There’s nothing wrong with that, some people spend a whole lifetime with a partner who lives out of integrity. Just ask yourself how long you want to cover the same ground.
Leave quickly – I personally have a “three ask” rule – the first time is to bring the issue up, the second time is a reminder, and the third is to verify no action will be taken. I don’t nag. I’m very clear with my communication. If nothing changes after my third attempt, then the next action is all on me. Knowing when to leave is an art… and a mercy to both.
You can’t change others – Trying to change people is harmful to both parties. One always feels disappointed, while the other always feels judged. If someone has led you to believe they are something they’re not, the only change you can make is to yourself. Admit you were duped (unintentionally), be honest with yourself, and change your relationship to them accordingly.
Love them from afar – Dreamers aren’t bad people at all. I love a few of them, myself. They just aren’t in my inner circle, because I can’t count on them. I still think they’re amazing people.
I really hope I’ve been clear – I have no issue with dreamers. I don’t judge them, or their path. And once I know their words are just words, I can manage (lower) my expectations. I have a few friends who schedule lunch, and then cancel that day. I know everyone’s cancelation rate, because I would rather be happily surprised when they show up, than disappointed when they don’t. That’s just how I manage this awareness.
Most people were raised to disregard words. Their parents made many promises that weren’t kept. They were told “maybe” more often than a firm yes or no. I had a childhood friend who couldn’t commit to any plans, because her life depended on her Dad’s mood at the time. There are lots of reasons people live out of integrity. Some people are all talk, because to them words don’t really count. Awareness of the situation lets you decide where you want to be on the issue.
If you are a dreamer (or think you might be), be very aware of your words. Take note of whatever leaves your mouth, and compare it to your actions. Are you always talking about something, and not doing it? The answer is to stop talking. Only say what is really going to happen. If you are suddenly quiet, maybe your life needs a little action.
It will be wonderful when we all live in integrity, but until then, watch and learn.
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