“But he is so sincere, he must really mean it.” Those words are applied to politicians, lovers, abusive boy friends, people asking for loans, and many others who want us to believe them. Sometimes he really does mean it and sometimes he can even do what he says he will do. Sometimes the slower horse wins the race but that's not the way to bet.
The fact is that words are cheap. No matter how persuasive someone is, no matter how much we want to believe him, no matter how much he himself believes them, the words are meaningless if actions say something else. How many abused women take the guy back because he promises faithfully to change his ways? He almost never does. (Men can fall for that as well but women are the more common victims.) How often do politicians promise they will get spending under control, then turn right around and increase spending and the deficit?
We need only look at President Obama for an example. One day he emphasized the need to control deficit spending. Then the very next day he announced that he intended to subsidize building high-speed rail lines. Yes, those rail lines were already planned but you don't cut spending without, well, cutting spending.
More recently, yesterday in fact, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner has claimed that Obama administration is paying more attention to deficit and spending concerns than the Bush administration did. Such a claim would not be very difficult to live up to since the Bush administration spent like crazy. Should we believe Geithner's words? Anybody who does will probably be interested in a good deal on this tower I know about in Paris.
The fact is that while administration officials are talking about deficit reduction, projections are that deficits will top a trillion dollars per year under Obama, compared to a $458.6 billion deficit in Bush's last year.
Believe the actions, not the words.
In other areas we should also believe actions, not words. The battered woman should ignore the sweet words and promises intended to lure her back to an abusive situation. His violent actions tell the truth while his words are misleading. Yes, those words sound good. Yes, he may even believe them himself. That will last until the next time he gets upset. Then the actions will be right back, telling the truth.
How about the young woman (and some older women) hearing the sweet vows of love? What are the actions that back up those vows? Sadly, there are many men who tell women what they want to hear in order to have sex or get something else. Young women are often lured to bed while older women may lose money if they listen to such a line. If he really wants to spend his life with you and raise a family he should treat you right and make the legal commitment called marriage. Only the actions are believable.
The deadbeat friend or relative asking for a loan is another case. Helping people is good but helping them remain deadbeats only keeps them down while harming everyone they cheat. Remember the saying: If a dog bites me once, shame on the dog. If he bites me twice, shame on me.
I could go on. Salespeople who lie once will lie again. Advertisers who mislead will continue to do so. The car company that failed to report dangerous acceleration should not be trusted, regardless of what the ads promise. That company needs years of living up to its promises before we can consider it trustworthy again.
While there are many trustworthy people in the world today, there are many who are quite otherwise. Our personal and public lives will be greatly improved if we fire the lying politicians and sales people and if we ignore the words of anyone whose actions contradict those words.
Beware the silver tongue.