Barbara and Jeff had a turbulent marriage, mainly because Jeff often disregarded Barbara’s wishes and feelings. He would declare his undying love for her, but the way he behaved seemed to belie his words. He failed to call her when he was late, often overlooked birthdays and anniversaries, and made important family decisions without consulting her.
Many people mistakenly believe that what we think, imagine or feel is as important as what we do. The truth is that, as the old familiar saying goes, “actions speak louder than words.” Deeds truly are more important than thoughts.
While we may empathize with other people, we can never really know another person’s thoughts, motivations, imagination, or emotional experiences. All we have to go by when forming opinions or making judgements about other people is the track record of their behavior, what they do or don’t do.
Likewise, you know your own inner thoughts, feelings and motives, but the only information other people have to go on when forming opinions about you is your behavior. And what you choose to do, or decide against doing, is almost entirely within your voluntary control.
When taking a personal inventory, try not to overemphasize the importance of thoughts, feelings or motives at the expense of actions, deeds, or behaviors.
• Remember our actions define us as individuals; people can’t read your mind but they can see what you do.
Still, many people needlessly “beat themselves up” emotionally because they believe their motives weren’t pure or benevolent even though what they did was helpful or kind. But the truth is that even if you have uncharitable thoughts while doing charitable deeds, the deeds are nevertheless good!
Ultimately, what we do and don’t do steers the course of our present lives and future experiences. What we do or don’t do matters much more than what we think, feel, or imagine. To repeat:
• What you think matters less than what you do.
• What is important is how you act.Remember that the thought is not equivalent to the act. Someone who thinks evil thoughts but only performs good deeds is still a good person.
Dr. Clifford N. Lazarus is a licensed psychologist, Co-founder and Clinical Director of The Lazarus Institute. In addition to his general psychotherapy practice, Dr. Clifford Lazarus specializes in health and neuropsychology.
Dr. Clifford Lazarus received his B.A., M.S., and Ph.D. in psychology from Rutgers University where he was a Henry Rutgers Research Scholar. Seen here are excerpts from one of his books, The 60-Second Shrink – 101 Strategies For Staying Sane In a Crazy World, a book, he co-authored with his father “One of the ten most influential psychotherapists in America” Arnold A. Lazarus, Ph.D. For more details on Dr. Clifford Lazarus visit this link to The Lazarus Institute. Or visit his page here on friendlysuggestions.com.
Direct links to two highly recommended books by Dr. Clifford Lazarus & Dr. Arnold A. Lazarus: