If necessary, speak …maybe in love language

The first part of the title for my blog this week paraphrases a quote that has been attributed to St. Francis of Assisi and the second part refers to a book, The Five Love Languages.

People shall know you by your deeds, your actions. St. Francis of Assisi was quoted to say, “Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary, use words.” On Sunday, I attended two church services. One was for a friend who was a lifelong Catholic who had decided to join an Episcopal church. During the sermon, the Episcopal priest used the words, “if necessary, speak” as he talked to the congregation about how they could live out their lives in way that would serve others. Spend time doing and let your deeds be what others know of you. Only after that, only if that can’t be seen, only if that is not clear, only if necessary … speak.

How are you living your life? If you have to tell somebody what you’ve done, hmm. If others instead can see the evidence of what you have done, that is meaningful. Do your deeds and let them speak for you.

The bestowing of the Profile in Courage Award to President Barack Obama is to me a beautiful example of words not being necessary. President Obama’s eight years as President and even his professional life before his presidency are full of so many accomplishments that words are not needed. For those who are okay with truth, it’s pretty easy to be comfortable with that. For those who try to obscure the truth, they are the ones who might be critical. I thought it would be interesting to find out what this Award is about. Here is an excerpt from their website:

The John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award was created in 1989 by members of President Kennedy’s family to honor President John F. Kennedy and to recognize and celebrate the quality of political courage that he admired most.

The award recognizes a public official (or officials) at the federal, state or local level whose actions demonstrate the qualities of politically courageous leadership in the spirit of Profiles in Courage, President Kennedy’s 1957 Pulitzer prize-winning book, which recounts the stories of eight U.S. Senators who risked their careers by embracing unpopular positions for the greater good.

The eligibility criteria gives this additional information: “Today, elected officials are too often captives to opinion polls, reluctant to act in the broader public interest when it means taking unpopular courses of action or offending powerful groups. The Profile in Courage Award honors modern-day elected officials who govern for the greater good, even when it is not in their own interest to do so. The award celebrates individuals who choose the public interest over partisanship – who do what is right, rather than what is expedient.”

If you heard Jack Schlossberg (JFK’s grandson) give the introduction of President Obama, you know that this award is well deserved. If you heard President Obama’s acceptance remarks, you know that even in his humble recognition for receiving the award, he challenged the current Congress to do what is right, to choose the public interest over partisanship. If this Congress focuses on doing, they won’t have to speak.

If they do have to speak, I hope they speak in one of the five love languages. While I remember hearing about the book, The Five Love Languages, I have not read it. (here is a link to a website about it: http://www.5lovelanguages.com/) The five love languages are: gifts, quality time, words of affirmation, acts of service and physical touch.

During the second church service that I attended on Sunday, for the baptism of a newborn of a cousin, the minister spoke about this book. The minister said she has all of the couples for whom she is planning to conduct marriages read the book. She believes relationships boil down to what you do, not what you say. How you show up and who you show up for. It’s not what you say you are going to do but your actions really speak for you. She has the couples do an assessment test of the five love languages so each person knows what is meaningful to the other. What usually ranks at the top is “quality time.”

The profile in courage in our personal relationships comes in being there for who we say is important to us. In these cases, if necessary … speak. Otherwise, your presence is what matters. The minister gave two questions to the congregation: 1) When have you showed up for someone? 2) When has someone showed up for you? In today’s world, social media allows a lot of us to connect in many ways but are we actually connecting? Are we really giving quality time to the people who mean the most to us. Are we relying on words and speaking instead of what St. Francis of Assisi said. Are we giving of ourselves where it matters most? Are we a profile in courage? I wondered about that as I sat in both of those church services on Sunday and again as I watched the JFK Profile in Courage Award ceremony for President Obama.

It might seem like these aren’t related but our personal relationships and our chance to make a difference in our communities are integral to who we say we are. Do our actions match who we say we are? Are we able to look in the mirror and say we are our own profile in courage? Do we have to explain what we are doing because it’s not evident? When was the last time you showed up for someone and gave quality time without being asked?

Your values are reflected in what you do not what you say. Only if necessary, use words.


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