“Opposite pairs working in harmony: this has become a theme of our quest to perfect decision making. Calculation and evaluation. Patience and opportunism, intuition and analysis, style and objectivity … strategy and tactics, planning and reaction. Success comes from balancing these forces and harnessing their inherent power.”

Gary Kasparov


TS Eliot: advice to Arjuna from Krishna in the Four Quartets:

At the moment which is not of action or inaction
You can receive this: “on whatever sphere of being
The mind of a man may be intent
At the time of death”—that is the one action
(And the time of death is every moment)
Which shall fructify in the lives of others:
And do not think of the fruit of action.
Fare forward.


Action over words is one of those banal trite sayings that get used too often to insult people. Its one of those simplistic sayings that make even fortune cookies look bad. Let’s be clear. Both actions and words are important, not one over the other. I find the people who bludgeon you with ‘actions over words’ memes are usually the same people who use ‘cancel culture’ and ‘woke’ and ‘hypocritical’ or whatever the word du jour is in some non-specific less-than-useful way – and more often than not in the wrong way and with lack of context.


Let me explain why the people who incessantly send memes espousing ‘action over words’ are wrong:


Hierarchies are bad.

The moment I put something over something I have created a hierarchy. In other words, People who do action are better than people who do words. This is bullshit. The reality is society, in general, is a self-organization entity in which the most powerful coalitions are ones that embrace both words and actions. This happens not to create tiers, but rather evolution and progress. It’s a symbiotic relationship and the moment some asshat suggests a hierarchy it creates dysfunction to the detriment of progress and society.


Not a binary.

Words and actions are not mutually exclusive. Action without thought is possibly worse than words without action. Regardless. Have you ever noticed how ‘words people’ never suggest not taking action is bad, but ‘action over words’ people seem to always suggest words, alone, is bad? In other words, they make it a binary choice. I’d almost prefer a reductionist argument – no words and no action is bad – and leave it there. Anyway. While I will address the core reason for this binary simplism under ‘insecurity’ below, making things binary is the refuge of simple minds. Words and actions coexist to the benefit of everyone.



Focusing on action is a rabbit hole of competition and comparison. All of a sudden someone who donates money to United Way is compared to someone who spends a day at a foodbank who, in turn, is compared to someone who says ‘thank you’ or compared to someone who uses words in terms of speeches, articles or one-on-one conversations to inspire people to think. In other words, actions compete and even worse, this means there is competition within people. Actions, in this context, aren’t comparable nor should they be competing for anyone’s judging. I would be remiss if I didn’t point out the true definition of meaning and mattering is found within the selfless act. Selfless defies comparison and competition – it just is.



If you aren’t good at using words, you can do one of two things:

  • Take action, shut up because you know words aren’t your thing, but read other people’s words as thought provoking and possibly inspiring (i.e., sometimes words offer some direction for actions)

  • Take action and diminish words

The former understands the role of words and they understand that some people use words to act and others, like themselves, don’t have a gift for words so they just do things. The latter are insecure douchebags who want to suggest if you use words, you aren’t as good as someone who takes action. That latter group, for the most part, just can’t use words well so, rather appreciate others who can, they go on the offensive, i.e., their insecurity takes action. Well. Insecurity is a sly motherfucker. It cloaks itself in positivity (“look what I/someone is doing”) all the while grounding itself in diminishing. In other words, insecurity tries to shrink something in order to increase the value in whatever it is they are espousing. The secure people needn’t make any comparisons – they just do what they do (words or actions) to make the world a better place.



Actions do not speak more truthfully than words. A lot of people who send out these ‘action over words’ memes use their selective good actions to cloak some other fairly loathsome actions and attitudes. I could also argue, words used well, actually share the harshest of truths more than any action used well. But, once again, this isn’t a competition.

I would also point out words are actions. They just do not appear out of thin air, someone has to think of them, craft them and put them down on paper (or in some technology). Words are ideas and, consequently, I would argue action without thought is more destructive than almost anything in the world.

All that said.

Actions over words is, 99% of the time, used as a pejorative insult.

Its insulting to people who write.

Its insulting to those who use words to inspire thought and thinking.

Its insulting to those, like me, who use both words and actions.

Its insulting to have to defend not only using words but whatever actions we do take up.

Its insulting to have to explain how words, used well, is action.

Its insulting to have to argue that actions are not always over words.



Perception of movement is fundamental to many of our everyday social interactions. Or rather, what someone does can have more value than what someone says. All things considered, actions give depth of meaning to words, create results, and is the engine to progress. I will note the engine has all cylinders, words and actions, in sync to be its most powerful.

I will state the mindless “actions over words” people tend to isolate events – this versus that – and then they make sweeping generalizations which makes their blob of a meaningless point almost impossible to address in a meaningful way other than to state its absurdness and meaningless. Look. I would suggest this entire concept is better discussed viewed through patterns, not some anecdotal meme. In light of that I will suggest everyone, all of us, struggle to define common good. We also struggle to define the means to arrive at some well-intended good. And because we cannot clearly define either the good OR the means we will inevitably try out some fortune cookie wisdom, like actions over words, to avoid having the hard discussion of the fact ‘common good’ is a wide array of words and actions with very little tied to some simplistic cause/effect relationships.


“We are many, many people and yet we are one. What we do today with our thinking, what we do tomorrow with our thoughts, what we do with our actions and our interactions with people determines the course of the universe itself. You are not powerless. You are not without power.”

Little Crow


This suggests, at least to me, the definition of common good is less important than agreeing on a future incorporating common good. This means intentions, and words, matter as much as actions — if not even more so. If everyone is attempting to meet a greater common good, albeit one we cannot agree on the definition, is that not a greater good?

Actions over words is bullshit and anyone who is dependent upon some meme to make the point is most likely not comfortable with words, if not scared of the thinking associated with powerful words.



Written by Bruce