Deeds, Not Words
Acta non verba - it’s a lesser-known Latin phrase, but we hear its sentiment echoed often in English. “Put your money where your mouth is.” “You gotta walk the walk if you’re gonna talk the talk.” “Big hat, no cattle” if you’re from Texas. “I’ll believe he’ll do it when I see it.” While the English versions of this idea can be rather sarcastic, they all come back to the idea that it is not words but actions that ultimately matter.
Liberty Leading the People, Delacroix, 1830.
Acta non verba is often translated as “actions, not words” but we found a different translation that we prefer: “deeds, not words.” The Latin word acta comes from the Latin root agere which evolved into actus, meaning “event” or “thing that was done,” which is the same root for the English “action.” However, acta literally means “register of events” and so we feel that “deeds” better conveys the gravity of our actions and makes us think more about the legacy we leave behind through the things we do. A sister phrase, actis non verbis, shares the same general meaning: “by means of things done, not by means of words.”
By Means Of Things Done
The concept of acta non verba is not meant to be taken as a “no words allowed, actions only” mentality - words have their own power and verbal communication is a vital tool. However, acting upon words spoken is a necessary follow-through for real solutions and personal integrity.
Acta Non Verba Brass Coin Pendant
It can be easy to discuss remedies for situations and to even feel strongly about accomplishing them. Unfortunately, it can still be difficult to find the motivation to complete the task without finding a way to tie it into a personal reason. Acta non verba provides that individual intention by speaking to the importance of honoring your words by turning them into actions. Consider the phrase “a genuine apology is changed behavior.” It is simple to say “I’m sorry” or “I’ll do better next time” when we are presented with an issue. But if you never follow through, then that erodes the integrity of your word and damages your relationships with others. However, we want to carry the motivation for integrity even further by resolving to follow through not because we care about what other people think of us, but because we care enough to maintain our honor for ourselves.
When All Is Said And Done
So how exactly does one make the leap from “I will do that” to “I have done that”? The first goal is to form a habit of making a direct link between saying and doing. A few examples of how to accomplish this:
- Make time right then: put other tasks on hold until you fulfill your word
- Set a deadline: schedule follow-through on the calendar
- Ask for help: get an accountability partner to push you towards your goal
An additional worthwhile consideration: don’t agree to things that you don’t intend to follow through on - knowing your own capabilities and limits and communicating honestly about them only builds more trust for when you are able to say “yes” to things.
From here, you can choose your next goal. Maybe you want to change the entire world or an entire system and leave a legacy of well-known reforms and benefits for many. Or maybe you would rather put your efforts towards improving your corner of the world by making a beautiful life for your family and community. Regardless of the scale of your ambition, keep in mind this truth: people may or may not remember what you said as time rolls on, but your actions will transform you and those around you for generations to come.