“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35)
We have heard the old adage, “Actions speak louder than words.” Of course, the meaning is that what you do shows far more clearly the intent of your heart than any empty promises that might cross your lips. Don’t tell me what you are going to do — just do it! This phrase can be traced all the way back to the Bible (to 1 John). Over the years, those words have been spoken countless times by those who have become skeptical at the hands of people forever promising one thing, but doing another.
Another version of this is similar. It speaks less from an angle of skepticism, and more about how we present ourselves to our children: “more is caught than taught.” If you have ever heard a child mimic a parent (sometimes to the horror of all those within earshot, but usually to their amusement), you know how true this is. We don’t teach kids to smoke, drink, or curse; but if they grow up in a home where those practices are routine, they are bound to pick up the same tendencies.
The same is true when we demonstrate positive examples. We can tell children as often as we like: “It’s good to turn the other cheek,” “Don’t let the words of another get you down,” and “Forgive those who hurt your feelings.” However, if they overhear that same parent on the phone, gossiping to one neighbor about the other, you can be assured, what is “caught” will leave a far greater impression than anything contrary which was “taught.”
I was reminded of this truth not long ago when I saw a photo of my granddaughter trying her best to do Pilates with her mom. Was she bent over into position, and instructed in this systematic stretching to increase her flexibility? Not likely. It is natural for her to be like her mom. She doesn’t have to be taught, because she is watching like a hawk!
This lesson doesn’t end with child-rearing, though, and that’s what I can learn. My words, my deeds, and my attitude should reflect Christ. I want to be different from the world, and I want those I meet who haven’t yet met Him to know where that difference comes from. Whether I am able to speak with them or whether they just notice from a distance, I want to have a positive impact on others. I should always have a demeanor suitable to be caught.