Put Your Mouth Where Your Money Is

There’s an expression in English about following in action what one says: “Put your money where your mouth is.” This need not have anything to do with money, which in this expression is a metaphor for “action.” (It might include donating money, if one is advocating such behavior, but it need not be limited to that meaning. For example, one could exhort another to put his money where his mouth is in terms of, for example, following through on a claim or a professed belief.)

When I was younger, I admired this concept: I liked to suggest people put their money where their mouths were. It was a way of pointing out hypocrisy wherein I believed I could get fancy-talking, oh-so-compassionate people to do something, to follow through on those good deeds they liked to suggest others perform.)

Well, I don’t know if it’s just because I’m getting older and more cynical, but these days I keep thinking about telling people to put their mouth where their money is. I’ve come to realize some people will never actually follow through on professed beliefs, because, in reality, they don’t actually hold the beliefs they pretend to hold. These days, I’ve kind of given up hope in the tactic of shaming people into doing the good things they keep saying people should do; I don’t think most people are ever going to be willing to put their money where there mouths are.

However, I would prefer if people just put their mouths where their money is. If your behavior screams, “I don’t care about X,” but you are constantly saying you do care about X, the disconnect can be explained simply: you don’t actually, truly, honestly care about X. It doesn’t matter how many times you insist otherwise: I will not believe you. However, if you were willing to put your mouth where your money is, I think we’d have a starting point to work from. If you said, “I  don’t care about X enough to do something about it, though I feel as if I ought to care about X, or pretend to do so at least,” I would have some hope. There would be, at least, a degree of frankness and honesty.

Which is better than beating around the bush, pretending to care about something and all the while displaying, through your behavior, zero concern for X. You can never have a serious talk about anything with someone who is unwilling to be honest about — and reconcile — to what degree he or she cares about something, versus how much his or her actions suggest a deep concern for that thing.

Justifications, face-saving: there’s an endless litany of reasons why people play these games. None of them are worth the trouble, because, fundamentally, they all lead us to the same frustrating place: with money in one place, mouth in the other, and an interlocutor who has a very poor grasp of how damning the difference is. Miss Jiwaku said, recently, “Korean runs on justifications: people are always justifying everything.” Well, yes, and it’s not just Korea, though it does seem more extreme here than I am used to in Canada.

Putting one’s mouth where one’s money already is at least simplifies the process of simplifying everything: owning up to one’s apathy about this or that problem would be liberating, and plenty of people who ought to be doing something other than whay they are doing would be liberated from positions where they are required to pretend to care about X all day long, for months on end.

Put your mouth where your money is. It’s a saying: tell someone that today!

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