It's an age old saying and I've never liked it. I'd rather it say "Practice DON'T Preach!" Preaching implies telling someone something in hopes of convincing them you are right and they are wrong. (Anyone appreciating the irony here?) One of my favorite historical figures, Mahatma Gandhi, talked a lot about actions vs. talking about actions. He has been quoted as saying “An ounce of practice is worth more than tons of preaching.” and "Be the change you wish to see in the world." Some have said these quotes are not exactly true, but even if they are not, they are worthy of contemplation and consideration. Telling someone what to do is usually not the most effective way to affect change. Being the example with no regard for anything but the "greater good" can move mountains. Gandhi's life and legacy is proof of this.
He lived a modest life, wearing a traditional Indian dhoti and shawl that was woven with local hand-spun yarn. He lived in a self-sustaining village and ate a vegetarian diet. He practiced non-violence and truth and even led a 250 mile march in protest of the British tax on salt. He called for the end of British rule and was imprisoned many times. He fasted for long periods of time both for inner purification and for social protest as well. He is known as the "father" of modern India and his birthday is celebrated as a national holiday. All this with non-violent actions—not fiery condemnatory rhetoric. He was assassinated by a Hindu nationalist that felt that Gandhi was too "pro-Pakistan" during the partitioning and independence of India and Pakistan. More than two million people were in his funeral procession. All due to his actions. Gandhi walked the walk, not just talked the talk.
If I am honest, I couldn't imagine living a life like his. I am nothing like him. I criticize and judge just like the rest of us. I have opinions and usually think I am right. I am guilty of not listening to understand, and am stubborn and obstinate. But knowing you have a problem is the first step in recovery, right? One thing I do have in common with that amazing little man is that I always try to walk the talk. If I say I'm going to do something—I do it. I also respect those that have differing opinions from mine. Everyone has a right to believe what they think is right.
Even if they are wrong.
Now step two is to put beliefs into action without expecting others to follow.
There are so many clichés about this. Actions speak louder than words. Practice what you preach. Well done is better than well said. Talk is cheap. You are what you do, not what you say you do. With so many trite phrases, why is it so hard to find this within ourselves sometimes?