Many years ago, I read a book that changed me in many ways and continues to affect me every day. The book was The Four Agreements, by Don Miguel Ruiz. He writes that we all make agreements every single day. We make agreements that certain words mean certain things. We agree that certain ways of behaving are acceptable and others are not. We make agreements about everything from what kind of toothpaste we think is right to buy to who gets to turn next at the four-way-stop. We make agreements about our beliefs. Some of our agreements are helpful and some are harmful. Some of our agreements make us miserable. But there are four agreements we can make that will transform our lives and help us to create peace and harmony within and without.
1. Be Impeccable With your Word.
2. Don't Take Anything Personally.
3. Don't Make Assumptions.
4. Always Do Your Best.
They seem simple, right? But they are much harder to master than one might think. The first agreement, "Be Impeccable With your Word", is the foundation. If we focus on mastering this one alone, it will change our lives completely. Being impeccable means that we recognize the power of our words and use them with great care. That's really where everything starts, isn't it? Even the Bible says, "In the beginning was the Word." We can cause so much damage with our words. We can say the most awful things to one another and spread so much emotional poison through our words. We can incite crowds to violence or other destructive behaviors. We can spread lies, gossip and falsehoods. We can destroy lives, both our own lives and other lives, with simple words. A few simple words can create mistrust. A few simple words can destroy friendships. Words can raise blood pressure, cause fear and anger, and bring people to their knees in sobbing tears.
But words can also do just the opposite. Being impeccable with our word means we don't use our words to cause any harm. We don't use our words to gossip, to complain, to belittle or chastise. We don't use our words to spread hate and violence. We don't use our words against ourselves or against anyone else. Instead, we try to use our words to uplift, to encourage, to bring light and joy to others, and to ourselves. We use our words to inspire and make people smile. We use our words to spread love and kindness.
I am always conscious of the fact that our words have so much power. Perhaps that is why I don't write posts very often. I try to be impeccable with my word, but it is so much harder than it seems.I read the news stories of the day, and I often am frustrated. I find myself wanting to write and vent about the things that offend me. But then I remember this agreement, and I ask myself if it is really necessary for me do that. Am I being impeccable? Am I using my words in a way that is helpful and not harmful? How will it help if I just add my fuel to the verbal fire? The people that agree with my viewpoint will continue to see their blood pressure rise as I make the case for why something is so terrible. The people that don't agree with me may also see their blood pressure rise in argument over what I might have to say. There is nobody who wins in this scenario. We all end up frustrated and upset.
I am learning to be more conscious in the way I communicate. I don't always succeed, but I each day I try. And I am learning to give words less power over me. They are just words, mere squiggles on a page. They are simple thoughts, but thoughts are not real. Yet we have imbued those words with so much energy. Fear, anger, and hate are all words that have great power. Do you notice how you feel when you say any of those words? Love, peace, and kindness are also powerful words. How do they make you feel when you say them aloud? Which ones make you feel better?
I was reminded of this when I heard this story the other day:
LIFE IS AN ECHO
A son and his father were walking in the mountains. Suddenly, his son falls, hurts himself and screams: "AAAhhhhhhhhhhh!!!"
To his surprise, he hears the voice repeating, somewhere in the mountain: "AAAhhhhhhhhhhh!!!"
Curious, he yells: "Who are you?"
He receives the answer: "Who are you?"
Angered at the response, he screams: "Coward!"
He receives the answer: "Coward!"
He looks to his father and asks: "What's going on?"
The father smiles and says: "My son, pay attention." And then he screams to the mountain: "I admire you!"
The voice answers: "I admire you!"
Again the man screams: "You are a champion!"
The voice answers: "You are a champion!"
The boy is surprised, but does not understand. Then the father explains: "People call this an echo, but really this is life. It gives you back everything you say or do. Our life is simply a reflection of our actions. If you want more love in the world, create more love in your heart. If you want more competence in your team, improve your competence.
This relationship applies to everything, in all aspects of life; life will give you back everything you have given to it.
We, each of us, create our own realities by the words we choose to use. When we use fearful, angry, blaming or defensive words, guess what we tend to get back? When we use kind, encouraging, and hopeful words, we tend to get those returned.
I know which ones I'd rather get back.