From friend, mentor, Priestess, covener. (Note: It was the 2nd and 4th agreements I had the most difficulty with. I never wanted to give myself any slack. #2 – of course every criticism was correct aka others know me better than I do. #4 – “I could do better! I can ALWAYS do better!” aka self-flagellation.)
On Not Taking Things Personally
Well, I suppose one could take any useful self-help dictum and wield it like a bludgeon on other people; I just hadn’t considered the 4 Agreements as particularly vulnerable. For some years now, I’ve been using the 4 Agreements in my own life, and I’ve been recommending them to students. One of these students, who struggled with the agreements at first but then came to love them, and to recommend them herself, recently let me know that the 4 Agreements Can Be Misused. Dreadfully.
(Brief synopsis of the agreements: 1) Be impeccable with your word; 2) Don’t take anything personally; 3) Don’t make assumptions and 4) Always do your best.)
These aren’t easy agreements, and they do take some explaining. They’re worth it, though. I’ve found my life fundamentally improved by them, and I thank Don Miguel Ruiz, who articulated them for us.
For now, let’s focus on not taking things personally. This is extraordinarily liberating, when used properly. That is, on oneself and not on others.
In general, it means that all the stuff that happens isn’t really about us. The world news, the family news. Not about us, though it may impact us. That’s sort of a relief.
But it gets even more powerful when you move it further in. If I’ve agreed not to take anything personally, then even if someone directly addresses me — with a name, a complaint, even a compliment — or even if the newspaper mentions me directly by name, it is, essentially, not about me. It’s about how someone sees me.
Now, I may find that information useful! I might well need to hear the complaint, or take in the compliment. But I’m not required to. And it isn’t, even then, personal. It’s about how one piece of the energy of the universe is being observed to manifest herself, at one particular moment.
We are so fluid, and we are all part of the same deep energy.
So, used rightly, the agreement frees me to act more powerfully, by helping me detach from other people’s opinions and even my own opinion.
Cause even my thoughts about myself are not about me. They are about something I’m thinking about myself.
OK! Great! So, what’s the problem? How could you possibly misuse this, and use it against other people, when it’s all about how really we’re not even seeing each other at all?
Well, because detachment is not the same thing as ignoring, or supressing, or silencing.
What I want to do is detach from my attachment to being right, to being perfect. And my attachment to pleasing everybody.
BUT! I still get to attempt to hear what other people are saying when they believe themselves to be upset with me. I want to communicate. I want to listen. So not taking things personally does not mean abdicating responsibility for our actions and our words. Oh, no. No indeed.
And it most certainly does not mean telling other people that they need to not take things personally if they’re upset with me. I make the agreements with myself. I am not to impose them on other people. Just saying.
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