Agreement #1: Be Impeccable With Your Word

I recently started reading The Four Agreements again, and thought it is about time to apply the teachings of Don Miguell Ruiz.  They are fairly simple agreements but sometimes hard to remember to apply. Going slow and applying one at a time, for me, is easier than all four at once.  So, I will begin at the beginning with Agreement #1: “Be Impeccable with Your Word”. My “word” used to mean something to me and to others. When I told someone I would be somewhere, or do something, I followed through – after all, “A Man (or in this case Woman – I like Person better) is only as good as his (her/their) word. (I don’t know who said that, I thought it was John Wayne, but if you do find out – will you let me know?)

This is not a new concept, mind you – all religions and spiritual systems agree that in order to be closer to God, you must get closer to the truth. Yet, we all have different versions of the truth, don’t we? And sometimes, I would say that my truth is better than your truth and vice versa – depending on the argument over what version of truth we prefer in that particular moment. Funny thing about truth – it isn’t yours and it isn’t mine – none of us “own” truth. Many religious or spiritual systems differ on many things, but they do agree “God is Truth”. For human beings with free will, that is a pretty abstract concept because the mind gets in the way and starts asking all kinds of ludicrous questions like, “Well, which God are we talking about?” and “What if I don’t believe in God?” and “Why are we talking about God?” Ruiz kept it simpler than that….”Be Impeccable with YOUR word.”

The broad concept of this agreement is to avoid sin against yourself by what you think. The more complicated concept is that what we think about others is generally a reflection of what we perceive about ourselves. So, here I am back in religious-speak with the dreaded word “sin”…instead of the word “sin”, let’s replace it with the word “harm”, “harming” or “harmful” in reference to negative behavior we oftentimes project on ourselves or others. To be impeccable with your word, you work to avoid harming yourself by what you think. How many times a day to you put yourself down, or to get into the more complicated meaning of the agreement, put others down and gossip about them? We all have done it, myself included. In fact, I have spent most of my life putting myself down on a daily if not hourly basis. I put down others, too, but far less often. It all stems from fear and insecurity. Fear of what? For me, the fear that I don’t have as much as others, or, more truthfully, that I am not as good as others. I have harmed myself with the perception that I am undeserving of the love, joy and happiness that we all want from life.

This fear has led to inconsistency between what I say and what I do. On one hand, I have always been adamant that I don’t need anyone’s approval, yet my action of remaining in a dysfunctional, totally f**ked up relationship for almost two years, demonstrated my desperate yearning for acceptance and fear of abandonment. Another example would be saying to my students how important it was that they take care of themselves first, so that they can be better parents, friends, employees, etc., yet the action of working 80/hours a week to manage a yoga studio only proved that I could take care of others at the detriment of my own needs – leaving me exhausted, angry and resentful. More recently, I have found myself frequently complaining about how Facebook has reinvented what it means to be a “friend” and how impersonal our “connections” with our “friends” has become, yet my action has been to continue to manage my own Facebook account and interact with “friends”, “friends” whom I wouldn’t even want to talk to or have dinner with. No offense, but some of the people my list of “friends” haven’t been impeccable with their words or demonstrated the actions of what I would expect from a friend either. When I lost my job, then two weeks later my relationship with said infidel, some called, or sent notes (on Facebook) to say how sorry they were, yet their actions were to turn a deaf ear the very moment I allowed myself to cry over the loss. They also demonstrated what kind of character they have as human beings when they then turned to eagerly befriend the very man who had so badly betrayed me.

For at least six months, I ran around in circles, yapping like a Yorkshire Terrier about the hurt, the betrayal, the pain, the shit of it all, and on and on, with the hope that these people would realize their folly and change. And then I grew the fuck up and realized in order to be impeccable with MY word, it was MY actions that need to change. Barking about life’s injustice was doing me no justice in my healing process. So, I opened up Ruiz’s book again and read those magically simple, harder to execute words: Be impeccable with your word and I remembered, “Hey, I was that girl once!” I remembered to do things to take better care of myself. If someone asked me to go out for dinner, but I was really tired, I found the courage to tell them, “I would love to have dinner with you, but tonight is not good, because I need to rest. Can we schedule for later this week or next?” This gave myself the message through action that it was okay to take care of myself, which also made me a better friend. No one wants to go have dinner with a tired person, who sits like a bump on a log, complaining about how tired they are, right? No! When I have dinner with a friend, then I want to be able to enjoy our time together – because that time is unbelievably precious and most often goes by greatly unappreciated by many of us.

My next step was to stop freely and willingly providing all of my most private thoughts, memories and information over to a company who only wants to use it to generate an ever greater amount of advertising messages, in order to sell me shit I don’t need, and then sell it to third parties (like the government and companies who do background checks on you before they consider employing you), e.g. Facebook. I decided I could not continue to complain about a free service that violates my privacy, and needed to deactivate my account. When I first said this, do you know how many people reacted like I had said I was moving to a remote island in the middle of the Pacific with no internet and no phone, and I was going to grow armpit hair, and eat nothing but fish and drink coconut water (God, don’t I wish that were true)? How hopelessly dependent have we become on this ONE website to connect with our “friends” and family? What did we all do before “social” networking?? Since I am of a generation that is pre-Facebook, I can tell you what we did…..we CALLED each other and, if we lived in the same city, we met one another out for lunch or dinner more than once or twice a year (….that is just pathetic, y’all). When did Facebook become the center of our Universe, and worse, why did we allow technology to gravely redefine the meaning of a friendship? The old school definition of a friend requires more work and time than most of us are willing to commit to.

However, I choose to be impeccable with my word. I choose to no longer harm myself with self-defeating thoughts. I choose to be present for a friend and hold space for them when they need it.  I choose to not simply click the “like” button, then lie to myself and believe that I was supportive when their life was falling apart. I choose to actively live life, rather than be passively, voyeuristic or envious of what others are doing or where they are through a meaningless, time-consuming, soul sucking, relationship murdering, privacy violating, over commercialized, inauthentic, downright stupid when you think about it, website.

Click here for the Follow Up to Agreement #1.