We often wonder why people lie to us and are deeply wounded when they do. We cause ourselves needless suffering by constantly believing that everything people do is somehow about us. This leads us immediately into the third agreement: Don’t Make Assumptions as I have found the second and third agreement are closely tied to one another. We generally take things personally because we made an assumption about what someone said or did. By breaking these agreements, we can free ourselves from the suffering these habits cause.
“Write this agreement down and put it on your refrigerator”, Ruiz instructs in Part 8. Obviously, he knows how challenging this agreement is for all of us. The reason many of us fail to follow through with making the Second Agreement an integral part of our belief system is because we all have egos. Of course, the ego frequently gets a bad rap, as if having a sense of “self” is such a terrible thing, but there must always be balance. Have too much sense of self makes us narcissistic, we lack empathy for others, and we think that the world revolves around us. On the other hand, no sense of self means that we tend to allow others to treat us in harmful ways, or we do harm to ourselves, we don’t take care of our own basic needs.
A lot of time and energy gets wasted by taking things personally, and also by making assumptions. We get caught in a vicious cycle when we presume to know why someone said something or didn’t do something, or looked at us a certain way, and we usually assume that it has something to do with us. Ruiz makes the astute point that we also believe these assumptions are the “truth”. More often than not, it really doesn’t have anything to do with us, it is far from the actual truth, and we assume too much. But, we become fearful of what others think of us, because we want people to like us, so we start to do things that are pleasing to them, and maybe not so pleasing for our sweetness of mind.
What if you stopped taking things personally? What if you stopped assuming you know what someone else is thinking or feeling and instead ASK them?
Many times we are afraid of the answer. I once dated a person who didn’t reciprocate any loving actions. I assumed that since he was “with” me, that he liked me, but I never asked him how he felt. Deep down, I knew the answer, but was afraid to ask. However, if I had, and I hadn’t been so dependent on this relationship somehow validating that I was worthy of love, I could have saved myself so much heartache by walking away from someone whose actions never matched their words. He said he liked people and was a good person, yet constantly gossiped about all of his friends and cheated on me….this is exactly what landed me in the “hell” that Ruiz continually speaks of.
It is called depression and it is indeed hell. Once I stopped giving a shit about how this man, or anyone else felt/thought about me, and started focusing on how I felt and thought about myself, I slowly came out of that hell. Not taking things personally doesn’t mean I stop caring what others think, I care deeply what my loved ones think. However, I don’t assume to know what they think or how they feel – I have gotten much more comfortable with asking. I also take ownership for how I think and what I feel and don’t put any blame on anyone else for those things. This is also what it means to not take things personally.
Relationships are far less complex when you stop assuming to know and just start asking and communicating. They also become easier when you tell someone you are upset about something and don’t expect them to assume or know how you feel or what you want. By mastering the second (and third) agreement you can radically simplify your life.