Our Series; “The Four Agreements – 2nd Agreement: Don’t Take Anything Personally’
Good morning again, and it is great to be with you again, even if it is in these circumstances. Any way we can stay connected with you…right!
We are in our second week of this new series on the Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. This series is giving us another opportunity to question where we are and where we wish to be headed on the spiritual journey, we call life.
Forward or backwards? Which will it be? Always your choice. Thought we know by now that going backwards isn’t really an option. Once we know these truths, we can’t really go back.
And these Agreements may help us all make the choices we need to make on the journey of forward motion.
Remember, these are agreements that you have made with life. You must have agreed with it to make it true for you.
SO, did last week’s Message, “Be Impeccable with Your Word” start anything for you? Did it resonate? Did you consider your words and what they were telling you about yourself? About others?
We want to use our words to build up, not take down. We wish to speak with integrity and honesty.
This second agreement is about thoughts, words, and actions also, but it is about what others have to say about us and how we handle it.
“Don’t take anything personally”
When we take things personally, we are agreeing with what was said about us. We are trapped in ‘personal importance,’ everything is about me, me, me.
Are we really that self-centered?
Even when a situation seems so personal, maybe someone is insulting you directly, it’s not you. It’s the other person’s issue.
I am sure we all have situations where we have been insulted, or hurt, by something that was said towards you. It can be difficult to not be offended when that statement hits a chord within you.
I can recall walking my first bichon, Tosha, she was getting old, walking slow, her fur not as thick, you could see her age spots through it. As we walked through the neighborhood, some teens skateboarded by us saying, “Ugly lady, ugly dog.” I must have believed that to have it bother me at the time.
Or when we had a chasm in our young Unity community a few years ago, I was told by one of the folks who suddenly left the congregation, that I didn’t know what I was doing and we needed someone who did.
Each time I had to go within and see where I believed the statement and then heal that wound.
So, pay attention to those times when we are wounded by another’s words or actions. See where the wound is that needs healing. And then work on that healing.
We can’t truly be free until we can stop taking things personally. At the time we get offended we have given our power to that person. We are being controlled by their words, behavior, their actions.
As soon as we understand that what others think about us is none of our business, we are free.
But when we buy into their words, we have given over to the attachment of those words…they now have meaning to us, we believe them.
What would happen if we took that energy from being offended and use it to be transformed? To truly know who we are, what we are made of?
We are of God, Divine Spirit…we are spiritual beings; we are not powerless, not weak, but powerful.
Don’t react when someone says to you, “Now don’t take this personally, but…?” WE know intellectually who we are, but we still get that gut reaction, don’t we.
We must learn to keep our hearts open and not take it personally. Whatever it is, it has nothing to do with us, it is about them.
Stop living in the realm of emotions and the outer and begin to live from within. DO not be a victim to others’ opinions…don’t take things personally.
Here are the steps to remember who we are when someone offends us:
- Be still, be silent
- Recognize that our buttons have been pushed.
- Look within to find the wounded place, an old story and heal it.
- Remember to open your heart.
- Remember we are made of spirit
- Remember that whatever anyone does or says to you, that it does not disturb the calm peace of your soul.
“Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you will be the victim of needless suffering.”
Don’t choose suffering. Take the opportunity to transform that energy to growth. Be the true you…a part of our Creator, blessed to be here. Be grateful for all your blessings and share them with your family and friends. Share your love with the Earth and her children.
Let’s get back on track and take care of each other. And we can do that by knowing what we say and how we say it. Speak with truth and honesty, with compassion and love and we will transform our world to one of peace.
New Series: The Four Agreements
Do you remember when you were very young, growing up first in your family, and later as you made your way through your school. Maybe attending a religious service weekly.
And all the things, the rules and concepts and laws that you, and me…all of us, were taught as we made our way along in family and society.
We learned what our language was and our religion, what the rules of the house were and what would happen if they were not followed. And we continued to learn the rewards and punishments as we moved through all the parts of society…home, school, church, work…etc.
Don Miguel Ruiz calls these Agreements. We made agreements with our families, our school and workplace, everywhere. We allowed ourselves to be domesticated by our society, by these hundreds of agreements.
If we wished for acceptance, we strived to follow these rules of rewards and punishments. This was what brought us love…and who doesn’t want love?
If we are beautiful enough…we will be loved.
If we are smart enough…we will be loved.
If we don’t show emotion…don’t cry…we will be loved.
If we stood out with talent, athletically or academically or musically or artistically….we would be loved. We’d have fans.
Don Miguel Ruiz tells us, “Whenever we hear an opinion and believe it, we make an agreement, and it becomes part of our belief system. …somewhere someone told us through their word, that we were not enough, and we agreed with it.”
And so, we end up judging ourselves…comparing ourselves against others. We judge the others too, searching for perfection.
Well, the time of making our way through life repeating the same 95% of the 60,000 thoughts we have every day is gone. We are way past the time foraging for food while at the same time watching out for saber-toothed tiger attacks.
Of all these agreements, the most important ones are the ones you have with yourself…who you are, what you feel, what you believe, and how to behave. I see it as your true self, your integrity.
When we hold onto agreements that make us suffer, make us fail in life…they hold us back. They interfere with our inner as well as outer, growth.
We must find the will, the courage to break these fear-based agreements.
To do that, we can use these positive, Four Agreements:
- Be impeccable with your word
- Don’t take anything personally
- Don’t make assumptions
- Always do your best
By making a pact with these four key agreements, an individual is able to dramatically impact the amount of happiness they feel in their lives, regardless of external circumstances
We will look at each for the next weeks and then associate them with the four themes of Advent. So, pay attention please, as we move forward, so you will be able to relate it all together.
First, Be impeccable with your word.
In Ruiz’s mind, this is the most important.’ Can you think why?
It is the most difficult one to honor
To be impeccable means to be in accordance with the highest standards of propriety; faultless.
We are told that being impeccable means “without sin.” A sin, according to Ruiz, is anything that you do which goes against yourself. When you are impeccable, you take responsibility for your actions, but you do not judge or blame yourself.”
We ‘speak with integrity.’ Saying only what you mean. And avoiding speaking against yourself or to gossip.
This is more than being honest. We are to use our speech to lift up ourselves and those around us, to build community rather than tear it down.
Being impeccable with our word begins with ourselves. We all know that a lot of negative self-talk goes on…in fact, we probably talk more negatively about ourselves than we do of others. If we use negative talk with ourselves, it’s bound to come out against others eventually.
Of course, we all make mistakes, but as we take responsibility for our words and actions without judgment for ourselves or for others, we learn and grow. And move forward.
Our words are not just a sound or a written symbol. They have energy, force…it is a power we all have to express and communicate, to think and to create.
We humans are the only creatures that have this power of the word, to create…like magic…
“Words are, in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic. Capable of both inflicting injury and remedying it.” – Dumbledore
Words have power. Their meaning crystallizes perceptions that shape our beliefs, drive our behavior, and ultimately, create our world. Their power arises from our emotional responses when we read, speak, or hear them.
Take the words interview and interrogation. Which would you like to hear when entering a meeting?
Each one presented a different vision in your mind as to what you might experience in the meeting, did it not?
So, we need to choose our words wisely.
Rumi: “Raise your words, not your voice. It is the rain that grows flowers, not the thunder.”
We learned to gossip by agreement. As children we heard the adults around us gossip, openly giving their opinions about others, we thought this was a normal way of communicating.
Gossip is likened to a computer virus, using the same language but with harmful intent. Often, hearing something said about another is imprinted in our mind, and it is difficult to release. This is the harm of gossip.
There is the story of a man living in a village. He got along with his neighbors for a time. Then, one day, his neighbors started ignoring him, He didn’t understand why. Eventually, no one in the village would speak with him.
One day he asked his neighbor what had happened, why wouldn’t they speak with him and the neighbor confessed that he had started a rumor about him, in a jealous moment of not thinking.
He asked what he could do to make amends.
The man asked his neighbor to come to his house. They went upstairs to the bedroom window, opened it and took a feather pillow, ripped it open and shook it out the window.
Feathers flowed everywhere, as they reached the ground a breeze came by a blew them further in all directions. The neighbor looked at the man who lied about his reputation said, ‘those feathers are like your words, once spoken, they can’t be brought back.’
We are imprinted with the words and the emotional code that they were said with. We may not know why the other was saying the words – were they angry, jealous? What was the motivation?
So, we end up looking through the other persons lens; their fear and judgments, instead of our own opinions.
We are always building our world with our words….what are you building?
If we are going to be Impeccable with our words, we are
- Building our own self up with the words,
- Supporting others, sharing love, radiating positive thoughts and feelings,
- Using our words in the direction of truth and the energy of love.
When we use our word to support another, to share love, positive thoughts, feelings, we are actually loving ourselves.
We can only use our word ‘against another, (which is actually against ourselves) if we do not love ourselves.
Buddha – “Whatever words we utter should be chosen with great care for people will hear them and be influenced by them for good or ill.”
From ‘The Four Agreements’ “For years we have received gossip from the words of others, but also from ourselves. We talk to ourselves constantly, and mostly saying things like: ‘oh, I look fat,’ ‘I look ugly,’ ‘I’m getting old,’ ‘I’m stupid,’ ‘I will never be good enough,’ and similar negative statements.” See how we use the word against ourselves?
We must begin to understand what the word is and what it does.
If we understand the 1st agreement, be impeccable with your word, we begin to see all the changes that can happen in our life. Changes first in the way we deal with ourself, and later in the way we deal with other people, especially those we love the most.
Consider that your opinion is only your point of view, created from your beliefs, your ego and your dream. Spreading it to others is your ego wishing to be right.
Being impeccable with your word clears your mind from negativity, so only words of love survive.
Just this one agreement can change your whole life. It can free you from all fear and transform it into joy and love.
Here are some positive ways to put this into practice:
Ask yourself where you are impeccable with your word?
Practice using your words with integrity.
Begin with yourself…tell yourself each day how much you love yourself, how great you are, how wonderful you are.
Use words to break the agreements you have made with yourself, maybe through domestication with your family, your religious beliefs.
Speak only words of love, peace, joy.
In 1712, William Lynch stood on the bank of the James River and gave a speech, the topic, How to Make a Slave. His secret, separation, intimidation and manipulation. We know about the whippings. But the manipulation between old and young, and especially between male and female, we most likely did not.
Willie Lynch’s idea was to change the hierarchy of the family, making the woman the strong, independent one and the male the weaker by removing him from the family, often whipping him, selling him or even killing him-in an effort to show him as weak. That way, the child becomes dependent upon the female psychologically, spiritually. Willies’ idea of taking the male away from the female after a child is born to make the child dependent upon their mother may, in my opinion, be seen in many of today’s families still.
Just an example of the strength of family history and domestication in the life of African Americans.
We have looked at both white privilege and racial history. Even I, who grew up very poor, in a food insecure household for half of my childhood, I understand that I had and probably still have, white privilege.
And I believe that when we begin with admitting we had a start, however small, we still had a start over people of color.
And from there, once we admit to that privilege, we can open our eyes to see our racism and start learning to resolve it…where did it come from and what do we do with it, how do we release it from our minds and especially, from our hearts.
For that, we see guidance everywhere in the Bible: for example, from Philippians 2:3-4
“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
It is within OUR interests to remove racism from our hearts. We each start with ourselves and so begin the transformation of our nation. Remember, peace begins with each of us.
I have something I found on FB from David Gamble, Jr., a black man. He posted it June 13th and it has been shared over 94000 times, with over 1000 comments, mostly of appreciation. This is part of that essay, giving us a brief look at racism in our country:
I grew up in Reno, Nevada.
In third grade a boy confidently tells me and my brother that his mom said black people cannot swim because our muscles are different than those of white people.
In middle school, standing among a group of white classmates talking about video games, I am the only black child. One classmate expresses surprise that my family has enough money to afford a PlayStation.
In high school, my brother is at a teen house party that gets broken up by police, a common occurrence. The kids at the party scatter, also a common occurrence. My brother, the only black child in attendance, is the only one on whom a police officer draws a firearm to get him to stop running away. He is 14.
In high school, a group of my white friends frequently sneak on to the outdoor basketball courts at an athletic club to play. They can usually play for hours, including with club members. On the two occasions I attend, club members complained, and we are ejected from the club within minutes.
In high school, I am excited about black history month and am talking to a friend about black inventors. My friend snorts and says, “Black people have never invented anything.”
In college I am standing in a group of white friends on campus. A white acquaintance of one of my friends approaches to chat. The acquaintance tells a story about something that frustrated him and then reels off a series of expletives ending with the N word. None of my friends corrects him.
In college I visit an antique shop in Auburn, California with my girlfriend, who is white, and her parents. The shopkeeper follows me around the store whistling loudly as I browse, until we leave.
I move to San Diego, California for law school.
In law school, during a discussion in my criminal law class, a white classmate suggests that police officers should take a suspect’s race into account when determining whether there is reasonable suspicion to believe that an individual is committing a crime.
The weekend of my law school graduation my family comes to San Diego. I go to the mall with my brother and sister and visit the Burberry store. Two different employees follow us around the store – never speaking to us – until we leave.
After law school, I return to Reno.
I attend a pub crawl with friends. We end up at a party in a hotel suite in downtown Reno. I am greeted by a white man at the door who loudly expresses surprise that I am an “educated negro” upon hearing me speak.
I walk a friend who is a white woman from a restaurant to her car because it is night- time. As we stand by the car chatting, a police officer pulls up and shines a light on us, asking if everything is okay. Once my friend confirms, the officer drives away. I tell her that he was worried about her, she teasingly says, “Oh yeah, because you’re so scary.” Later, I tell another white friend I felt racially profiled by the officer. My friend shrugs and says, “I don’t know man, that’s a stretch.”
A white friend tells me that white voters have become upset at black people because of black people’s liberal use of food welfare benefits. When I point out that more whites than blacks receive welfare benefits in the U.S., my friend expresses confusion at how that could be the case.
I discover that one of my clients does not want me to represent him as his Public Defender because he does not want a black attorney. I am given the option to withdraw as counsel. I do not.
Last year, I am at a barbecue chatting with a white acquaintance who asks if I have ever experienced racism. When I say it is a nearly daily occurrence, the acquaintance retorts, without missing a beat, that that is “BS.”
Before any of these instances, my family of origin moved to Reno, Nevada from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1984.
My mother recently told me that when I was a very young child my parents hired a company to remove a tree from our front lawn. Two white men showed up and removed the tree. One of them carved a swastika into the stump. My father had to confront him and ask him to remove it.
Before that, my now 93 -year-old grandfather served in the Army National Guard and was stationed in the U.S. south. Despite being active duty, he was not allowed to eat in restaurants due to “whites only” signage. He had to wait for fellow Guardsmen to bring him food outside.
Not long before that, my family were slaves, owned by Americans of English and Irish descent, which is why – despite being primarily of African descent – I have an English last name.
This is my experience of being black in America. To be black in America is to be told over and over that you are not good enough, that you do not belong, that you are genetically unfit, that your physical presence is undesirable, and that everything about you – right down to your lips – is wrong. It is absolutely true that everyone experiences hardships in life, but the psychological weight of being told both explicitly and implicitly, on a daily basis, that your very existence is objectionable can at times feel unbearable.
And despite this experience, I still love my country, my state, and my city. Despite my experience, I would not choose to be anything other than a black American. The history of black people in this country is one of struggle and triumph.
Our people were brought to this country as slaves and against all odds, in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles, have made our mark. Through slavery, poll taxes, literacy tests, redlining, and black codes we have persevered. Through the unspeakable horrors of mass lynching’s, the Tuskegee syphilis experiments; and the massacres at Tulsa and Rosewood, we have persevered.
Bass Reeves, Dovey Johnson Roundtree, Sarah Boone, Oscar Micheaux, Shirley Chisholm, Dorie Miller, Susie King Taylor, Georgia Gilmore, Octavius Catto, Jack Johnson, Garrett Morgan, James W.C. Pennington. These are just a handful of extraordinary and oft forgotten black Americans who helped to mold and preserve the American Dream. These individuals and their accomplishments should not be regarded as “black history,” but rather as American history.
I am an American of privilege, which makes me an African American of great privilege. I am an attorney. I live in a safe neighborhood. My children do not worry about their next meal. I can afford child-care. My family can afford personal vehicles. If my children become sick, I can take them to the doctor.
If I am this privileged, and these have been my experiences, primarily in my own hometown, often with friends and acquaintances who are fond of me, and of whom I remain fond even now; just imagine what daily life must be like for a black person in this country who does not enjoy my level of privilege.
The protests in the streets of America are certainly about the killing of George Floyd, but not just about George Floyd. They are about countless black men, women, and children for whom the punishment did not fit the crime – if indeed there was a crime at all. We live in a country where, in order to recall what life under Jim Crow felt like, many white Americans must pick up a history book. Meanwhile, many black Americans need only pick up a telephone, and call their parents.
When we as people of color share our experiences, we are not doing so to score political points, “play the race card,” get sympathy, assign blame, or to make you feel bad about yourself. We are asking you for help. We are asking you to join us in the ongoing fight against racism in our country, because we cannot do it alone. It will take Americans of every stripe to eradicate racism from American society.
I am now asking for your help. Please seek truth and knowledge. When sharing information, please check your sources and make sure that they are reliable. Try to place what is happening today into a historical context. Read about systemic racism and anti-racism. When your friends of color tell you that racism is real and affecting their lives, believe them and then, if you can, do something about it.
My children are likely to attend the same middle school and high school that I did. It is my great hope for them that those around them have the knowledge, compassion, and guidance to know better than to daily deluge them with words that make them doubt their intelligence, their beauty, and their worth as human beings based only on the color of their skin; and instead judge them by the content of their character.
It is for all of the above reasons, and so many more that we proudly say #blacklivesmatter
That was an essay from David Gamble, Jr. I thought it important to hear his message as we conclude our series on racism.
We are all, people of color and white people, burdened with our history of racial injustice. The onus is on all of us to confront our nation’s legacy of intolerance. Ask yourself, what is yours to do? Yes, start with yourself…ask questions, talk with others, reach out to learn what you can do for yourself and for our country, to make a change in this world. Knowledge is the key to understanding.
OUR Principles tell us that we are all one, with Divine Spirit as our Source, in and all around us. And as we learn more about our world and those in it, that knowledge brings us to new understanding. And once we know, we can’t go back. There is only forward.
So, ask what is yours to do, no matter what it is…it doesn’t need be some big Martin Luther King, Jr. type movement…every little bit helps. And it starts with each of us.
“There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” — Galatians 3:28