This is a book I finally snagged for myself after finding it for a quarter at a thrift shop. It’s been around forever (well, for years) and I had flipped through it on various occasions while perusing dormmates bookshelves in college. I encourage you to buy or borrow a copy and give yourself an hour to read it.
To sum up, the author speculates that all of our belief systems about the world, our peers, and ourselves comes from agreements we have made with ourselves. “I think people should act this way, therefore if they don’t, they are wrong.” The expectations and assumptions we have agreed to believe are perceived as THE TRUTH, and deviation from them is unacceptable.
If we can strip all of those perceptions down to a bare minimum, and agree to the four concepts in this book, we (and essentially, everyone else) could live with so much more peace, love and kindness.
The Four Agreements are:
1. Be Impeccable With Your Word
The broad scope of this concept is to avoid sin against yourself by what you think. Sinning against the self takes many forms: such as, putting yourself down, gossiping, or putting anybody else down because you don’t agree with what they think. Actions and words need to be consistent as part of being impeccable with yourself. The other side of the coin is the smoky mirror concept. Ruiz makes the point that our perceptions of others are merely reflections of ourselves. Therefore, to put another down or project negative words or energy towards another person, is to lash out at the other person because of our own insecurities.
2. Don’t Take Anything Personally
There is an awful lot of negative energy out there and some of it is directed at us by other people. If you take it personally and take on the poison of another’s words, it becomes a very negative agreement you have with yourself. What anybody thinks about you, or says about you, is really about them. Not taking it personally allows you to be in relationship with anyone and not get trapped in their stuff. This agreement can also pertain to things that we take personally that cause us to go into upset.
3. Don’t Make Assumptions
What we think we understand about what someone says, how someone looks at us, what someone means by what they do, etc, may often not reflect reality at all, and more often than not lead us to think badly of ourselves or of others, and reinforce not being impeccable with our word.
4. Always Do Your Best
Your “best” is a variable thing from moment to moment. “When you do your best, you don’t give the Judge the opportunity to find you guilty or to blame you.” You can always say, “I did my best.” There are no regrets. (p.80) The other key to doing your best revolves about being in action. “Action is about living fully. Inaction is the way that we deny life. Inaction is sitting in front of the television every day for years because you are afraid to be alive and to take the risk of expressing what you are. Expressing what you are is taking action. You can have many great ideas in your head, but what makes the difference is the action. Without action upon an idea, there will be no manifestation, no results, and no reward.” (p.82)
It can be intimidating to step back from yourself and admit that just because you claim you value something (“I have patience”; “I respect others opinions before injecting my own”, etc…) doesn’t mean you actually live those values (“Why can’t you change this immediately!?” or “I’m going to talk about you behind your back because something you did offended me!”).
It’s awfully selfish of us to assume everything is about us/for us/against us/has to do with us. What if we spend all of that time focusing on doing things for OURSELVES, and instead made assumptions that other people were doing things for themselves? To strive to speak kind words of people before hurtful ones? To remember that every person has their own whole entire life of experience that existed before we ever came along?