This week's newsletter is a continuation of the series that is based on don Miguel Ruiz's book, The Four Agreements. Last week, I wrote about the first agreement which is to "be impeccable with your word." This week, I plan to elaborate on the second agreement which is "don't take anything personally."
The uncomfortable truth is that we tend to go through life taking everything that happens personally, as though the entire world revolves around us and our own personal experiences. As a result, we spend an inordinate amount of time worrying about and fretting over what other people think or what they might say. "They"--whoever in the world "they" are become more important than our own thoughts, beliefs and opinions. "What will they say if I wear that outfit to school?" "What will they think if I go out with that person?" Who cares? We do, unfortunately. The invisible but ever so powerful "they" drive much--too much--of what we do. The fear of what "they" will think, say, or do, also keeps us from doing things that we would like to do but are afraid to for fear of what "they" will have to say about it.
Don Miguel Ruiz very rightfully points out that "Nothing other people do is because of you." (p. 48) Yet, the truth is that we are so ego-centric that we somehow believe the world spins around us and that everyone is ready to comment on our own behavior at any given moment. Thus we give our power away to people who don't even exist, and if "they" do exist, by taking what "they" may or may not say or think or do so seriously, we do ourselves real harm.
Terry Cole-Whittaker, a New Thought writer and United Church of Religious Science Minister wrote a book in 1979 that is entitled, What You Think of Me is None of My Business. Imagine for one moment how free you would feel if you adopted that as a mantra to say to yourself every time you feel yourself being drawn into concern about what "they" might say, think, or do regarding something you are about to say, think, or do.
Now, this notion of not taking anything personally means you can't take the good stuff they might say about you personally, either. You can't have it both ways, after all. You can't not care about the negative things "they" might say and care a whit about the good things that might be said or written about you. It doesn't work that way. You can't take anything personally if you accept this agreement to adopt as a practice.
By deciding not to take anything--good, bad or indifferent--personally, you immediately eliminate a whole lot of unncessary suffering. As Ruiz points out, "When we really see other people as they are without taking it personally, we can never be hurt by what they say or do." (p. 57)
This notion of not taking anything personally is especially critical to those who choose to take on leadership roles. One lesson I learned early on as I pursued various leadership positions in my life, no matter what I did, someone was going to disagree, criticize, find fault, or even lie about what it was that I was attempting to do. It is just a fact that some people live to create drama, confusion, and chaos. If they don't know things to say about you for sure, they make it up. Gossip columnists live to create stories about their victims. The next time you are in line at the grocery store, pay attention to the headlines on the gossip magazines. Do you imagine that Oprah has had an alien baby or that Michelle Obama is about ask her husband for a divorce? Those are two examples of headlines I have seen in the not too distant past. Someone has made that up...and unfortunately, those lies sell magazines.
The good news is that you can simply decide not to participate. You can simply choose to adopt this second agreement: "don't take anything personally" ever. again. And you are free! You declare freedom from any concern about what "they" will ever think, say or do about YOU...ever.
Ruiz admonishes us to adopt this second agreement because "Taking nothing personally helps you break many habits and routines that trap you in the dream of hell and cause needless suffering. Just by practicing this second agreement you begin to break dozens of teeny, tiny agreements that cause you to suffer." (p. 60)
He goes on to say that "If you keep this agreement, you can travel around the world with your heart completely open and no one can hurt you. You can say, 'I love you,' without fear of being ridiculed or rejected. You can ask for what you need. You can say yes, or you can say no--whenever you choose--without guilt or self-judgment. You can choose to follow your heart always." (pp. 60-61)
I urge you to start practicing this second agreement today--without delay. Just keep reminding yourself that nothing anyone else does or says has anything to do with you and what "they" think, say, or do has no power to hurt you ever again. What they think of you is "none of your business," after all. You are now too busy living your life to the fullest, and the only opinion that matters is yours. Remind yourself how wonderful you are, and forget everything else. Claim your freedom today. You won't be sorry, I promise.