THINKING THINGS THROUGH: Revisiting The Four Agreements – Part 2

By Chris Wagner

In the previous essay, I introduced ‘The Four Agreements’ and took a look at the first one, Be Impeccable With Your Word which focuses on communication and the power of words to hurt or heal. It also plays a significant role in the other three agreements.

Don’t Take Anything Personally
This is a big one for me. For a long time I seemed to be willing to absorb negativity from others whether they meant or it was something said without thinking. Not seeing that it was their issue, I lost pieces of my soul and let it affect my self-esteem. Finally I began to realize it was about boundaries, paying attention and making honorable decisions for myself. After reading and rereading this section, it finally dawned on me to not let careless words affect me any longer. What a relief this has been.
When we say no to being a convenient scapegoat for someone else’s negative words, looks or actions we are practicing the ultimate self care.

Don’t Make Assumptions
Assumptions almost always cause some kind of trouble. This is because they are usually based on perception, opinion or experience. It’s easy to make assumptions, almost natural, but they can be dangerous and often lead to mistakes, embarrassment or an unexpected cost.
I have an example which forever changed my assumption-making. When I was a classroom teacher, I became friends with another teacher and his wife. We got along well and I was taken with their relationship and found myself being envious of what they had. The following summer I ran into him where he proceeded to tell me that he was leaving town with his wife’s best friend with whom he’d been having an affair for several years. I was devastated, but learned several valuable lessons!
A common, yet ineffective way of making assumptions is thinking others can read our minds or we feel we know them well enough to read theirs. In my experience this has led to much misunderstanding often not resolved well because of unclear or not enough communication. Or I know how reliable you are and assume you finished your part of the project so I don’t even have to ask how it’s going. On and on it goes and rarely does it work.
The way to overcome assumptions is to ask questions, stop oneself from making judgments about situations where little is known and to be willing to say “I don’t know” instead of jumping to a potential wrong conclusion.

Always Do Your Best
For me doing my best is about persevering. When I decided to improve the way I took care of myself, especially after the RA diagnosis, I would be disappointed when I let myself down and didn’t eat properly or take all the supplements. But the will to feel better was so strong, the next day I got right back to it. Then, little by little, I was in a remission, feeling pleased with myself. Also, it helped not changing too many things at once – baby steps.
I think of this as not letting oneself down and when that happens, confidence grows. When I am about to say something I’ll regret and stop myself, I smile and realize how far I’ve come. When I can say I really don’t know what someone else is thinking, I sigh with relief. And, when I say no to negative behavior that would have hurt me in the past, I know I’m on the right track. The road to being truly free.