February is dedicated to Love. This means you may be in trouble with your significant other if you forget to acknowledge Saint Valentine’s Day. (Personally, I like cards, poems, and dark chocolate — preferably organic!) For those without significant others, think of February 14 as a day to remember your loved ones, whether they’re here or in a better place. Like energy, love changes form. Love is never wasted.
Effective communication is essential in all relationships. By understanding and applying The Four Agreements, as written by Don Miguel Ruiz, we can improve communication and build successful, healthy relationships. Even if we’re familiar with these agreements, we should rehearse them until they become second nature.
Ruiz was born into a family of healers called the Toltec in the region we now call Mexico. The Toltec were a group of scientists and artists who came together to explore and conserve the spiritual knowledge of the ancient ones. After the Conquistadors invaded their land, they were forced to hide their knowledge so it wouldn’t be used for the wrong purposes. Over twenty years ago, Ruiz was guided to begin sharing this knowledge.
Ruiz explains that everything we think and do is based on agreements we are taught as children, learning to think and communicate using symbols called words. These “agreements” are part of what he calls “domestication,” reinforced by the fear of punishment and/or fear of not being rewarded. During this process, we formed images of ourselves and ideas of how we should behave to be accepted.
We suffer because we never quite attain the perfection we believe is expected of us. Then we judge others by the same impossible standards of perfection we’ve imposed upon ourselves. This is how we hurt both ourselves and those we love. By practicing The Four Agreements and incorporating them into the way we think and behave, we can experience personal freedom, happiness, and love.
The First Agreement: Be Impeccable with Your Word
A quote shared by Ruiz from the Gospel of John says, “In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word is God.” It’s clear that our words are more than just sounds or written symbols. Everything we create is manifested through the intention of our words and may be used in the direction of good or evil. The word is the force that gives us the power to think, communicate, and create.
The first Agreement reinforces the need to be careful with every word we choose. We should speak with integrity, saying precisely what we mean. The word impeccable stems from Latin, meaning “without sin.” This means we shouldn’t use words to sin against ourselves or others. Using words against others is the same as using them against ourselves because our own “emotional poison” is returned to us through their reaction. Using words in the direction of truth and love will help us feel at peace.
The Second Agreement: Don’t Take Anything Personally
Everything that others say and do is a projection of their own reality. We have the choice to believe — or not believe — everything we hear. Even our beliefs about ourselves may not be accurate because our thoughts may be part of the information we heard since conception.
When we are “immune” to the opinions and actions of others, we can avoid needless suffering. By not taking anything personally, we avoid anger, jealousy, envy, perhaps even sadness. When we understand and know it’s not about us, we won’t be hurt by the things others say or feel about us.
We should not take anything personally, even when it’s positive. This allows us to form our own opinions and make our own choices that are not tied to the opinions of others. This is how we can begin making our own choices without guilt or self-judgment. As you start to trust yourself to make responsible choices and follow your heart, you will experience more peace and happiness without fear of ridicule or rejection.
The Third Agreement: Don’t Make Assumptions
Assumptions interfere with real communication and true understanding. When we don’t understand something, we make assumptions to fill in the gaps of what we don’t understand. Many people don’t feel safe asking questions because they assume others will judge them, criticize them, or blame them for not understanding. They make assumptions because they’re in the habit of judging and criticizing themselves.
Making assumptions is usually a result of having deeply ingrained habits that make us feel safe. We can continue to believe whatever we want to believe when we make assumptions — instead of actually hearing what is being said. Believing that the assumptions we make are true, we continue to create problems in our relationships.
Another common problem in relationships is that people assume their significant others know what they want. They feel hurt and disappointed when they don’t get what they want because their significant other failed to read their mind. To correct this problem, we need to replace the habit of making assumptions with habits of good, clear communication. This starts with asking questions, gathering facts, listening carefully, and understanding what is being communicated.
The Fourth Agreement: Always Do Your Best
Our best doesn’t need to be perfect. It needs to be the best we can do at each moment. Our best is different when we’re healthy as opposed to being sick when we feel energized as opposed to feeling tired. This agreement can help us let go of the past and begin living in the present. Always doing our best, we avoid self-judgment, self-abuse, and regret. Applying this agreement to the first three agreements can help you become more successful and begin reaping the rewards of healthier relationships with yourself and others.
You may also be interested in the sequel written by Don Miguel Ruiz and his son, Don Jose Ruiz. In The Fifth Agreement, they explain about being skeptical, but learning to listen can help us transform our lives.