I like the way Don Miguel Ruiz says it in The Four Agreements. His understanding of humanity is based on his observation that we make agreements with our deepest beliefs and that these agreements rule our life. To change our life we simply change our agreements. He suggests the path to happiness and peace lies in adopting four agreements. The first agreement we must make with ourselves, (the most important, the most difficult and the most powerful agreement) is to be “impeccable with our word,” and in so doing we can eradicate emotional poison. He points out that it is our misuse of our ‘word’ that hurts us over and over again. And that if we made an agreement with ourselves to use our ‘word’ only for truth/love, we would be free and happy. Instead though, we tell a huge variety of lies to ourselves and others causing a great deal of suffering for everyone.
It’s complicated of course. Well… at least it feels complicated because most of us have tried to be more honest (that is IF we are able to even recognize how dishonest we actually are). It is amazingly hard to be impeccable with your word.
This could be for lots of reasons but most of them are deeply buried coping tools that have helped us survive. Anything that is a deeply buried coping tool used for survival is (1) challenging to identify and (2) challenging to change. No part of us wants to mess with what has helped us survive. And from the moment we discovered as small children that our thoughts were private and that lying was possible, concealing the truth at times has been a powerful survival tool. We discovered that it was possible to keep ourselves safe by simply not being completely truthful. And that it is possible after a couple of repetitions, to believe our version of truth so that we don’t even have to feel bad.
Recently someone called me on my tendency to say cheerily (but meaninglessly) “Sure, let’s meet for coffee or lunch sometime,” but then not making it happen. From her perspective, not only did I not follow up, but I dragged out her efforts to pin down a lunch date (no that day won’t work, no I can’t at that time) so that when we finally got to it, the actual lunch was not even enjoyable for her. Of course her issues are in the mix too, but my focus is on MY participation in the un-enjoyable lunch and the truth is, I was not being impeccable with my word.
Admittedly, my first response was “sheesh, everyone says stuff like that these days… it’s just a way of pleasantly wrapping up a conversation.” Then I took myself to a more honest place and wondered, “Why would I do that? Why would I suggest lunch when it was clearly not something I could or would make happen?” I don’t like it when people suggest doing things that never happen (which is no big surprise, but that’s another conversation). The truth was I felt stressed at the thought of fitting another lunch date into my schedule but the reason I said so flippantly “Sure, let’s do lunch” was because I thought she would like that and my desire to make her happy in that moment trumped my ability to see further down the road. And of course, that ended up hurting her more than if I’d not suggested lunch at all.
Thus the relentless whirl of sabotaging what we really want.
Sadly we repeat this ‘lunch’ scenario many times, many ways. The goal of being impeccable with your word, of having an strong inner/outer integrity, of being compassionate, clear and confident in ALL your communication is a huge goal with many challenges. If you recognize in yourself this struggle… if you wonder why you choose something other than clean, clear honesty in the moment…. if you wonder why you cannot ‘see further down the road’ and anticipate consequences better…. if you want to peel back a few layers and understand how you arrived at this coping and how to change… Then call me. I can help.