05 Jun Living The Four Agreements: How Not to Use Words Against Yourself
I can impeccably say that I am not always impeccable with my word.
What does it mean to be impeccable? I used to think it meant being perfect and never making a mistake. But don Miguel’s definition of impeccable changes everything.
From its Latin roots, impeccable means without sin. Don Miguel shares that when you are impeccable with your word you “avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others,” and you “use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.”
What this means is that far from needing to be perfect, we are impeccable when we make mistakes and don’t use our words against ourselves with judgment or punishment. We let others make mistakes and learn from them, too, without using our words to judge or punish them. We choose to stop using the power of our words as poison, and consciously use our words to heal and support.
The problem is we often have many old words stuck in our heads; hurtful words our parents or teachers or ex’s or friends have spoken that rattle around inside us. Sometimes these painful words were actually directed at us. Sometimes we creatively make up words to judge ourselves and put them in other people’s voices.
I spent an entire year once with someone else’s words in my head, making me miserable. I wasn’t being impeccable; I was using the word to go against myself. Someone may have said the words initially, but the truth was they were not following me around speaking negative things in my ear. I was doing that all by myself. I was responsible for using their words against myself. And I did it well! I still have to practice being impeccable, over and over again.
When we take someone else’s opinion and use it against ourselves, we are not being impeccable. This doesn’t mean we get to ignore everything anyone says to us. There is sometimes important information for us in criticism or feedback, even when it is not completely true. We are impeccable when we say, “Thank you,” see what applies to us, and let go of the rest. We are impeccable when we do not then gossip about that person in our head or to others. We are impeccable when we don’t use words to punish ourselves, but instead use words, are own and others, as tools for growth and transformation.
One way to explore impeccability is to imagine that words are like food. Ask yourself, “Do these words feel nourishing or toxic? Do these words feel healing or heavy?”
Start your new word diet by focusing on what you are verbally eating. Watch how you talk to yourself. We only eat other people’s judgments if we believe them. Don’t worry about what others are saying for now; no one can force feed you something your body rejects. Becoming impeccable starts within, by being honest with ourselves about how we are using words (our own and others) as poison or words as healers.
When I am judgmental or harsh with myself verbally, I’ve learned to use better punctuation to change my self-talk. As I wrote about in my book, The Toltec Path of Transformation, most inner gossip is a run-on sentence of judgment after judgment:
“These pants don’t fit me very well, my thighs are too fat, oh if only I had the willpower to stop eating so much sugar then my thighs and butt wouldn’t be so big, and if only I worked out more, like Christy, my body would be okay like hers, her body is so beautiful, and mine is so ugly that no one is going to want to date me, so why am I even bothering to try on new pants, they are not going to hide the fact that I am ugly and that no one loves me, that I am all alone and am never going to be appreciated for who I am because I live in a society that judges people who are bigger than a size 4, and I was never a size 4, no matter how much I dieted, though maybe if I was better at dieting my thighs wouldn’t be so big and I wouldn’t be so unhappy all the time…”
When you catch yourself judging yourself for judging yourself, or comparing yourself with others, put a period in the sentence at the first opportunity. “These pants don’t fit me.” Period. Now create a new sentence, a new paragraph, which supports you with a new thought: “My thighs are the thighs of a grown woman, not the thighs of a teenager.” Or “I am looking forward to working out and getting my body in shape.” Notice if you judged yourself, and notice how it affected you. “Ah, I just judged myself for having fat thighs, and ended up hating myself.” Now bring in the kind hands of a parent encouraging a child to take another step. Shift your perspective away from judging yourself and toward acceptance and presence.
Rewiring how we talk to ourselves, and how we talk to others, takes patience and perseverance. Getting to impeccability is not about judgmental perfection, but loving, supportive practice.
As our self-talk becomes more loving and compassionate – more impeccable – we become satiated with the filling nourishment of self-respect. We no longer eat other people’s bitterness or gossip, as it is no longer appetizing. And we don’t need to judge others for their verbal diet, because we remember how easy it is to slip into negativity (and judging others for being judgmental or gossipy is being negative!)
This week: Practice watching your verbal diet, and moving yourself towards being impeccable with your word in how you speak to yourself. Use proper punctuation and put a period in your sentences when you catch yourself gossiping about yourself or others. Then take a breath and choose what types of words you want to be dining on.
Heather Ash’s apprenticeship with don Miguel Ruiz, author of The Four Agreements, began in 1994, and she now teaches with the Ruiz family. She is the author of The Toltec Path of Transformation and founder of Toci, The Toltec Center of Creative Intent. www.toci.org