Always Do Your Best

This week was the last in my four-part sermon series on Don Miguel Ruiz’s book, The Four your best
For this blog to make the most sense, you may want to visit (or revisit) the previous three posts! All four agreements work in our lives to help us be the beings of light and love that we are deep inside. These agreements help us to shed the layers of programming, triggers and baggage that hide our authentic selves. This is the spiritual journey.

The First Agreement was Be Impeccable With Your Word toward yourself. Love yourself and stop the negative self-talk that so many of us have running in our minds. The Second Agreement was Don’t Take Anything Personally. If people are aiming poison, angry words, negative behavior toward us, it is about them, not us. The Third Agreement was Don’t Make Assumptions; have the courage to ask clarifying questions and to let people know what you need. Finally, we are on the last agreement, Always Do Your Best.

(For the full audio version, click here.)

Always do your best… it is an adage we’ve probably heard from the time we were little, but did we corrupt the adage? Did it become colored by other unhealthy agreements that we’ve made with ourselves. Has it turned into… “Do your best because if you fail you clearly did not do your best”? Or “Do your best, but if you make a mistake then it just proves you aren’t good enough”? Or “Do your best, even if it means killing yourself to succeed.

We need to leave this agreement in it’s pure form, uncorrupt by previous agreements we try to tack onto it. Always do your best… period.

The biggest positive about always doing our best is that it leaves us without regrets. There is nothing to beat ourselves up over, no negative comment we can take personally if we know that we have truly done our best. At the last church I served, I had resigned six months before I could actually leave, so I spent six months preaching to a number of people who didn’t want me there anymore. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. But I made the agreement with myself that I wasn’t going to just check out. I was still going to preach the best I was able. From what people told me after we started Sacred Journeys, I know that I wasn’t in top form. But I have no regrets about my performance, because I consciously did the best I could do.

On the flip side, I know there are other things in my past that I didn’t do or handle as well as I could have. From what I can deduce looking back, my only reason for that is fear or not caring. I could have gotten better grades in high school, but I simply didn’t care so much. And there were many times when I could have handled a conflict in a relationship better, but I was afraid. I made the assumption that it was going to go badly and I didn’t have the courage to try.

Still, this agreement is less about justifying the past and things that have happened, and more about how we live each moment from here on out. How will we give ourselves to each task, to each relationship to each situation?

If we give ourselves fully to each moment, then we give ourselves fully to our friendships, our partners, our children, our parents. We commit to give them the best we have – not for reward, but because it is an agreement we have made with ourselves to live the best we can.

Doing our best becomes a ritual. Whether we are taking care of our bodies, working at our jobs or shopping for a gift… we are giving ourselves to the moment, fully and authentically.

Always doing your best is what makes the other agreements work. We can’t expect to be perfect. There will be times when we won’t be impeccable with our word. Some things are so programmed in our heads that it is hard to get them out. But we can do our best. There will be times when we take things personally, but we can do our best. And, we will still make assumptions, but we can do our best.

As we do our best we will get better at all of these things, and the times we fall into those old agreements will be fewer and fewer. We will live our lives with more love, more joy and less drama!

This is a path of transformation.

Ruiz says we need a very strong will to honor these agreements. He’s right. They aren’t easy. They take constant self-awareness and a commitment to this path. But most of the folks I know aren’t lacking in the “strong will” department. You can do it.





Don’t Make Assumptions

This week was the third in my four-part sermon series on Don Miguel Ruiz’s book, The Four Agreements. personally4For this blog to make the most sense, you may want to visit (or revisit) the previous two! All four agreements work in our lives to help us be the beings of light and love that we are deep inside. These agreements help us to shed the layers of programming, triggers and baggage that hide our authentic selves. This is the spiritual journey.

The First Agreement was Be Impeccable With Your Word toward yourself. Love yourself and stop the negative self-talk that so many of us have running in our minds. The Second Agreement was Don’t Take Anything Personally. If people are aiming poison, angry words, negative behavior toward us, it is about them, not us.

(For the full audio version, click here.)

These lead us to the Third Agreement that we need to make with ourselves which is Don’t Make Assumptions. We do this constantly… sometimes we’re right, but often we’re wrong, then we take things personally and we create our own little dramas and suffering because of it.

Here’s a simple example. My wife, Julie, and I talk early in the day about going for a walk later. Later comes and she’s sitting reading a book, so I assume she isn’t ready to go for a walk and I get on the computer for a bit. Finally, I ask if we’re going to go for a walk and she says “I was just waiting for you.” And I say, “But I was waiting for you!”

Our society is also really great at labeling people and then making assumptions based on those labels. A pastor friend of mine has a gentleman in her congregation who is a staunch republican to the extent that he will only sit on the right side of the sanctuary. He also happens to sit on the church council and is a fairly influential member of the congregation. Not long ago my friend was having conversations with the congregation about becoming a Reconciling Congregation (one in which LGBT folks are fully welcomed and accepted) and assumed that he would be against it. She had quite a bit of angst about how he would feel about this. Turns out he was a huge supporter of the idea. When I asked her why she hadn’t just asked, she said she realized she should have, but she was afraid.

That seems to be the bottom line… for some reason, we’re afraid to ask for clarification. Why is that?  Is it an earlier agreement we made with ourselves that it isn’t safe to ask questions? Is it because we are afraid of what the answer might be? And if the answer isn’t what we’d like then we’ll take it personally and feel bad?

I started to pay attention to how much I do this and it’s ridiculous! So often we perceive things according to our agreements… so we see what we’re expecting to see, or programmed to see, and we hear what we want to hear. But we don’t perceive things as they really are.

It is true that relationships are not made without risk and vulnerability. But good communication doesn’t happen without courage and honesty and not taking things personally! We need to ask the questions that we’re afraid to ask. More often than not, it will be easier than expected and keep us from living in fear and anxiety.

Being courageous in our communication is not only asking for clarity, but sometimes asking for what we want. Sadly one of the agreements many of us have made with ourselves is that we shouldn’t have to ask for what we want or need with the person we love. They should just know. We think it makes us seem selfish if we ask for what we want or need. Or we think that person just doesn’t love us enough to understand us. But people like and need different things. And we don’t read minds.

When my ex-husband and I were first married we had an argument about something and I got upset, walked out of the room and went in the bedroom. He thought that meant I wanted to be alone. But for me it meant he was supposed to come find me and hold me and work through it. I finally had to spell that out to him.

These things sound much easier than they are. But I’m convinced that a healthier way to live that leads us to wholeness and peace, that leads us to live authentically and in relationship with the Divine truly does become easier when following these agreements:

  • Be impeccable with your word – put your energy into love and truth toward yourself
  • Don’t take anything personally
  • Don’t make assumptions



Don’t Take Anything Personally

“Don’t take anything personally.” This is the second agreement in Don Miguel Ruiz’s book The Four Agreements. four-agreements(Last week we discussed the first agreement: Be impeccable with your word. Please see last week’s blog if you need to catch up!) Ruiz states:

“What causes you to be trapped is what we call personal importance. Personal importance, or taking things personally, is the maximum expression of selfishness because we make the assumption that everything is about “me.” … Nothing other people do is because of you. It is because of themselves.”

“Don’t take anything personally”… this is really hard for me! I seem to have a mental tape (agreement) playing  in me that tells me I need to keep everyone happy. My guess is that this is from watching my mother take care of everything to keep us kids and my dad happy and the house running smoothly. It’s also from the wounded part of me that was rejected when I was a kid for not being pretty enough or cool enough. Not to mention the part of me that felt abandoned at 17 when my mom died.

(For the full audio version, click here.)

These, and probably more things get tapped when I take things personally. BUT THEY FEEL PERSONAL!

Ruiz says this is caused by our own sense of self-importance, otherwise known as ego. We make the assumption that everything is about “me.” Each person is responsible for his/her own words and actions and reactions. Taking responsibility for what someone else says or does is co-dependent and simply illogical.

To tie this into the first agreement… when I am impeccable with my word toward myself– when I use my energy in the direction of truth and love for myself – I dwell more solidly in a place of self-love and confidence in who I am. In this place, I can see others more clearly from a place of love and I can be objective enough to say, “Wow, that harsh comment really had nothing to do with me.”

When I’m in a place of fear, when I’m  doubting myself, my worth, and my abilities, then I can’t be objective. I take everything personally.  I end up saying, “Wow that was harsh. I must have screwed up again. I’m really sorry. What did I do??”

“The foolish cannot mask their frustration; prudent people ignore insults.” ~ Proverbs 12:16

When we take hurtful things personally it is like allowing someone else to poison us. That poison can live in us for the rest of our lives if we let it. It can eat away at our self-esteem, leave our souls battered and bruised, and undermine our self-worth. It hurts our souls.

“The simple believe anything they’re told; those of sound judgment weigh everything carefully.” Proverbs 14:15


Believe me, this is my own personal growing edge, and I know it is hard. But life is so much better when we treat ourselves with love and refuse to take in the poison that other people throw at us. Ruiz is right, the first step is to be impeccable with our word to ourselves, to put our energy in the direction of truth and love toward ourselves. With enough love for ourselves, it becomes much harder to buy into the negative things people say.

Another key to not taking things personally is to know ourselves well enough to recognize our triggers. What sets us off? Generalized comments about “how kids are these days” always set me off. I take it as a personal slam against my kids and a lot of other good kids out there. But underneath it all, it triggers my feelings of inadequacy as a parent (no matter how hard I’ve tried to be a good one, I still feel like I should have been better). Once we identify these things it is important we work on healing ourselves and understanding ourselves so we don’t get set off.

Third, seeking to understand where others are coming from can give us a more objective perspective.  It doesn’t necessarily excuse the ugly things they may be saying, but it can help us to put the situation in a new light, so that we recognize more clearly it isn’t about us, but about them.

Remember the opinions other people give are in accordance with the agreements they have made and are upholding. Don’t take anything personally. Ruiz cautions that this goes both ways… if they tell you you’re wonderful, or you are horrible. Don’t get hooked on needing their approval for being wonderful. And don’t get sucked into their poison and allow it to feed your own self-doubts.

The bottom line is that what others think is not the truth of who you are. They don’t know all of who you are, they are only making assumptions based on who they are and what they believe. So, what they think about you is about them, not about you.



Be Impeccable With Your Word

Don Miguel Ruiz wrote a wonderful little book entitled The Four Agreements that I have decided to use as the basis for a four-part sermon series. Much of what Ruiz says is not new, and can also be found in the ancient wisdom literature of the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament). But he has a way of bringing this to the contemporary reader that is profound and understandable.neon-words

The foundation of The Four Agreements is that when each person was young we were taught certain things that we had no control of, like what language we learned and what religion we practiced. Even more important, we learned what behaviors were good and what were bad. These things were rewarded or punished in kind. As we processed this knowledge we made “agreements” with ourselves about how we would behave. We learned well the rules of the world we lived in and what would bring us love and what wouldn’t. If we were beautiful enough, we would be loved. If we were smart enough, we would be loved. If we didn’t cry or show emotion, we would be loved. If we were the star athlete, we would be loved.

Eventually, Ruiz says, we got old enough that we could “punish” ourselves when we did the wrong thing. And, now, as adults, we spend most of our energy trying to keep the agreements we have made throughout the course of our lives. We keep trying to be perfect so that we will be loved. But there is no perfection. We end up judging ourselves and judging others in our search for perfection.

It takes great courage to begin to see beyond the illusion of our agreements to our authentic selves underneath. Instead of spending all of our energy upholding these agreements we’ve made with ourselves, Ruiz suggests that there are Four Agreements that will help us break those agreements that were made in fear and bring back to us our personal power and energy which will then be used in positive ways.

The First Agreement, he says, is the most important one. Be impeccable with your word. Interestingly, the book of Proverbs spends more time talking about what sorts of things should come out of our mouths than anything else. By and large this is not rocket science:

  • Do not lie
  • Do not say cruel things
  • Don’t swear
  • Don’t belittle your neighbors
  • Don’t be sharp
  • Don’t gossip
  • Reflect on how to answer
  • Know when to hold your tongue

We all know these things. They are part of the programming we’ve received. Being impeccable with our word is much more than this, though. It begins by remembering the power our words have to create something beautiful or something that tears down and brings a living hell to oneself and others. Proverbs 18: 20-21 states, “It is the fruit of our mouth that fills our stomach; it is the yield of our lips that satisfies us. Our tongue has the keys of both death and life, and we eat of the fruit of everything we say.”

Words are so powerful that they can manipulate crowds of people or countries of people to do things. Hitler convinced people with his words horrible things. While others like Martin Luther King Jr. were able to convince people to work for justice, equality and good in non-violent ways.

Being impeccable with our word begins with ourselves. We all have a lot of negative self-talk that goes on. But that which we use against ourselves, we will also inevitably use against others. Yes, we make mistakes, but then we need to take responsibility for our words and actions without judging or blaming ourselves. Learn from it, grow from it, and move on. Being impeccable with our word means using our energy in the direction of truth and love for ourselves. (Sounds an awful lot like “Love your neighbor as yourself,” doesn’t it?)

Gossiping, putting someone down, speaking words of anger, jealousy, blame and envy, all serve to destroy relationships. I learned early in my life that if we intend to hurt someone, we will. And, if we hurt someone with our words, it doesn’t just hurt that person, but hurts us because it has now hurt our relationship with them, and perhaps with others. All we have to do is read social media or watch the parents on the sideline of a high school sporting event to see the anger, negativity, judgment, jealousy, and hatred that is becoming rampant. There are many people not being impeccable with their word, and we can be assured that this begins (often unconsciously) with negative self-talk.

One of the most interesting things Ruiz pointed out was that the limit of our self-abuse determines the amount of abuse we’ll take from someone else. We’ll take as much abuse from others as we feel we deserve. If someone calls us stupid, we only put as much stock in that as we believe we really are stupid. If someone steps over our line, we won’t take it anymore. The more we love ourselves, the less negative our self-talk, the less we will buy into and be hurt by what others say about us.

Be impeccable with your word. Use it in the direction of truth and love for yourself. Tell yourself how wonderful you are, how much you love yourself. This will help to bring you back to the truth of who you are. It will bring you back into connection with the Divine. And it will change the way you communicate with others, and therefore change your relationships with others… for the better.