“Be impeccable with your word. Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.”
~ Miguel Angel Ruiz
Tune in to the RAVE WAVES BlogTalkRadio show, ASPIRE TO INSPIRE where this post is the topic of a lively discussion. This is a production of Rave Reviews Book Club.
Don Miguel Ruiz (his pen name) is an author, teacher and shaman, born in rural Mexico in 1952, where he became a surgeon. After a near-fatal car accident, he returned to his mother who completed his training as a shaman, whereupon he moved to the United States. His role as shaman is to teach others and guide them to personal freedom using the ancient wisdom taught to him by his mother, combined with modern insights about the human mind. He is an extremely successful author as his book, The Four Agreements published in 1997, has sold over five million copies! The quote above is the first of the four agreements.
Where our word is concerned, Don Miguel admonishes us to be exemplary. I’m sure that he refers to both our spoken and written word. As I consider his words, I realize that when I meet someone for the first time, their word is my first clue as to what kind of person this is. Does the person speak carelessly, misusing words, opting for current slang expressions in place of clear, concise language? Often, we can draw conclusions about a person’s education and even their intelligence from the words that they speak. Be impeccable! Think before you speak or write, and do so with great care. It is sad when miscommunication causes another to be offended. Using your word well comes with practice, so we should make it a habit.
There’s an old expression that I learned as a child, “Your word is your bond.” A person’s honesty is very closely tied to their word. Do I lead others astray by making promises that I can’t keep or that I don’t intend to honour? At the end of the day, all I have is my word. If I do not speak with integrity, others will see me as dishonourable and there will be no trust. If I habitually lie to others – either to avoid blame or to build a false reputation, I will not be trusted. As far as I’m concerned, trust is a foundational element of friendship and acceptance. If I don’t communicate with integrity, what do I have?
Don Miguel urges us to be clear as well as honest. He says to say only what we mean. Some people get carried away by the exuberance of their own verbosity… say what? This occurs when we try to impress others with unfamiliar words – except that we don’t! When you consider that relationships, both healthy and not, are built upon communication – our word, we need to aim for clarity above all else. We must be understood.
Ruiz goes on to warn against speaking against yourself or to gossip about others. I don’t think there is a problem poking fun at yourself from time to time, but tearing yourself down profits no one – least of all yourself. I’m not a big fan of self flagellation or whipping yourself, verbally or otherwise, in order to do penance for your sins. Most well-adjusted people realize their shortcomings, and some even own them. I think that’s healthy to see and accept yourself as a flawed being who also has talents and skills. Using your word against yourself is hurtful – as is gossiping about others. Ridiculing or being critical of others is self-serving, to make a person feel better about himself or herself. Gossip is a double-edged sword because it will always come back to haunt you. Those to whom you gossip will never trust you not to gossip about them. Negativity in our word can never be good for us.
Finally, Don Miguel encourages us to use the power of our word to promote truth and love. I am impressed when he focuses on the power of our word. We cannot be careless in our word any more than we can be careless when piloting two tons of steel along streets and highways! Our word has power: power to do good, and power to do much harm! When we are witness to the truth, we exhibit integrity. However, using the truth as a sword to inflict harm on others is not what he is suggesting. Note, that in his word, quoted above, he talks about love in the same breath as truth. Love is supportive and caring. As a parent and as a teacher, I had a responsibility to correct my children and my students when they needed it. That kind of teaching done in a kindly way will do no harm. Our word has incredible power to help others when used in a loving way. This is why Don Miguel tells us to be impeccable with our word and only say what we mean. Does this mean there is no place to express righteous anger?
It is worth repeating that our word has unbelievable power! We must use it well. We must be impeccable in using our word to improve our own lives and to help create a better society. There is great power and wisdom in the word of Don Miguel Ruiz. We will do well to emulate him!