The first agreement in Miguel don Ruiz’s book, The Four Agreements, is to be impeccable with your words. It took me a few reads of his book, to notice this, but he uses both the word “word” and “Word.” For me, there is a real difference between being impeccable with my Word and being impeccable with my words.
My words are what I say. They are the things that come out of mouth when I am speaking to others or myself. They can be also be words that I write, or probably more accurately these days, type. They come together to form sentences, paragraphs, and pages. They are what I use to express my opinion, to comment on a situation, to express what is going on in my mind, and to communicate to my students what it is that I want them to accomplish in a course. Sometimes, I use my words to come together in writing of poetry. I make up words such as sistahpastahhomegurl, which worked well in a poem I wrote for a friend and colleague of mine a few years ago.
My Word, on the other hand, is backed by my power to create. It is the manner in which I use my words to create and express emotions, attitudes, actions, and beliefs. I can use my Word to express how I feel or I can abstain from using my words to express myself. I can create a reality through my Word by speaking into being an image of myself.
I have come to the realization that I am in control of my emotions. Nobody can make me feel (fill in the blank). I feel (fill in the blank) in response to what someone says or does. I choose to feel (fill in the blank) and then I do. For example, recently I had a conversation with someone. For a moment before the meeting, my Inner Judge wanted to come out and create fear in me. The words I was speaking to myself were creating a feeling of fear. At that point, I could have listened to that voice, become fearful of the person and situation, and entered the dialogue with feelings of negativity and fear. However, rather then do that, I used my Word to remind myself that all was going to go well and I should enter this conversation with optimism and faith. What I said it would be was exactly how it stayed the entire conversation.
Sometimes we can best express our Word by not saying a thing. Sometimes we just need to sit and listen. Sometimes, we just need to sit, be silent, listen, and not respond. Listening is an underrated gift in our culture. So often, we speak, but we do not listen. For example, we ask people all the time how they are, but we never listen to their response. Sometimes, the way we can honor our relationship with ourselves, with others and with the Infinite is just to be silent and listen. When we stop and take the time to listen to others and what they have to say, our silence creates an image that words could not express. Sometimes we need to stop and listen – this is one way to be impeccable with our words.
Another way is to think before we speak. The Sufi’s teach that before one speaks one should ask is it truthful, is it necessary, and is it kind. If the answer to all three questions is not yes, then it should not be said. When I worked in a substance abuse setting, we would tell our clients all the time to remember the phrase HALT (Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired). When we are one of these four things, as well as a whole host of other emotions, we can easily not be impeccable with our words and speak words that are not of love for others or ourselves.
Learning to be impeccable with our words and our Word is a process. As we become more aware of what we say and how we use our words, we will evolve in our relationship with self, with others, and with our Higher Power.