A week or so ago, I got an email from someone who asked me if I really practiced what I teach. Yes! So I thought I would share one of those moments with you. If you have been around me for any length of time, you know there are a few things I ask or say. One phrase is make it a commercial, not a documentary. Another is which wolf are you feeding? Does this fit with the four agreements?
For those of you who are wondering what I am talking about, here is my cheat sheet. The Four Agreements is a book by Don Miguel Ruiz and the agreements in a nutshell are this:
- be impeccable with your words – do not say anything negative about yourself or others
- Don't take anything personally. – It’s only about you if you make it about you.
- Don't make assumptions. – seek clarification and make sure you both understand each other.
- Always do your best. YOUR best, not what I think is your best, but your best at any moment, knowing your best can change from moment to moment.
The following story about the wolf is widely circulated and comes from the First Nations peoples. A native elder is telling his grandson that he has two wolves that are fighting inside of him. One wolf is angry and mean and the other is gentle and loving. The grandson looks up at the elder and asks, “Grandfather, which one is winning?” The wise grandfather answers, “Which ever one I feed the most.”
Finally, there is my reminder about commercials, not documentaries. See all too often, something will happen and it triggers our inner wolf who is angry and we feed it and before you know it, this incident becomes a full length documentary and lasts forever, often times becoming a mini series with sequels. If we truly gave it the time and attention it deserved, it would become a commercial and not a documentary.
So here is how I practiced what I teach the other day. I got an unexpected call from a person who infrequently visited the church I used to pastor. After the hi and how are you, came the questions that could have become documentaries. “Pastor, what happened to the church?” and “Why did you really leave?”
That is when it happened, I realized that the angry wolf was in the background and let out a whimper and my response was in love, but honest.” Why did I really leave? Well, I could offer many different reasons, but at the end of the day, the decision I made was between the Creator and me. “Ok” she said. “What happened to the church?” was the other question and my response was “as far as I know they changed the name of the church and are worshipping at the auditorium center and preparing to install their new pastor in the spring.”
Then we moved on to talking about her work and other things. Commercial, not a documentary. In thinking about the conversation later, I came to realize how the wolf of love had won. It won because I had been feeding that wolf in me and not the wolf of fear and anger. In doing so, I had prevented it from becoming a documentary and reduced it to a very very very short commercial.
I had not said anything negative about others or myself. I had not taken anything personally. I had not made assumptions and in answering the questions, I did my best.
Sometimes we need those commercial moments as a reminder of how far we have come, which wolf in us we have been feeding. Where are we in our ability to keep things as commercials and not allow them to become documentaries? We need them to practice being impeccable with our words, not taking things personally, not making assumptions, and doing our best.
So what helped me with this the other day? Hmm. I paused. I took a breath and counted to three, breathing love in and out. The commercial came on, went off, and then we went back to the regular programming.