In his book, The Four Agreements, the great Mexican sage don Miguel Ruiz advises:
“Don’t Take Anything Personally. Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.”
Today, I experienced the meaning and the truth of the sage’s words.
I recently made a new friend. Since meeting him, I’ve discovered that he struggles with some modern cultural demons that are well-known to me and to many others in our culture. And they cause him to do some crazy stuff – just like they’ve caused me to do throughout my life.
His mind is all over the place. Phone, text, email, post to the Internet, take photos, review your photos, share your photos on Facebook and other apps and by text and email, look at photos shared by others on Facebook and other apps and by text and email. Pause to speak with a human; now back to the phone.
Frenetic. He’s constantly attempting to multitask and, as a result, is: relentlessly stressed, chronically and deeply fatigued, unable to complete any tasks as well as he is easily capable of because he’s spread himself so thinly, and unable to sleep much because his mind won’t shut the hell up and let him.
And his emotions are constantly bouncing all over the place like a tiny ball bearing locked inside a thick, bouncy rubber ball. He’s got lots of drama in his life. His intimate relationships with women are characterized by fear – more specifically, the fear of abandonment – and he tends to attract women who are controlled by the same fear. The result is an endless cycle of worry, suspicion and accusations usually followed by a dramatic event like a break up and then reconciliation. And the cycle has repeated itself several times. He keeps looking in the same place using the same methods, but never finds what he’s looking for.
At times, he can say things that might sound hurtful, perhaps even mean. And this is where I learned my lesson.
I have a choice.
While it’s obviously important to try to understand the emotions and the intentions (if you can) being expressed by a person’s words and body language, I don’t have to take it all in. I can choose how I will receive my friend’s words regardless of his actual intentions. I can interpret them as angry, friendly, nosy, insecure, clingy, hostile, sad, mean, fearful, melancholic, withdrawn, detached – any dang way I want to. True, I can’t control what my friend says, but I can control how I’ll receive it and how I’ll respond to it. The bottom line is this: I can take his words as being offensive or as being inoffensive – it’s my choice. I control the effect his words have on me and, therefore, my reaction is my responsibility alone, not my friend’s.
In short, I can refuse to take what my friend says personally.
I can realize – as the sage advises us – that nothing my friend is doing is because of me. He is simply projecting his own truth, his own worldview, out there into the world because it’s all he knows. He’s just running on automatic pilot responding to stimuli like the rest of us. I can choose to allow my friend’s expressions of his truth – flying through the air like a hatchet aimed at my head – to hit me or I can exercise a little of my discretionary soul power to stand my ground and duck.
I choose to take my friend’s words impersonally. I don’t want to get hit by any hatchets, so I duck and avoid them.
Why would I do this? Why would anyone do this? Instead of ducking and looking up again for another blow, why not run away – put some distance between yourself and the person throwing the hatchets? In other words, get rid of him/her.
That part is easy for me to answer.
Friendship. I want to be a friend to others.
It’s a sad commentary on our culture, but I don’t know more than a few people who aren’t in desperate need of a friend (yes, I mean, per Webster, “overwhelmed with urgency and anxiety, to the point of losing hope”).
I can choose to be a friend.
I know what this person’s going through. I’ve been there. Hell, I’ve lived “there” all my life. I know what it’s like to be in that position – to be jostled to and fro like a cork on the ocean. I need a friend because I’m still in that God damned position today. (Hey, it is damnable in the site of God.) I’m suffering from the same ailments as he is.
My friend needs more hope. He needs a friend. He may not know it yet, but he needs somebody to stay and dodge the hatchets he’s throwing or he will never heal. Once my friend realizes that his shots are all missing the mark, he’ll probably get tired and drop his arms (double meaning intended). After that, perhaps we’ll both realize that we’ve each found a good friend and that we need each other.
Maybe two people will have a better chance of finding friendship than just one. Ya think? It seems so simple, yet no one seems to know it.
I know it now. Thank you, don Miguel Ruiz and my new friend for pointing the way out to me.
A friend. That’s what we all want. It’s definitely what I want. As humans, our lives and our healing seem to be somehow mysteriously bound together. We are soulfully symbiotic.
Besides, since none of my friend’s blows will hit me unless I let them – and I’m not going to let them – what’s the harm?
So why not be a friend.