The time has come to refer to one of Don Miguel Ruiz’ Four Agreements cards. I know I haven’t gotten to any of these in a while — I’m gathering more daily inspiration and affirmation from other sources. But today’s card belongs in the Agreement Don’t take things personally. The text on the card:
See Other People As They Are
When you see other people as they are without taking it personally, you can never be hurt by what they say or do. Even if others lie to you, it is okay. They are lying to you because they are afraid you will discover that they are not perfect.
This is a lesson I have spent some time on, and I have a lot of time still to spend on it. Just when I think I am ready to accept people as they are, someone does or says something to which I react judgmentally. I wouldn’t believe, before I react that way, that I was still so far from seeing people as they are. I consider myself a follower of the Four Agreements, but all I need is for some person to say one little thing, and I’m a child again, defensive, quick to judge before I am judged, erecting fences I thought I’d torn down for good.
For example, if I am speaking about a subject I know well, all I need hear is some mumbled disagreement up go the walls. I start feeling snotty and angry, and I often dismiss the person altogether, without either of us speaking a single word to each other. This is a visceral reaction, and I am certainly not proud of it. I do my best to stop it before it starts, to remind myself that I don’t know it all, whatever it is. Often the best way to address these feelings is to ask the other person to join the conversation, and use my listening techniques to pay attention, not to plan what I want to say next.
I lose my maturity and my understanding of this lesson in other situations as well; one such situation happens when my parents disagree with my choices for my life. This doesn’t happen as often as it used to — I have learned something, after all. But I remember not long in the past when I changed from a 51-year-old woman to a 5-year old child in seconds, responding to one or another piece of advice or criticism from a parent. In other words, I don’t act my age. The odd thing is, I understand that my parent is telling me something I need to know, but I feel helpless to stop myself from becoming that angry child.
My main problem with this lesson concerns my parents. I am not saying that they are at fault; far from it, of course, as they are each their own person, and my task is to accept each one as they are. This requires me to overcome years of reacting defensively to them, and to keep myself in the present moment when I speak with them. I have better luck at times, worse at others. I think the answer is practice — each time I face this situation and stop myself from reacting defensively, I will be another step closer to seeing others as they are. That is, one step closer to acting my age.