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Be Impeccable with Your Words


The problem is this: we, as individuals, live in the collective dream of a family, of a community, of a nation. We, as individuals, live in the collective dream of humanity itself.

And every time a new soul enters this experience of earthly life, its people rush in to hook its attention and to indoctrinate that new soul in the ways of this outer dream. Every time a new soul enters this experience of earthly life, moms and dads and siblings and friends and teachers and ministers and, dear God, the media and social media, rush in to hook its attention and to indoctrinate that new soul in the ways of this outer dream.


The ways of this outer dream, for better or worse, inform gender roles and religious beliefs and life purpose and relational rules and even personal values. The ways of this outer dream inform which clothes to wear and which language to speak and which religion to practice and which parts to shave - there really is no limit, you see.

And because that child quite simply doesn’t know any better, the child agrees with the ways of this outer dream, for better or worse. And in so doing, the outer dream becomes the inner dream or what Don Miguel Ruiz calls, a personal Book of Law.


This process by which the outer dream, for better or worse, becomes a personal Book of Law, is called the domestication of humans.


The author asserts that this domestication of humans is parallel to the domestication of animals. It’s a crude process rooted in a system of reward and punishment. We are rewarded when we act in accord with the expectations of the outer dream. And we are punished when we act out of accord with the expectations of the outer dream.


Ultimately, we are rewarded as we abandon our deepest selves. We are rewarded for pretending to be something we’re not. And we are punished as we refuse to abandon our deepest selves. We are punished for refusing to be something we’re not.


And this domestication of humans is so effective that, in time, we no longer need moms and dads and siblings and friends and teachers and ministers and even the media and social media. This domestication of humans is so effective that, in time, we begin to reward ourselves for pretending to be something we’re not. And we begin to punish ourselves for refusing to be something we’re not.


In time, we become self-domesticating. In time, we become self-perpetuating mimics – Mr. Fillmore’s automatons — of moms and dads and siblings and friends and teachers and ministers and even the media and social media. And it’s in such a fashion that this outer dream, for better or worse, gets passed from generation to generation to generation.


Now, I say for better or worse because the outer dream is brimming with lies. So, as each new soul innocently agrees to the tenets of that outer dream and adopts them as an inner dream – as a personal Book of Law – he or she begins to reward himself and to punish herself for some pretty ridiculous ideas about gender roles and religious beliefs and life purpose and relational rules and even personal values.


I say for better or worse because entire lives have been constructed on Books of Law which are 95% false. Entire lives have been constructed on the fearful fiction of generations of frightened humans.


And anthropologists would agree. Think about it this way: up to about a couple hundred people can sustain community through gossip. After all, it’s pretty easy for Art to know what’s happening in Jennifer’s life because if Jennifer doesn’t tell him, someone else will.


Beyond a couple hundred people, though, gossip no longer works. Art may not even recognize Jennifer’s face, much less know what’s happening in her life! This is why it’s tough to grow a church beyond a couple hundred people. As we grow through 20, 40, 60 people, we get comfortable with gossip. But as we grow through 150, 170, 190 people, gossip starts to fail. The power of gossip has to give way to the power of story, and we don’t like it.


If you are Catholic, you have a sense of community with all Catholics, not because you know all Catholics, but because you share a story (a unifying idea called Catholicism).


If you are American, you have a sense of community with all Americans, not because you know all Americans, but because you share a story (a unifying idea called Americanism).


Said more clearly, entire lives have been constructed on Books of Law which are 95% false because humans uniquely learned to build communities upon story and a story doesn’t have to be true to be powerful. – I’m sure you can call to mind any number of powerful communities built upon really horrible stories.


And so it is that when a human stumbles upon a lie – when the religious rhetoric found on the pages of a man’s Book of Law bumps against his love for his gay child or, say, his friendship with his Muslim neighbor; when the life purpose found on the pages of a woman’s Book of Law bumps against the gender-nonconforming career that makes her soul dance; when the personal values found on the pages of a human’s Book of Law bumps against a teaching such as ours which says that every form of life is an individualized expression of the one Life (by whatever name we choose to call It) and as such, is intrinsically valuable, innately important, inherently worthy of its right to be; when a human stumbles upon any lie upon which an entire life has been constructed, the human finds itself at a most-important point of choice: will the human abandon the lie? Or will the human retreat to the safety of the known, no matter how flawed, no matter how mediocre, no matter how limiting it might be?


And make no mistake. The outcome isn’t as predictable as you might think.


So, that’s the problem. And Don Miguel Ruiz offers four agreements which are designed to help us, and I quote, “reveal a new dream called heaven.”


We begin with his first.


It was Maya Angelou who wrote, and I quote, “Someday we’ll be able to measure the power of words. I think they are things. They get on the walls. They get in your wallpaper. They get in your rugs, in your upholstery, and your clothes, and finally into you.”


And her sentiments have been reflected in the scriptures of virtually every great tradition.

It was a Sikh writer who explained that, “Breath is God’s gift of life and when we use it to utter sounds, those sounds carry the creative power of the universe.”


The Buddha, “Words have the power to both destroy and heal. When words are both true and kind, they can change our world.”


In the opening chapters of Torah, God is imagined to have spun the entire universe into being through words. "God spoke, and there was light."


Of this, Jesus cautioned that we will account for every word uttered.


And, of course, it was Unity’s co-founder, Charles Fillmore who wrote, and I quote, “Words are seeds, and when dropped into the invisible spiritual substance, they grow and bring forth after their kind.”


Don Miguel Ruis goes on to assert that the word is the most powerful tool you have as a human; he calls it a tool of magic. And like all tools, this word can be leveraged to call forth something of a heaven, and this word can be leveraged to call forth something of a hell. It can be used to elevate all who surround you and it can be used to diminish all who surround you. It can be used to harmonize you with the brightest of dreams and it can be used to harmonize you with darkest of nightmares.


He calls this first the most difficult and the most important of the four agreements, and he articulates it as follows, “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.”


The word impeccable is rooted in the Latin pecatus, which means "sin." The “im” in impeccable means "without," so impeccable means "without sin.” Mr. Ruiz could have said, “Be without sin in your speech.”


“Be Impeccable with Your Word,” he says. And yet maybe there’s something within you that rises in tension because you believe certain aspects of your story are best hidden. Maybe you believe certain histories, certain guilts, certain so-called failures are best kept from public view.


If you’ve carried a toxic secret for decades, you know what I’m talking about. If you’ve carried a deep shame for decades, you know what I’m talking about.


“Be Impeccable with Your Word,” he says. And yet maybe there’s something within you that rises in tension because you fear the vulnerability of your own voice. Maybe you fear the vulnerability of your dreams, your ideas, your perspectives, your opinions, your beliefs, your visions. Maybe you imagine it safer to tiptoe through life cloaked in somebody else’s beige half-truths than to dance through life stripped to your technicolor truth.


“Be Impeccable with Your Word,” he says. And yet maybe there’s something within you that rises in tension because you doubt someone’s feelings can take it, you doubt someone’s psyche can endure it, you doubt someone’s capacity can accommodate it. Maybe you would project itself into that great scene from A Few Good Men when Jack Nicholson shouts at Tom Cruise, “You can’t handle the truth.”


How we shortchange each other with this one. How we deny each other opportunities to grow with this one.


“Be Impeccable with Your Word,” he says. And yet maybe there’s something within you that rises in tension because you’re comfortable. Maybe you’re comfortable existing just below some glass ceiling imposed by religious rhetoric, imposed by sadistic humility, imposed by societal norms, imposed by statistical probabilities, imposed by tired excuses.


It was Emerson who said, “The fact that I am here certainly shows me that the soul had need of an organ here. Shall I not assume the post? [Or] shall I skulk and dodge … with my unseasonable apologies and vain modesty and imagine my being here impertinent?”


I might explain it this way: the highest that’s within you presses itself forth in accord with the availability of its channel. And the highest that’s within you struggles to press itself forth through secrets and shames. The highest that’s within you struggles to press itself forth through self-preservation and people-pleasing. The highest that’s within you struggles to press itself forth through safe choices and small fears.


The highest that’s within you presses itself forth in accord with the availability of its channel. And that channel is opened every time you are boldly, bravely and brazenly; unabashedly, unapologetically and unashamedly impeccable with your word.


That channel is opened every time you finally and at long last, let your truth fly.


And this becomes my affirmation: I give the highest that’s within me a channel well readied by truth.


Mr. Ruiz promises that as even in this first week of practice, emotional poisons will begin to dissolve from your mind, outer spells will begin to fall from your shoulders and the hells of the outer dream will begin to give rise to new heavens.

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