The First Agreement: Be Impeccable With Your Word

Last week we introduced The Four Agreements, a self-help book by Miguel Ruiz, that dives into four concepts that will empower us to succeed in life. We discussed how they form the foundation of our therapies at TROT (read that introductory blog article here).

This week, we’ll start with talking about the first of the four agreements, which is:

Be impeccable with your word.

What does impeccable mean? According to the Oxford Dictionary, it means:

· (of behavior, performance, or appearance) in accordance with the highest standards of propriety; faultless
· ‘a man of impeccable character’
· Incapable of wrongdoing or sin; immaculate
· Without defect or error; faultless; flawless
· Not liable to sin, incapable of wrongdoing
· Not capable of sinning or not liable to sin
· Having no flaws; perfect
· Free from fault or blame

Speak with truth, kindness and understanding

So, free from fault or blame. How can you make the words that come out of your mouth free from fault or blame? Simple. Speak with kindness and understanding.

How often have you called yourself “stupid” or “careless”? How often have you had such thoughts about others? Calling yourself unkind names is far from impeccable.

Impeccable speech means you speak the truth. And, in truth, are you really stupid or careless? Probably not. You may have had a moment when you did not think as clearly as you wanted to. You may have had a moment when your attention was distracted and perhaps you did not notice things as you typically do.

But that does not mean that you are stupid or careless. Such negative labels only hurt you. They do not help you.

So, if you are to be impeccable with your word, you look for the kind, truthful and accurate things to say. You are honest.

This does not give you license to tell someone that their “butt looks big.” If your co-worker asks your opinion on clothing, it does not give you permission to say something rude or unkind. Perhaps you do not particularly like that item of clothing on your co-worker, but I am relatively sure you can find something kind to say. Perhaps, “I like the color red,” or “that is very fashionable.”
Those are true statements. They simply avoid saying anything unkind and focus on stating something that is true, honest, and impeccable.

Speaking badly of oneself or others is one of the leading causes of low self-esteem, depression, and anxiety. Speaking badly of oneself only facilitates self-hatred. And most of the time, the unkind things we think or say about ourselves are really not true. They are only shadows of what we have been told.

In horses

When we have a new horse donated to the program here at TROT, one of the first things we do (along with the veterinary and farrier exam) is assess the horse’s self-image. We often take rescue horses; horses that have been abused or neglected. This treatment affects how the horse sees itself and its place in the world, and defines its relationships with us.

Perhaps the horse is head shy, pulling away when we try to touch its face, ears, or head. Does this mean that the horse had bad experiences when its head was touched?

Perhaps the horse leads nicely, but when put in the round pen it becomes agitated and afraid. What is the horse telling itself about this situation, and what can we do to help it make a different reaction?

Maybe the horse does well at a walk, but when you ask for a different gait the horse becomes upset and loses focus. What has someone told that horse through abusive actions about the risks of moving faster than the walk?

You get to choose

Perhaps as a child, you were told you were lazy, or careless, or stupid. As a child, you did not know better. You believed what the adults told you because that was your job. Your job as a child is to learn, to listen to the adults, and to agree with what they say. But sometimes those adults did not know the truth. Sometimes they thought you were stupid when you were really preoccupied with something else. But they called you stupid, and because you were a child, you agreed with them.

You are now an adult. You can choose to agree with something else. What you decide to label yourself is your business. But I urge you to let the first agreement, “Be Impeccable With Your Word,” guide your choice.
Think about this agreement in accordance with how you raise your children. You want to raise them to speak kindly of others and to have speech that is without fault or blame.

So, how do you do this? This will be the topic of the next article in this series, which will come out next Tuesday.