Reflections On The Wisdom Teachings Of Don Miguel Ruiz

Part Two of Five

Introduction: Don Miguel Ruiz was born in rural Mexico, a descendant of the Toltecs, an ancient people who lived in the central valley of Mexico. Their philosophy held that we live in a dream state, with the quality of our lives determined by how we dream. Most of us fail to transcend to a higher awareness, living with the belief that life must be composed of suffering. But we can change how we dream and achieve happiness. Discovering love and respect for one’s self is the beginning of that process. These essays are my reflections on Ruiz’s best-selling books, The Four Agreements and his book The Fifth Agreement.

The Second Agreement: Don’t Take Anything Personally                      

Throughout our lives, some of us have been deemed “overly sensitive,” “thin-skinned,” “someone who is easily hurt.” Truly, taking things personally can be our Achilles heel. But why do we have such a dilemma? Why can’t those of us who take things personally free ourselves from this limiting factor?

Don Miguel Ruiz tells us that the Agreements serve as guidelines to help us extricate ourselves from the personal ones each of us concocts as we are influenced by life’s experiences. These self-created rules put us into hell, a “dream” we live in.

Ruiz says: Taking things personally is the maximum expression of selfishness because we make the assumption that everything is about me.

And this is not a good sense of selfhood. In fact, it can be destructive of our sense of self and of others.

Furthermore, Ruiz is telling us that it is not only the negative, self-defeating comments we should deflect, but also the positive, self-affirming ones:

It is not important to me what you think about me, and I don’t take what you think personally. I don’t take it personally when people say, “Miguel, you are the best,” and I also don’t take it personally when they say, “Miguel, you are the worst.”. . . Either way, it does not affect me because I know what I am. I don’t have the need to be accepted . . . It is nothing personal, because you are dealing with yourself, not with me.

The idea of being consumed by self has a wealth of possible psychological reasons for its existence. Personality theorists set up lenses to look through in the attempt to explain these competing reasons. These lenses include freedom versus determinism; heredity versus environment; uniqueness versus universality; active versus reactive; optimistic versus pessimistic—that is to say, the expectation that someone can change or not change unwanted behavior.

So by studying “personality” through a chosen lens, the theorist can determine the individual’s pattern of behavior, emotions, and ideas that consistently show up—factors that influence the development of an individual’s persona. These include one’s values, hopes, and expectations. In other words, factors that create how the individual views one’s sense of self.

Consider the shadow side of self, the undeveloped or non-individuated self, described by Carl Jung. He states that the shadow reveals itself most decidedly through the act of projection,that is to say, when we take what we do not like about our self and attach it to someone else’s persona. In doing this, we truly believe that it is the other person who is reacting in such a way that we are sure it reveals the other person is bent on hurting us. So when we believe that this individual is being intentionally negative toward us, we take things personally. This makes logical sense, because what we do not like about that individual are those very qualities we do not like about our self.

There are sometimes two major learning lessons when we are dealing with those we perceive as a difficult person to be around; someone we might even think of as an enemy.

* We can learn a lot about our self when we explore that difficult relationship with the other person.

* We sometimes can forge a strong bond with that person exactly because s/he has a lot to teach us about our self. In a way it is a very thin line between “the other” as “enemy” and the other as “friend.”

That is not to say this process is easy to accomplish. But it can provide a lesson about not only our sense of self but also about life in general.

As a public speaker who admits to being thin-skinned when it comes to taking things personally, I am never sure that what I say is what people hear me say, i.e., that they understand what my intent is.

Consider the scenario I lived with for four decades as a clergyperson; four decades of Sundays: my standing at the exit of the sanctuary and shaking hands with people as they made their way to the cookies and coffee in the church’s social hall. And I heard them telling me what they thought of the sermon I had just preached to them.

So just imagine that somehow time has shifted and four decades of comments (verbal as well as physical) concerning my four decades of sermons all occur on only one Sunday.

Note: the comments that follow are actual ones I received:

* You really reached for the stars on that one!

* I would hear you better if you didn’t lower your voice at the end of every sentence.

* Didn’t you preach that one before?

* That was a bit long.

* Oh, we’re getting out of here early today.

* That was your best sermon ever . . . I mean the others were all right, but . . .

* The word in the third sentence of your fifth paragraph is not pronounced “shimmera”!

* One young mother, upon saying that she completely disagreed with what I preached against child abuse, slapped me across my face.

* A retired professor told me that he wished I were dead and that I’d better watch out during the upcoming Easter Sunday service.

* A man who disagreed with what I said opposing the death penalty, threatened my wife and children by asking how I would feel if he shot them to death.

* Some women in the church, believing I said from the pulpit that my wife was pregnant again (which I never said), were wondering eight months later why she wasn’t “showing.”

* My ministerial predecessor who was retired and was attending the church I was now serving—the same one he had served for 24 years—suggested some pointers to improve my preaching.

* A long-time member of the congregation commented about my sermon, the only one I wrote in strict rhythm and rhyme; and the one I spent a quadruple amount of time researching and writing compared to my other sermons: “Well, that was your worst one ever!”

And so, we all have people who pass through our lives with their own messages for us—verbal and physical ones—and we reciprocate with our own messages to them.

Sometimes we are able to truly understand each other; but sometimes not. Indeed it takes intentionality to get to an understanding beyond the hasty reaction of taking things personally. But if we do achieve that understanding, the dream we live can be a much happier one.

Don Beaudreau is our “Lakeside Living” editor for EL OJO DEL LAGO, and writes books, all of which are available on Amazon in hard-copy editions and on Kindle.


For more information about Lake Chapala visit: www.chapala.com


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