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Do you know what religion, therapy, and self-help literature have in common? Somebody thinks one or all of these things are glorified scams. But they keep it to themselves because they see it helps people.
What would you do? If you see one of your friends pouring money into self-help, the church, or therapy, and you thought it a scam, would you say something? Or would you let them work on their happiness?
I believe in therapy, and I can see why people would turn to religion to be happy. Self-help, on the other hand, is a gray area to me. A lot of it sounds like common sense with flowery words to be happy. Yet, I see how people can benefit from self-help. Do I go on a campaign against self-help, or do I keep my mouth shut and let people be happy?
And Then I Stumbled Upon The Four Agreements
The pandemic is causing everyone a lot of grief. Relationships are straining, and they’re mentally breaking from the isolation and uncertainty. We’re more lost and confused than ever before.
A book like The Four Agreements showing up at this time feels convenient. Everything is so up in the air it’s time to do something different. Some of us feel guilty for choosing now to do what we think we should’ve done last year.
So I decided to give it a shot. This time, I checked out my local library and found the book. I didn’t want to spend money on a book if I’m not sure I’m going to like it.
I Read the Book Three Times Before I Made an Opinion
The first time I read it, I read it from cover to cover. It read like I thought a self-help book would read. With all the talk about ancient civilizations, mind parasites, and black and white magicians, I wondered who’d buy into it.
It reminded me of the South Park episode, where everyone gets into the New Age store that opens up in the town. People reject science and reality for anything that sounds mystical. It sounds great until Kyle gets sick and the parents refuse to take him to the hospital.
It comes out later the people who brought the supplies faked being magical to make a little extra cash.
At first, I read the book, and I was like, “Do people really believe all this crap?” The talk of ancient civilizations, black and white magicians, and parasites started as a turn-off.
People wouldn’t recommend a book like that unless they thought it would help. So I had an idea. Why not read the text from the middle?
Starting in the Middle Changed My Opinion of the Book
The moment I started reading the book from the middle, I understood the message. When you forget about the ancient civilization mumbo-jumbo, you can see why so many people swear by this book.
The Four Agreements is about making promises to yourself to work towards something better. Like many self-help books, it tells you that you have the power to change the direction of your life.
The author, Don Miguel Ruiz, expertly puts it into four promises to make to yourself every day. He writes them in way that makes his methods easy to follow.
What attracted me to the book is what happens if you mess up on these agreements. Ruiz warns that there will be days you mess up no matter what you do. If you do, you do, you try again.
What are The Four Agreements?
According to Ruiz, we need four special agreements we need to make to ourselves before we can start seeing a change in our lives.
- Be impeccable with your word. Think about how you talk to a child. You wouldn’t tell a child awful things. You call them terrible names, and they’ll believe it’s true. The Trump presidency showed us that if we’re not careful with our words then people would take them too far. Words matter and we need to acknowledge if we’re ever going to start seeing our lives change for the better.
- Don’t take things personally. It’s easy to blow off someone as a jerk when they insult you. It’s easy to watch a video of someone lashing out over masks and think, “Wow, these people suck.” But we can’t take the things these people say personally. Maybe someone is having a bad day and lashes out at the first person who says the wrong thing. Sometimes, when people hurt us, it’s not about us but something going on with them.
- Don’t make assumptions. When we ask questions about situations that sound absurd, our first instinct is to think we’re being accused of something we’re not doing. Assumptions can destroy the strongest relationships. It’s why it’s essential to ask questions, no matter how funny you feel asking.
- Always do your best. No matter what you do, you put in your best work. You’re going to have days where you’re going to fail. I fail all the time. But as long as you’re alive, you can try again. There is nothing to feel sad about if you know you did your best.
Some of us need to work on one of these things. Some of us need to work on all of these things. It’s not going to be something we change about ourselves instantly, so we need to stop beating ourselves up every time we fail.
It’s that part of the book that sold me. I’m a firm believer in second chances, and this book shows it’s okay to keep giving second chances. It’s healthy to give second chances. Giving those second chances to ourselves is one of the best ways to show self-love.
The Message of the Book Got Buried with Magical Speak
I didn’t buy into adopting the ancient civilization mindset. Nor did I buy into the black magic vs. white magic ideology. The book didn’t need it for the message to be there.
Ruiz’s message still resonated with me. He didn’t need to give me a South Park-style New Age message to get his point across. He needs to be open and honest about how hard it is to change new habits, and we’ll still buy into his message.
Ruiz’s encouragement is a refreshing change from the toxic positivity you see in many self-help articles you see on the internet these days. He knows his message isn’t going to be easy for everyone. But he teaches to not hold it against yourself if you fall. Even he falls sometimes.
I’m not one to buy into the self-help industry, but I enjoyed The Four Agreements. Despite the mumbo-jumbo I read in the beginning, Ruiz’s message stayed with me after multiple rereads.
I started working on applying the messages to myself. My relationships, my writing, and my relationship with myself. It’s not easy; I fail all the time. But I’m not going to give up trying.