Don’t take anything personally. The second of the four agreements in Don Miguel Ruiz’s aptly titled book, The Four Agreements.
“Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.”
This lil doozy is also a practice. And it isn’t just people we take offense to. We take weather personal; traffic personal; we take parking tickets personal. The better question is, what don’t we take personal? #tyomd (tweetable)
“Fighting what is … ” a common phrase in my house;)
When Elisa or I lose our zen over something we have zero control over, we offer gentle reminders to one another that, depending on the day, receive a fair welcome. “I know I am!” I often grumble in response. “I get it. I totally get it. I just need a minute, OK?”
Thankfully, I’ve been practicing this “don’t take shit personal”-bit for a while now, so a minute or two is usually all I need. On occasion, Elisa needs a few more reminders, but, as it seems. nothing can’t be fixed with hugs and homemade treats.
Here are a few other examples of what people may take personally. Just out of curiosity, are you fired up when:
Someone steals your parking spot? y n
You witness someone else’s spot get jacked? y n
Someone cuts in front of you at Starbucks? y n
Some fool cuts in line behind you? y n
A little shithead toilet papered your lawn? y n
Someone crashes into the car in front of you? y n
Someone is talking smack about your mom? y n
A bully is messing with your kid at school? y n
Someone stole your girlfriend? y n
Someone shoplifted at Costco? y n
I think by now you may be seeing a trend. The infraction has less to do with what is being done and more to do with the fact that it is being done to YOU(r). Just in case some of us aren’t acquainted with our ego as of yet, there you have her. [Me/Mine.]
Let’s take the tough example: someone stole your girlfriend, for instance. Homewrecker! Right?
Believe me, I have pointed every finger imaginable, even the shake-your-fist homewrecker one. But when I sat back with some honest introspection, and marinated on it for a while, nearly nothing that has been done to me have I not also done to someone else in some way, shape or form.
And was it intended to be taken personally when I was the guilty party, no. Think about it, very few of us have grand mastermind schemes. We’re just after the few basic needs, and that’s about it.
Even if you’ve never wrecked a home, surely you can see that there is more than one person involved. A twisted tango perhaps, but two just the same. So what good is it to point a finger?
One of the worst things I’ve ever done was “borrow” two kids bikes from a front lawn. One for me and one for my friend. We were being cool and funny [read: lazy and stupid] high school kids. We didn’t know the people whose bikes we “borrowed.” We didn’t think about the money that was likely saved to buy the bikes, the surprise on the kids faces, the scrapes and tears of them learning to ride. We were just punks-ass kids who ditched the bikes in a near tot lot less than a mile away from where we swiped them.
I may have completely forgotten about the bike story, to be honest, lost in the pile of other stupid stunts of which I’m not proud. Yet this one sticks with me and you’ll see why. Probably three months later, a referee and mentor approached me about where I was looking to play lacrosse in college. For four years she had ref-ed my games and watched me grow; she was convinced I could play Division 1. When she found out my coach wasn’t doing much to get me recruited, she went out on a limb for me contacting several coaches and schools. In one of our mentor conversations it came up, that her kid’s bikes had been stolen, a side-note in our conversation. It didn’t dawn on me at first, but when I realized where she lived, I put two and two together and my heart just sunk.
I never had the guts to tell her that I was one of the guilty punk kids. And don’t worry, this is not a confession. It’s just that stories like this have been an incredible reference for when I am quick to point the finger.
I’ll never forget the first couple of times my car was broken into in Baltimore. “How dare they!” I thought. After about three times, I just left the doors open for whomever “they” were. I kept nothing in my car and left the doors unlocked so at least I might save my windows from being smashed.
It wasn’t personal. I was a faceless, nameless, storyless car. They may have made the assumption, given the neighborhood, that a little break-in wouldn’t break the bank. Or, maybe they didn’t think at all. Either way, the sooner I got over being the victim, the better I felt.
I am not trying to justify acts of ignorance or advise anyone to allow mistreatment/misconduct on any level. I’m merely suggesting we pick our battles more wisely. We fall less victim to that which we cannot change, make no mistake. We let others have their opinions no matter how disagreeable, because it really is none of our business.
Try it out for some time. I guarantee you’ll feel lighter, more aware, and less broken.
I leave you with this: When you feel quick to point the finger, draw up some evidence that might be applicable in your life where you may have been acting in (partially) the same manner. This is a super introspective tool to keep in the back pocket. Judge not.