I currently do not practice any religion or spiritual practice, although I do have an interest in some non-Christian religions. I was not born into any religion and did not go to any church on a regular basis until my family moved to Utah when I was 10. My dad never believed in religion and my mom was a follower, and I followed my mom into religion. We both had guilt complexes and somehow been let to believe you were bad if you weren’t part of a religion, so we joined the Mormon church because everyone else was Mormon.
Eventually, I “grew out” of my beliefs, but I didn’t become bitter toward them as many do. I’m not a Mormon hater, but I have current and former friends that are. They either have Mormon spouses or they live/have lived in Utah. With that said, I do hate the intolerant views many Mormon’s have of “non-members” and treat the Mormon church as an exclusive club where anyone that’s not a part is not a worthy member of society. However, that’s a human flaw that many humans have with their personal beliefs, no matter what that belief is. Christian or not, religious or not, democrat or republican or not, liberal or conservative, etc. While the Mormon church does teach that it’s the one and only “true” church and only they are right, they still teach that they should “love one another”, just as Jesus did. Just a good amount of church goers just see the fact that they are following the one true religion and want everything in their world to conform to that one true religion, which has made the Utah political climate what it is. But that is (maybe) a story for another time.
With digressions aside, there are some solid truths and values that I still hold to today; universal values that I personally believe make people better, happier, and make the world a better place if they are followed. These are:
1. Be responsible for yourself. Do what you can on your own. Ask for help when you need it, but if you ALWAYS need help with the same things, maybe you need to rethink what you are doing. Pay your bills. If you can’t, ask for help, but if you can’t make it without constant financial help, then rethink what you are spending your money on. If it’s too much debt, reduce that debt. Get rid of what you don’t need. Don’t blame others for ALL your problems, and only blame them if you have no control. But still determine what you can do to solve your problems, regardless of fault or blame.
2. Be prepared. Keep a food supply and other necessities “just in case”. Also keep a healthy savings account for unexpected job loss, expenses, etc. Don’t constantly live in excess and constantly whine about always living on the edge and that you can lose everything at the drop of a hat.
3. Do unto others as you want them to do unto you. If you don’t want people to think you are pathetic, stupid, or are bad, don’t treat everyone else like they are losers if they don’t do everything you think they should be doing. If you want them to respect you, respect them. If you want them to treat you kindly, treat them kindly. This includes in private. Don’t bad mouth others behind their back if you don’t want the same. If you want people to appreciate you, then truly appreciate them. No guarantee that you will be treated as you want, BUT at least you know that you are being fair and unprejudiced. And after all, you can only control yourself, and filling yourself with hate/dislike/disgust for those that are not like you ends up poisoning YOU. And when that happens, does it actually matter what type of people “they” are if you, yourself is poisoned?
4. Help others, after you have taken care of yourself. It is very difficult to help others when you need help, and I’ve learned that the hard way. In my current relationship life, we spent every resource (monetary and otherwise) before we had it, and still proceeded to have our own animal rescue against my better judgement considering we didn’t have outside support. We still can’t support ourselves and the rescue properly and always have to beg for volunteers and monetary help. It’s my belief you have to practice 1-3 before this step is affective. I was convinced that this belief was wrong. Or rather, I just gave up trying to explain why this belief is right and necessary because my partner is convinced that I am always wrong. And here we are, on the verge of losing everything at any moment because we can’t keep our heads above water.
I have actually been thinking a lot about this lately, in two parts. One part is to let my voice be heard, and the second part is to be positive! I have been living in a very oppressive home life for years, where I haven’t been able to express myself and it has been so hard to be positive, especially since I am surrounded by negative people. However, I am a positive person by nature and always look for good in a situation, and I have always been a writer even when I don’t write. So, finding my song in my heart and sing for joy is EXACTLY what I need to do!
“Taking things personally makes you prey for predators. They can hook your attention with one little opinion, and feed you whatever poison they want.” ~ don Miguel Ruiz
My aunt first introduced me to The Four Agreements about 10 or so years ago. She referred to don Miguel as her teacher and mentor, and his teachings were life changing. While his teachings were life changing for me, they also mirrored many of my own personal beliefs that I already had, but had allowed our culture and society to bury. When I first read the Four Agreements, I was reminded that I placed too much emphasis on what others say to me and what others thought of me and my beliefs. At the time, I would still feel guilty for not believing what I was “supposed” to (i.e. not belonging and/or practicing any sort of organized religion, even though I did not believe in many of the basic principles). I would also base my self worth and feelings on how I was being treated in my relationships with family and my partner. Reading don Miguel’s words reminded me that I alone determine my self worth and how I feel and that I should not allow others to influence or poison me.
Strong words. Words that made me stronger and helped me get through some of the toughest times of my life, consequences that were brought on by some horrible choices that snowballed (that may be another story for later).
Unfortunately, in the past couple years I’ve been forgetting don Miguel’s words, and have been taking things too personally in my relationship–one of the hardest Agreements for me to remember and practice. I have no problem not taking things personally at work (I’m a customer service rep for a health insurance company, so that’s a necessity in my line of work), but not so in my personal life. As a result, seeing his quote today reminded me that I have to again get on the path, to remember that when hurtful things are said, it’s usually not directed at me personally (even if the words appear to be directed at me). My partner, for example, lives with chronic pain and illnesses and can be easily angered, and as a result she tends to say hurtful things whether she means to or not. When I take her hurtful remarks personally, then I let that affect me, and it affects my self esteem and confidence, and I cannot be or do my best. Granted, I can do a lot. But I cannot be my best and I cannot feel good about myself.
So, it’s time once again to read the Four Agreements and remind myself what I already know.