Book: The Four Agreements

The Four AgreementsThis book was a recommendation, and I see what people would get out of it, although personally I really disliked it. I thought the claims it made were too grandiose, and that they were overstated in a way that was at times offensive – when it talks about the “power of the word” and says that Hitler misused words, the omission of the wider geo-political and cultural context just left me cold. It’s not a good example.

Also the examples he used about women were incredibly gendered – women worrying about their appearance, and the nagging wife waiting for the husband. Way to use your words well and with intent, dude.

The agreements are as follows:

Be Impeccable With Your Words: This means being intentional when you speak, essentially. Talking about situations is deemed gossip, and is therefore bad and poisonous. I know in my relationships with my close friends, they often challenge my point of view and talking about the things that bother us clarifies my thinking. I think we’re pretty good at keeping each other in check, and we have the venting period, but then we come up with positive actions to improve things. Sharing actually brings us closer together, and in my mind the difference between that and gossip is whether it goes further than that conversation. This section left me wondering, so something bothers you and you’re not allowed to talk about it – then what?

Don’t Take Anything Personally: The answer to then what – it’s irrelevant, because nothing is supposed to bother you. Nothing anyone else says or does is supposed to affect you. People’s actions are all about them. I’d agree with that bit, but to deny that other people’s actions can affect you just seems deluded to me.

Don’t Make Assumptions: This is where the terrible nagging housewife example appeared. This one I agree with – it only causes conflict and frustration when we assume that other people know our state of mind, they never do. There’s no practical action item here though, so you don’t make assumptions, then how do you clarify your thinking? Oh, yes, nothing anyone else does is supposed to affect you, anyway.

Always Do Your Best: This is actually helpful, just you do what you can (on these measures, but why not everything?) and don’t beat yourself up for it when you fail, because you will, everyone does. By the time I got to this bit though, I was just irked in general by the book and not finding his count of his many times failing compelling.

As I approached the end of the book, I found myself asking – OK, so if you’re an emotionless island who takes care to never affect anyone else, and in turn is never effected… yeah, you’ll probably have a nice, conflict-free existence. But how do you ever become close to people if you don’t open up to them? I theorise that loving someone is giving them the ability to affect you, and trusting they will use it well. The closer relationship we have with someone, the more they can lift us up, and the more they can crush us. I don’t believe that you can take away the second part, without reducing the first.

In all, I would say don’t bother reading this book unless you aspire to be an island, and even if you do… you might want to look for something with some more practical ideas instead.

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