One of my favorite books is The 4 Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. I first read this tome maybe 8-9 years ago at a pivotal time in my life. The book came highly recommended so I decided to give it a read. It turned out to be the perfect book at the perfect time in my life. If you have not read it I highly recommend it to anyone.

Of the "4 agreements" detailed in the book, the first one is to me the most impactful. Indeed the author clearly states that if you are only able to make the first agreement you will dramatically change everything in your life. I guess what really struck me about all 4 agreements was how surprisingly simple and basic each one was. Surely they are understandable even to a child. There is always something to be said about simple, elegant approaches. I enjoyed this book so much I bought both the print and audio versions and recently reviewed the audio version once again.

The book has a rather lengthy introduction before diving into the 4 agreements where the author describes all the agreements you have made in your life to date. Most if not all were imposed upon you subtly by parents, teachers, clergy, friends and to an extent your interpretation of life circumstances. These agreements are mostly tools to control you through a common mechanism- FEAR. If anyone does a careful self analysis of their self talk and how they run their day to day life you will most certainly find almost every daily decision is fear based. Not so much physical fears but fears of being laughed at, excluded, ridiculed, ostracized, penniless or just not fitting in. This fear impacts all you do, from what you wear to what you say, think and do.

Now its important to understand... another word for self talk is PRAYER. This is why we pray without ceasing. It's therefore imperative that we treat it as such and closely examine to whom our prayers hold allegiance. Is the self talk we fuel mostly fear based (of the devil) or mostly love based (of God)? Do you entertain self doubt (low faith) or do you reinforce Love, God, Gratitude and Worthiness (high faith)? Our self talk, or prayers are the chief mechanism to create our lives.... in other words life does not happen TO YOU. Life happens because of you. You are the creator and you create your life through your prayers. Love yourself and life loves you. Give and you shall receive. Give gratitude for anything, no matter how small and love will multiply. But the same happens for fear allegiance too- constantly judge and criticize yourself/others and judgement will be piled onto you. Remind yourself you are not worthy and you certainly will be unworthy. Curse the weather and curses will come to you. Fear a pandemic and a pandemic will be on you...but be grateful for each healthy moment and healthy moments will abound. If we can change our allegiance even 51% of the time in our prayers or self talk... a huge shift will come to our lives.

This self talk mantra we create is why the 1st agreement is so important and indeed pivotal to our lives. The 1st agreement is to be IMPECCABLE in our word. I love that word, impeccable. Perhaps the best one word definition of this is "perfect". Totally clean, honest, and sin free. Exempt from even the possibility of doing wrong. Of course to be totally impeccable in everything is impossible... but the author simply asks us to strive to be impeccable just in our word. While even in only our word we still cannot always be perfect the idea is to strive that direction! This first agreement is not so much about our spoken word... but about our inner self talk and non ceasing prayers- our inner word. The idea of this 1st agreement is to change our inner talk from fear based to love based. This all seems easy and common sense... but do not be fooled. For the average person facing and overcoming their deeply held inner fears requires a total warrior mentality.

The naked human body is a great example of how difficult it is to exact this sort of change. While I was serving in Germany we would often go to the local swimbad (local pool). On one of my first trips to the pool I was relaxing on a chaise lounge chair arranged within a row of probably 15 identical chairs poolside. When the young German couple adjacent to me began gathering their belongings to leave. I was totally shocked when they both simply removed their bathing suits and put on their business casual clothes to return to work. My mind was blown. How could they do that, right here in front of God and everyone??? Have they no shame? And indeed the answer was YES, they had no shame. They were simply not taught the inner self talk to be ashamed of their bodies. I spent almost 4 years living in Germany and I was not closer on the last day than the first to changing my clothes outside of the bathroom at the swimbad! And I still could not do that today! At 52 a bit of body shame is probably a good thing for me to have so personally I don't plan on tackling that long held agreement! My purpose here though is to illustrate just how hard it really is to change your ingrained agreements. Every fear running your life is equally as difficult to break as the naked in public fear!

What most people cannot do though is the first step.... to acknowledge and face these inner fears. Let alone start to change them! Allow me to illustrate again with the naked fear. Have you ever even analyzed that fear? If you do you will have to face the reality... it is not real. God made you naked. The world conformed you to hate your nakedness. You look at yourself in the mirror naked and you are disgusted. You concentrate on your perceived flaws and wrack your brain on how to strategically hide them with your clothing choices. Most of our other fears are similar... they too are not real. Most are based on a fear of not being accepted in society. Honestly examine these fears... church/religion is a great one to look at. How you perceive your work life/career is another. And of course look at all of your relationships... are they fear based or faith based? Are you desperately trying to control everything, everyone and every outcome? Do you operate from a lack mentality? If you look at all the great spiritual leaders through the eons they all demonstrated how to face these inner fear constructs. Did Jesus have to have a fancy job, clothing, sharp haircut, money or hang with only the right people??? NO. Quite the contrary indeed.

So many would be so much better served not worshipping Jesus but by emulating Jesus (or other religious figures). Spiritual leaders set an example of how to live in faith, not to be worshipped themselves but to provide a path for humanity. They prove it can be done. They embody the warrior mentality. Our job is to study and emulate them not pray to them to somehow "help" us. Our chief prayer to them should be gratitude for their example. But most cannot admit this, let alone say it or write it... why? Oh yeah the fear based agreement. Most cannot admit this is 99% inner work and not prayer to some outside God sitting on a cloud. Because the fear based teaching is that you are nothing without some outside deity. Likely you were told you were unclean, unrighteous, dirty, weak, and far from God. Just like that dirty naked body you should also be ashamed of!

I strive everyday to recognize fearful thoughts and prayers. Some days I do very well... some days I suck. Some days I stop and question every fearful motivation shedding great light upon it and squelching it. Other days I fuel fear and run with it! Like anything... the more I try and practice the better I get. Re-reading the 4 Agreements helps with all of this. Being honest with myself and not afraid to face my inner demons also helps. Developing a warrior mentality based on love and faith and less on fear is a quest of mine. Some days I think I am there.... others I am far from it. Uncovering every fear based agreement within me is never ending! But the freedom I feel when I ferret one out and face it is purely exhilarating!

Right now at this moment in our history every American should read the 4 Agreements. Even if just the first part thru the 1st agreement. Why? Because it will surely help each of us to question what is love based and what is fear based. Do our political leaders use love or fear? (Trump/Biden) Do our institutions run on love or fear? And as we look at each of these we also need to honestly ask ourselves- Am I going to run on love or fear? It's your agreement.