The Power of Being Impeccable With Your Word
About 3 minutes to read
We have heard the saying talk is cheap and I can say myself that many times the words I have spoken have been cheap because I haven’t meant them. Recently I’ve made the mistake of watching various newscasts where politicians are throwing around dangerous rhetoric without much thought and this has reminded me of the most profound principle Don Miguel Ruiz teaches us in his work The Fifth Agreement – to Be impeccable with your Word. At first, it sounds so simple, but is it really and what does it actually mean?
The Meaning of Be Impeccable With Your Word
The definition of impeccable is to be faultless; flawless; irreproachable; not liable to sin; incapable of sin. Does this mean we must be faultless, flawless, and irreproachable with our word? Must we not sin with our word?
Don Miguel Ruiz encourages us to speak with integrity. Say only what you mean and avoid using the Word to speak against yourself or to gossip with others. He encourages us to use our Word in the direction of truth and love. WOW! What a tall order, but yes this is what he meant. Oh boy, this is not so simple after all!
A Personal Story
I remember an experience that reinforced this teaching very powerfully for me.
I had a boss who called me into her office on a Friday afternoon and wanted to discipline me for a certain behaviour. I felt horrified by the accusation she was leveraging against me, because all my colleagues behaved in the same way and yet she seemed to be singling me out. I felt this was unjust and untrue.
Over the weekend, I fermented. I spoke to friends and colleagues trying to gain alternative perspectives but they all agreed with me, my manager was wrong. I felt hurt and indignant and if I am honest, victimised. I had many mental arguments and justifications which I wanted to present and prepared myself for war.
Returning to work on Monday, she called me into her office and I waited for the bell to sound to launch into the second round and attack. She calmly began the conversation saying, “Angie, I have thought about little else over the weekend and I would like to ask you to forgive me. My judgement against you was unfair and the accusation untrue. Your behaviour is the same as all your colleagues and please would you forgive me.”
Well talk about being deflated! I was winding myself up, ready to launch the first blow and she quite literally took the wind out of my sails. I replied, “Yes, I forgive you” but I lied.
What My Lie Cost Me
I did not mean this. The forgiveness was not in my heart, it was unconnected from my mind, and I pacified the situation with words and spoke a lie that did not liberate me. She took me literally, she received my forgiveness and went on with her life, but the wound continued to fester in my heart.
This lie haunted me. I was uncomfortable in her presence, I begrudged her good will, and I avoided her at every turn. My smiles were false and this situation began eating me up inside.
It took quite a while for me to connect the dots and realise that I had done this to myself. This situation arose because I was not impeccable with my word.
I could have told her that I was unable to forgive her; I could have expressed the emotional upheaval I was feeling after our confrontation, I could have said that I needed time to reflect. Instead I lied. My (w)Word was not aligned with my heart, mind or spirit and as a result I just wanted to vomit every time I saw her. My dis-ease was not her doing I had brought it upon myself.
This was one of my life’s most powerful lessons – let your yes be yes and your no be no.
If you don’t mean it, don’t say it.
Perhaps your experience is different to mine but ask yourself:
- How many things do I say which I do not mean?
- What stories am I telling myself and the world, which are not true?
- How am I using my word against others and myself?
By creating the habit of impeccability with our word, we train ourselves to become conscious. We become more mindful of how we present ourselves in the world.
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