Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue

The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz: They Don’t Have to Be Perfect

Thanks to Beyond Blue reader Peg for directing me on the combox to my post “12 Ways to Overcome Jealousy and Envy” to Elizabeth Scott’s review of “The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz. As I mentioned on other posts, I constantly refer to this book and I was relieved, like Peg, by this summary of his agreements because it was a reminder that you don’t have to do them perfectly for them to be effective.


For all of you who haven’t yet read “The Four Agreements,” the following serves as a great CliffsNotes to this spiritual classic. You can get to Elizabeth’s blog on stress management by clicking here.

The First Agreement: Be Impeccable With Your Word

This means avoiding gossip, lies, empty promises and other ways we cause problems with our words. Say only what you mean, and realize that you can cause damage if you’re not careful with what you say.


This is a great recommendation. Many people don’t realize the power of their words and see the harm that can be caused with speaking carelessly, thoughtlessly or aggressively. Most of us are aware that screaming at someone may be upsetting to them, but subtle little digs at them, or gossip behind their backs, can hurt others more than we realize, and in hurting them, we hurt ourselves. This is an important, but difficult one to follow entirely. It’s a great goal to aspire to, though, and a good direction to work toward.

The Second Agreement: Don’t Take Anything Personally


This ‘agreement’ deals with understanding how other people’s behaviors are a reflection of them only. When someone gives us feedback about us, it’s important to remember that no opinions are truly objective; we all have our biases, ‘filters’ through which we view the world, and the like. Because of this, we shouldn’t take anyone else’s view of us or our actions as entirely accurate; when someone says something about us (or anything else), they’re really saying something about themselves and how they view the world.

This is good advice for making us feel better, but take it with a grain of salt. While everyone has their biases and there is no such thing as true objectivity, by never taking anything personally, people can really limit their ability to see their own negative patterns and biased thinking, and work on developing more healthy patterns and clear-sighted thinking. As M. Scott Peck says in The Road Less Traveled, “the problem of distinguishing what we are and what we are not responsible for in this life is one of the greatest problems of human existence.” Don’t give up on the work of distinguishing responsibility, or you end up creating more stress in the long run.


The Third Agreement: Don’t Make Assumptions

Much stress is created when people assume they know what other people are thinking without checking with them. Understanding that other people might have different motivations for their actions, even drastically varying world views, and remembering to really try to understand others and discuss these motivations before jumping to conclusions about their behavior, can go a long way toward preventing interpersonal conflict.

However, taking this advice to an extreme may cause people to ignore their intuition about people, or common sense about someone’s behavior that’s damaging. It can also open people up to manipulation if they train themselves to believe someone’s explanation of negative behavior rather than judging the behavior on its own. (For example, not ‘assuming’ they’re being cheated on if their spouse is exhibiting erratic behavior and the classic signs of infidelity, but vehemently denies wrongdoing.) This one is a good suggestion, but should be tempered by inner wisdom and common sense.


The Fourth Agreement: Always Do Your Best

By this, Ruiz means to do the best you can at any given moment, and you’ll have no regrets. Some days, your best isn’t as good as other days, and that’s okay. As long as you put an honest effort into life, you will have nothing to be ashamed of, and will not ‘beat yourself up’ over a less-than-stellar performance in retrospect.
I think this is good advice for anyone, and see no down-side to it. This behavior can help people acheive more progress toward their goals, and prevent unecessary feelings of regret.

While sometimes the ‘agreements’ are oversimplified, in my opinion, this is still a great little book with some heavy ideas. If followed generally (and not fanatically), these suggestions can help you reduce a great amount of stress by helping people avoid thought and behavior patterns that create frustration, blame, hurt feelings and other negative emotions.

To read more Beyond Blue, go to, and to get to Group Beyond Blue, a support group at Beliefnet Community, click here.

  • http://help Tracy

    I just don’t know what to do anymore, my husband of 17 years, within the last year he is mean, really mean, his words are so hateful, I just can’t take much more. Sunday, he couldn’t find his wallet he walked around the house screaming that I was conspiring with my son (whom doesn’t even live here anymore) that we made him lose his wallet on purpose. That is just one of an everyday event. I have MS and some days are BAD, but I figure it helps to try to put a smile on my face and be nice, but he is getting so out of hand I can’t deal and he won’t talk to the doctor. Any suggestions

  • Tracy

    Get some therapy for your self. For your own health as well and sure your son doesn’t want to see you being verbally and emotionally abuse. You will need to leave him. What your husband is doing is a form of abuse without the physical and the sexual.

  • Penny

    To Tracy from October 27,2008 & any one else who is reading,
    I have a suggestion to help you with your stress level and the MS you are experiencing. My sugestion is for you to to consider learning EFT-Emotional Freedom Technique. It is easy and free to learn by going to and download the free manual and search the archives to read the situations of others & how EFT has been of value to them from physical illnesses to emotional distress. It is a simple energy technique known as energy psychology developed by Gary Craig that uses a process of stimulating energy meridian points on the upper body for significant emotional & physical relief. It involves tapping on the points while saying a statement of the situation you are addressing.I know this sounds strange but results can be quite profound.I have been using for five years. Please consider this as I think it can be a wonderful tool for you and once you go to the website and find out more about it you will understand why. Once again the websit is www.
    Many Blessings,

  • Mary

    Just wanted to say in addition to the excellent advise just given to you is I will pray for you. I’m not really religious or trying to be preachy…..I just really feel your pain (I’ve been there in some degree) and no one should tolerate anyone yelling at them. It is abuse–some people think its normal and a form of arguing, getting it out, etc. but it is not healthy and not okay.
    Be good to yourself and protect your self, your sanity……and God bless.
    PS I admire you for reaching out. I haven’t done that yet. Good for you.

  • Gloria

    Hi Tracy,
    I had to leave my husband 3 years ago because his behaviors were escalating to the point his counselor said it was dangerous for me to stay. I took it for 15 years. Instead of him losing things though, it would be my things that would disappear right when I needed them and he would make a big thing about me never knowing where my things were. I would search and search and then when I had given up, my keys or wallet or bank deposit would appear in some place I had already looked. As there was noone else around, he had to have done it. His VA counselor said that it is normal for someone who is losing it to try to make the mate look like they were losing it. Things are only going to go downhill from here without medical assistance. Please look out for yourself. Getting counseling to deal with this situation is a good first step.

  • Beth

    God Bless you, Tracy,
    I agree with everyone, get counseling, find a good therapist, who is recommended by people you know.
    I am in an abusive marriage of 23 years, not all bad times, with many good times, but still abusive, both physically and verbally. My children have been the reason I have stayed, now they are older, and I am getting counseling, doing my homework, and seeking options. My husband started seeing a therapist, he got on medication, which has helped tremendously, but, has not returned for therapy. He will need to for this to work. If your husband does not want to save his marriage, you are going to have to save yourself. Google abusive behavior (physical, verbal, emotional), and you can gather information that will help you. Seek legal counseling to find out where you stand if you leave him. I have learned, abusive behavior is not very curable, creates a very confusing relationship, gives you very low self-esteem, and the abuse can get worse.
    Therapy taught me that when arguing or bad behavior starts, you need to leave, and not get involved in the argument. I get in my car, drive around for 45 minutes, come home, and usually the bad moment is over. If it starts, again, be ready to leave, again. I hope some of this has helped you, please get yourself the help you need, you are a beautiful person and do not deserve what you are going through.
    You are in my prayers, Beth.

  • Aretha

    This comment is about the four agreements I think that if learn to conduct ourselves according to these agreements we will have a more positive level of communication. I think that the rule of treating others the way you want to be treated should be agreement number five. Let’s try applying these agreements to our way of living and see how our relationships grows to another level.

  • Lois J. Rosa

    13 November 2008
    I am writing you today to make you aware of a group that is practicing Toltecayotl in Mule Creek State Prison in Northern California. These men are a group of “lifers” who would otherwise be without hope, yet they have founded a Toltec Wisdom group about eight years ago which has given them meaning and a reason to continue to move forward in their lives. This group is called “TOLTECS OF THE NEW MILLENIUM” and is supported in part through donations of books and other materials by Don Miguel Ruiz and his family.
    At this time prison authorities have decided to challenge these men’s right to practice Toltecayotl. Prison officials question the legitimacy of this philosophy as an indigenous religion. At this time it is imperative that Toltec leaders and the community at large support this group in their struggle to gain recognition by prison authorities. In order to be allowed to meet and pursue their belief system it is extremely important that this group be recognized. Should these men falter in their quest to establish or practice their beliefs, their only alternative for survival would be to default to prison gangs and violence as in the past, this has been the only system that has “worked” for them. These men are often forgotten or ignored by society and yet, have been able to find a greater existence through the practice of Toltec Wisdom.
    At this time the order is strong and empowers those who are a part of it. Should the result of this struggle be a decision to not recognize Toltecayotl as an indigenous belief system, these men will lose the ability to practice. In an environment where death and violence is an everyday reality, this philosophy has saved many lives and given these men hope.
    I would urge you to lend your voice to the struggle and support this order before it is banned at Mule Creek Prison. If you have an interest in supporting the practice of Toltec Wisdom for these men, please contact Co-Spiritual Guide:
    Anthony P. Murillo
    E86452 A1-246
    P O BOX 409020
    Ione, CA 95640
    Thank you,
    Lois J. Rosa

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