I wrote about The Second Agreement awhile back: 

It’s been one of those days where I’ve had to consult Don Miguel Ruiz’s classic book, “The Four Agreements,” and read the chapter about the second spiritual agreement: “Don’t Take Anything Personally.”

I keep the book beside my desk to remind me of the second agreement whenever I get a harsh comment on a message board of one of my posts, or when I get feedback from my allies (kids, sisters, mom, friends, husband, co-workers) that is less than warm and fuzzy.

“Even when a situation seems so personal, even if others insult you directly, it has nothing to do with you,” writes Ruiz. (Man, I love that.) “What they say, what they do, and the opinions they give are according to the agreements they have in their own minds…. Taking things personally makes you easy prey for these predators, the black magicians…. But if you do not take it personally, you are immune in the middle of hell.”

Whenever I am about to accept someone’s opinion of me (as selfish, self-absorbed, bitter, spoiled, or whiny) as if it is the truth about who I am, I remember the afternoon at Mass when the older man behind me would not shake my hand when it was time to exchange a sign of peace.

“Did he just see me wipe my nose?” I wondered. “Do I have broccoli in my teeth? Why won’t this man shake hands with me? Am I just too dirty for Mr. Clean?”

As I walked up to Communion, I saw a 90-year-old woman kneeling who took a 12-year-old girl by the hand and wiggled a very holy index finger at her face in a fashion that a 90-year-old nun might have done, say, before the Second Vatican Council.

I looked at the lady in back of me in line to see if she saw what I did, and we giggled.

“Do you think it was her skirt?” I whispered to her (I know that I’m not technically supposed to gossip on the way to receiving the Body of Christ). “It’s pretty short.” (It was well above her knee, but the girl looked pretty wholesome–by today’s standards anyway.)

“I think it was her hands,” the woman whispered back to me. “According to the old school, you should keep them folded at your waist.”

After Mass, the woman who was behind me pulled me aside and explained what had transpired between the young girl and the older lady.

“The young girl accidentally stepped on the elderly woman’s foot,” she said.

We started laughing. I thought it was her skirt. She thought it was her hands. It was neither.

The girl, I then found out, didn’t care what set the woman off. The two of us, on the other hand, had invested at least ten minutes of our brain time into analyzing the bizarre encounter.

“Well, I’m glad you didn’t take any of it personally,” I said to the girl, who I approached after services together with my new friend. “Because I sort of did when the older guy in back of me refused to shake my hand at peace.”

“Listen, I stopped shaking hands with anyone a few years ago,” said the woman. “I work with very ill people and can’t afford to bring them any type of bacteria or virus.”

Oh. I didn’t think about that.

Ruiz is right. Never take things personally. Our own reasoning is rarely accurate.

Peace be with you! 

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