People familiar with the work of author Don Miguel Ruiz often swoon at the mention of his name. There is something so compelling about the energy behind his writing, the wisdom woven through it and the utter simplicity on the page.
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It is perhaps his most famous work, The Four Agreements, that popped into my head this week with regard to all the hoopla around Lance Armstrong’s confessional interview with Oprah Winfrey. Even more specifically, it brought up the first and what Ruiz calls the most important of the agreements we can make with ourselves in our lives:
Be impeccable with your word.
Do me a favor. Don’t scoot past that like it’s just common sense. I know it is on some level. But read it a few times. Let it roll around your mind. Now imagine how many times a day we could all call that up as a reminder and improve our smallest to largest interactions. We could avoid making promises we likely won’t keep. We could set the boundary now instead of putting it off. We could burrow in and really engage so that what we say is truly what we mean.
I know this monstrosity that has become the Lance Armstrong story will take a mass of lawyers, physicians, accountants and who-knows-what-else to sort through. My role here is to stay out of that fray and bring some semblance of takeaway from this mess for the rest of us.
While once a sports writer, I cannot claim to have ever been a fan of cycling. But I was acutely aware of the seemingly glorious spillover of Armstrong winning, beating cancer, winning, beating cancer, winning. I sported the LiveStrong yellow band for a while when my church handed them out and I drew some power from the message. Frankly, any boost I received by way of Armstrong’s experiences is miniscule compared to the stories we’ve heard over the years from cancer survivors.
Over the last week or so while others have easily expressed anger and disgust at Armstrong, I’ve had trouble getting worked up at all. I’m not sure why. It still feels like an emotional maze I’m navigating, which I suppose is why I turned to my bookshelf.
“The word is a force; it is the power you have to communicate, to think, and thereby to create the events in your life,” Ruiz writes. “The word is the most powerful tool you have, but like a sword with two edges, your word can create the most beautiful dream, or your word can destroy everything around you.”
Part of me thinks, oh, if only Armstrong had been impeccable with his word. But there’s another part of me that realizes it’s happening now and we are witnessing someone brought to their knees in a wholly different way than the kind that happens in chemotherapy.
“One edge of the sword is the misuse of the word, which creates a living hell,” Ruiz writes. “The other edge is the impeccability of the word, which will only create beauty, love, and heaven on earth.”
The only possible route to peace for any of us is to come clean, be with our demons, take our lumps. Granted, for most of us that would not involve vulnerability on a global scale, millions of dollars and the reputation of a foundation, but it is the only way to breathe freely again.
This has to come from within. This is not the surface-y “I should” or “I’m going to behave this way because some higher being is watching” or “there’s a camera on me” stuff. This is coming from a place of organic being. A vow to be impeccable with one’s word moving forward even if that hasn’t been the pattern in the past. To respect oneself enough to go with real.
Most of us strive to live that, don’t we? We prepare as best we can for the job interview or upcoming race and we give it our best shot. Our professional athletes, on a more visible and potentially profitable stage, get tested constantly. The clause for winning this brings in another few grand. That brings in endorsements. More attention. More scrutiny.
So many thrive. So many lose themselves in the climb, get caught up in ego instead of real strength, and eventually topple.
I fear for Armstrong’s health moving forward. I do. Maybe that’s why I don’t feel the level of anger so many do. I don’t know his heart. I don’t know his soul.
“You can measure the impeccability of your word by your level of self-love,” Ruiz writes. “How much you love yourself and how you feel about yourself is directly proportionate to the quality and integrity of your word. When you speak with integrity, and say exactly what you mean, you are impeccable with your word; you feel good; you feel happy and at peace.”
I so hope Lance can find his way to that.
Nancy Colasurdo is a practicing life coach and freelance writer. Her Web site is www.nancola.com and you can follow her on Twitter @nancola. Please direct all questions/comments to FOXGamePlan@gmail.com.