(This is part of an ongoing series of highlights from past Listen to Life newsletters. Many readers and subscribers were not following when this came out. Enjoy.)
New Year’s Eve. A busy cross street in Houston, near the Unity Church to which I was heading where old friends were waiting to introduce me to their service in which old burdens are written down and burned in a communal release. As I waited at the red light, considering the things I wanted to discharge before I headed into a new year, and as I considered my re-reading of “The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz in spiritual preparation for this night, a panhandler on the median caught my eye. His white cardboard sign with handwritten black letters prompted a laugh and a serious thought.
“Why lie? I want beer.”
I figure he made more money that night than any other beggar on the streets because of location, mood of the night, and integrity of word.
The bearded, bundled beggar brought a lot of wisdom to those who watched him that night. One, if you’re called to do something, do it; two, be smart enough to think about where you act upon your ideas; three, consider the receptivity of those who you must count on to succeed; and, four, be forthright about your motivations.
The first of the four agreements in the book by that name is “be impeccable with your word,” meaning, according to the author, do no sin with your word by being true with what you express with your words. The beggar could not have been truer with his words, and it was up to each driver coming alongside him on the street to decide what to do with what the man had to say. We cannot change our word, our message or our clarity in order to better position our intention against what someone may say or do in response. A former boss’ secretary used to ask at times, “are you trying to say something without saying something?”
We must say what we have to say and be clear with it. We cannot strive to change our message, our minds or our conviction as a strategy to avoid upsetting others, hurting others feelings (within reason, of course), protecting our image for image sake, or to minimize any possible negative reaction. If our goal is to minimize intensity of response, we can be sure that both positive and negative responses will be dulled to a boring medium.
Did everyone like the beggar’s honesty? No. I’m sure many thought “See! The bum is going to spend his money on booze.” True, but he was honest about it. Better that than using his words to play on others’ emotions during the holidays, I’d say.
The Unity service was wonderful; the beggar’s lesson profound. Already we’re through the first month of the new year and I’m trying to keep my burdens from resurrecting from the ashes so I can refresh my life, and I pay attention to my words while taking my desires to places they can thrive with those who can help me achieve them. I hope you are doing the same.