In The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz, the first agreement is Be Impeccable with Your Word. Words have power. They have magic in creating new ideas, setting goals, new standards, and showing ourselves and others how accountable we are. Words also have the power to wound, destroy confidence, and destroy trust and accountability.
As a leader, partner, friend, and a person living with HIV, I continue to learn the power of words. I set an example to my co-workers by agreeing to show up, be accountable, uphold good work ethics, and set an example to myself, my loved ones, and the larger community by living a healthy, positive, and affirming life with HIV. When it goes well, I don’t think about it very much. When it goes poorly, I tend to focus on accountability and my words with a microscope.
How could I be an advocate for someone newly diagnosed with HIV, encouraging that person to meditate, seek support from friends, live a healthy life, advocate for their healthcare, take medication, and get to a level of viral suppression, if I’m not doing it?
At work, how can I encourage open communication and mindfulness, accountability with work schedules, keeping accurate notes, staying on top of my employees’ calendars, and encouraging others to be organized, if I am not doing it?
My father once told me something when I was a little boy. Even then, it didn’t make sense, but the power of his words stick with me today. He said, once while smoking in the car, “Son, don’t ever start smoking. If I ever catch you smoking, I will wear your butt out!” I thought about it for a moment, and very timidly responded, “But dad, you smoke.” He looked at me as he exhaled a cloud of smoke and said, “Do as I say, not as I do”. That didn’t sit well with me at the age of eight, and it doesn’t sit well with me at the age of 44.
I struggle with smoking to this day. Attempts to quit, cutting back, and finally quitting several times have brought me to the conclusion that if I’m going to be impeccable with my word—and put my health first—I need to stay smoke free, and do it for no one else but me.
I like the phrase “Walk Your Talk”. As a leader, as an HIV positive man, and someone who practices mindfulness and meditation, the power of my word to help, to heal, to encourage, to build motivation, and to show empathy and compassion must outweigh the word’s ability to shame, blame, criticize, judge, and destroy. I must walk my talk.
Let’s look closer at the words we choose. Are they compassionate? Are we casting a positive or a negative spell on someone else, or ourselves, with our words? Let’s examine accountability. Who is counting on you? Who notices your actions? What power do your words have to create, or to destroy the precious world around you?
By taking my meds, working out, being on time, setting goals and reaching them, fostering open communication, showing compassion, and forgiving myself and others when we all fall short and don’t quite hit the mark, I’m doing my best.
“Always do your best” is the 4th of The Four Agreements. I’ll discuss that more in a future post.