The Four Agreements, pg. 34 & 35
There was a woman, for example, who was intelligent and had a very good heart. She had a daughter whom she adored and loved very much. One night she came home from a very bad day at work, tired, full of emotional tension, and with a terrible headache. She wanted peace and quiet, but her daughter was singing and jumping happily. The daughter was unaware of how her mother was feeling; she was in her own world, in her own dream. She felt so wonderful, and she was jumping and singing louder and louder, expressing her joy and her love. She was singing so loud that it made her mother’s headache even worse, and at a certain moment, the mother lost control. Angrily she looked at her beautiful little girl and said, “Shut up! You have an ugly voice. Can you just shut up!”
The truth is that the mother’s tolerance for any noise was nonexistent; it was not that the little girl’s voice was ugly. But the daughter believed what her mother said, and in that moment she made an agreement with herself. After that she no longer sang, because she believed her voice was ugly and would bother anyone who heard it. She became shy at school, and if she was to sing, she refused. Even speaking to others became difficult for her. Everything changed in the little girl because of this new agreement: She believed she must repress her emotions in order to be accepted and loved.
Whenever we hear an opinion and believe it, we make an agreement, and it becomes part of our belief system. This little girl grew up, and even though she had a beautiful voice, she never sang again. She developed a whole complex from one spell. This spell was cast upon her by the one who loved her the most: her own mother.
Wow, what a revelation. After reading this passage, it dawned on me that at one point in time, I held on to similarly disparaging words.
Many moons ago, I dated this guy. It ended pretty amicably, but later on things became a little weird. He moved on and got a new girlfriend. We were still civil, or so I thought. Little did I know that my attempt to clear a misunderstanding would cause me emotional pain for years to come.
He left me a voicemail message that I would later save from that moment until now. In that message, he basically told me that no one wanted me with him and that my sex was whack. For the next two years of my life, I held on to those words. I held on to the shame that no one would ever want me because I was “whack” in bed. Never mind the fact that I gave him my virginity. I was ashamed. I accepted his words as truth and I numbed myself to any other opportunities for love. I took his opinion and made an agreement that yes, I was no good. I was under a spell forever because of those words.
Years later, he apologized and admitted that none of it was true. I honestly didn’t care if his apology was sincere or not because I no longer needed it. It took a while but I freed myself of that spell. This passage made me realize something, though. Maybe, just maybe, he really didn’t mean what he said. Maybe, like the mother in the story, he reacted out of anger. I wish I would’ve read this long ago. I would not have held on to the pain of those words. I would not have let them control my life.
But it’s something that we do often, right? The people we care about the most have the power to hurt us the worst. We give validity to their words. Once said, they must be true. Right? I suppose it is up to us to decide what opinions we will allow to carry weight. It is also up to us to realize how words can either uplift someone or shift their entire belief system. People are fragile and words do matter.
I can delete that message now.