Don Miguel Ruiz recently posted a quote on Facebook that immediately resonated with me.
“Your point of view is something personal to you. It is no one’s truth but yours.”
I really like that. It gives me a sense of justification that it’s OK for me to have my point of view. Even if I were not nearly so sure of my convictions, it would still be, well, my truth. Because my point of view is rightfully, beautifully mine, I don’t really need to justify it to anyone else. I get to have it and love it, hold it and believe it, carve it in stone or scrawl it in the sand. It doesn’t matter that I may be constructing that point of view based on my own perspective, my own reality.
My gaze wanders to a colorful little plaque sitting askew on my shelf. “I Have Permission,” it says. Yeah, it’s like that. This nugget of wisdom gives me permission to honor my own point of view.
Even while part of me is saying, “Yeah, baby! Affirmation is mine” – another part of me is lifting one eyebrow in consternation. Because if I’m honest, I have to acknowledge that there’s a flip side implicit in that statement. And the more I ponder it, the more I believe it’s equally true:
“Others’ points of view are as true for them as your point of view is for you.”
Oh, wow. That one’s inching into uncomfortable territory, isn’t it, because entwined among the letters is the proverbial goose and gander conundrum (what’s good for the goose is good for the gander …). In other words, if your point of view is true for you (yay, by the way), then my point of view is true for me (and it follows, too, that it’s a yay for me, too).
Hmmm. So, which of us is wrong? Or to construct in don Miguel’s way, which point of view is false? Well, neither one. True, your point of view is not necessarily true for me nor mine for you. But they’re both right. Right?
Now, here’s where some of us might immediately go for the judgment call of right vs. wrong and work tirelessly to convince the other person of the error of his ways. (Actually, that’s accurate for just about every political and religious rant. Although I think we sometimes do that kind of judgmental thing because deep down we’re not so convinced of the truth of our convictions and we feel that if we can just get others to our side, to the “right” point of view, we stand affirmed. Of course, that’s a whole other topic.)
That’s probably why I’m thinking that don Miguel’s words beg for yet another corollary:
“While your point of view is your own personal truth, it doesn’t necessarily follow that it’s accurate.”
EEEEE. That one smarts. And, sure, it might be a slight slippery slope, but bear with me. Just because I hold a specific point of view, it doesn’t automatically mean it’s accurate and correct. It’s really pretty easy to delude ourselves about most things. Maybe I get my news from a really biased source. Maybe I just don’t want to acknowledge certain realities. Maybe it’s just easier to accept someone else’s strong convictions than to question and analyze and make up my own mind.
Don Miguel’s writings point out this very idea: we all live and star in our own stories. We create our own realities. We construct our own truths. Oh, we may share space and think we share the same story and reality, but we don’t. It’s all a matter of perspective. We incorporate friends, lovers, strangers, family members, and acquaintances into our stories. We assign them roles based on our own mental constructs. We align their beliefs with our perception of them — our view of that storyline we’re creating. In the end, however, it’s only true for one person –that’s us — the creator of our story and the architect of our reality.
I do this, and I’d bet you do, too. I do this when I assign a motivation to a co-worker. I do this when I’m people watching and trying to second guess someone’s purpose for being in that place at that time. I assign all the roles in my own reality in an attempt to make it all fit correctly in my world. I use them to support my point of view.
So if I accept that my point of view is no one’s truth but my own, I also accept that others’ points of view are no one’s truth but their own, right? And if we’re all entitled to our own points of view, then doesn’t it also follow that we can’t take exception to anyone else’s point of view? They’re just as right as we are.
Don Miguel Ruiz would be the first to acknowledge these thoughts, I believe. His Four Agreements – (1) be impeccable with your word, (2) don’t take anything personally, (3) don’t make assumptions, and (4) always do your best – paved the way. And the crux of the Fifth Agreement – be skeptical but learn to listen – is that we should question even our own points of view, to illuminate our reality with truth. How? By accepting ourselves and others as we are.
So what I take away is this: I’m entitled to my opinion, to my point of view. (In America, I’m even entitled to share it with the world at large.) I’m entitled to believe every word of it and hold it sacrosanct.
What I’m not entitled to do is presume that anyone else shares it – or that they even should. Nor am I entitled to think that anyone who doesn’t share my point of view is wrong. Or crazy. Or misguided. I’m not entitled to judge anyone, just as they aren’t entitled to judge me.
My point of view is true only for me, and in my own self interest I should even be skeptical of that self-constructed truth. After all, it may not be accurate, no matter how real it seems.