“Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering” — The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom

Do I take anything personally? I often act like I don’t take things personally. I often tell people I don’t take things personally. Am I being true to myself and others? Probably not. Intuitively, I believe I don’t take things personally, but when I reflect, I find that I do indeed spend a lot of time being frustrated with how individuals behave and act. It seems I need to acknowledge my frustrations for what they are, and I must orient myself toward becoming “immune to the opinions and actions of others.” I do not want to suffer, and I am surely embracing needless suffering in my life. For instance, whenever I drive and see people not using their blinkers, my first thought is, “UGH! Do they not care about anyone or have any consideration for others?!” To be frustrated about freaking blinkers, in the context of assuming who and what that person is, is so pointless! I must stop doing that. Even if we all expected people to use their blinkers, whatever the reason may be, there are so many other ways to address that. Needless suffering or needless frustration is introducing harm upon me, and the person with which I am frustrated may not even know what they did or what I perceived them as doing. I really must stop taking these inconsequential interactions to such high extremes, and maybe if I controlled that, I wouldn’t be unnecessarily suffering.

Readers, I am sorry if you are lost. The blocked section under the title comes from The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom. It is a book our supervisor, Jason, at Lutheran Social Services of Northern California (LSS), is encouraging my LEVN co-workers and me to read. I am excited to get started with this read! I am more excited to see how Jason plans to incorporate this book into our work setting going forward, and I do wonder if the four agreements could be incorporated within our LEVN setting. From what I understand, Jason wants us, the new interns, to orient our work and interactions around these agreements. If we do, it may afford us the chance to generate a ton of success in serving the most vulnerable people in Sacramento, and it may foster union and favor across our team. I am all in!

For the next 11 months, it is imperative that I take on the challenge of not taking anything personally. I cannot come to work and toxify my team. Nor can I add to the hardships and suffering of those I am meant to serve. If I do, I am not only harming myself but I am inflicting harm on those around me. I cannot do that. What I can do is be a positive light for those suffering. What I can do is encourage my team as they afford others their goodwill. What I can do is leave needless suffering on the side of the road and let the wind lift it up, up, and away. I must be immune to needless suffering. If I am able do this, I think I will be a healthy addition to LSS. I, again, wonder if I can incorporate this within the LEVN setting. If I can, it will offer me more opportunity to practice this second agreement.

Also for these next 11 months, I will be living with 6 housemates. 7 people living in one house?! Am I crazy?! I don’t think so. In San Diego, I lived with 4 housemates and it was an incredible year. It had its moments of conflict, but from what I recall, not taking things personally led to moments of growth for our household. Still, I tend to forget these things. I tend to forget the need to practice these things daily. For this year, I must remind myself not to take anything personally. I must practice not taking anything personally. I must do this throughout my life. If I continue to take things personally, I may be inserting needless suffering for myself and for others, and that is something I never want to do. If I stop taking things personally, I may be able to recycle the personal anguish of others into a moment of growth for all involved. I am here for growth. I am not here to maintain my tendency for needless suffering. Once I read the book, I will have to ask my housemates if we can incorporate these four agreements into our household. From what I gather about my housemates, up to this point, they seem like warm and compassionate people. I think we can all at least agree not to take things personally, especially if we are all meant to intentionally live together. With this bunch, I envision a ton of joy and many moments for growth.

To reach the place I want to end up, growth is key. I cannot grow into that person if I continue to take things personally. This shift is not going to be a quick and easy thing to do, but it will be a lifelong process planting the seed of my growth. As I enter into this, I must use my growth to uplift others; to care and love my housemates; to inspire my team; and to tend to the suffering of others. Once I am immune to needless suffering, life may flow to the person I want to grow into. That is who I need to be, especially in a world where anything is possible…


– Zach

Lutheran Social Services of Northern California