This is a series of post on Jordan Peterson’s book ‘12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos’. It has become popular and it is important to understand why it is appealing to this generation and how it is different from the Gospel. Each post will be on a specific chapter or section of the book and the hope is that we can engage in conversation over these matters. I hope to represent his thought accurately - but due to being human may not always do so.
Make friends with people who want the best for you
Before you help someone, you should find out why that person is in trouble. We cannot help people who do not want to change, but they can drag us down. If you have a friend whose friendship you would not recommend to another person you care about, why are you friends with them? Of course we must not abandon someone who is truly in need simply to avoid the hassle, but we also must not let others drag us down in our vain attempt to rescue them. Besides, when we buy a loser’s sad story about their life we rob them of moral agency - they need to realize they are responsible for where they have ended up.
When you begin to be successful, just like Abel made Cain jealous, you may make some people jealous and they may try to sabotage your success - to drag you down into their own vices. Don’t let them. Make new friends. Make friends with people who want the best for you.
Why Are These Ideas Appealing?
What do you guys think?
I think Peterson had some good insights in this chapter that people need to hear. It is easy to let people take advantage of our kindness or to allow our view of ourselves to keep us trapped in destructive relationships.
Critique of Chapter 3
I see a lot of validity in what Peterson is saying. In the Bible, there is advice about choosing friends who are wise and hanging out with the righteous. I think my caveat to this chapter would be that the Bible does not define ‘good company’ as those who are wealthy or successful or think the way that we do. For the Christian, good company is all of the redeemed who honor the Lord Jesus. We do not evaluate the ‘goodness’ of company by worldly standards, but by the fellowship we have in Christ.
A few interesting questions that come up in the context of this chapter surround Church discipline. In the West the idea of kicking someone out of Church almost sounds wrong, but Paul evicted those who committed habitual evil so that they could one day return and repent from a sincere heart.
Can the Church sometimes have a savior complex and try to help those who are not yet ready to be helped? This ties in with Peterson’s point about not being able to help those who do not want it.
I Corinthians 15:33 - Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.”
Proverbs 13:20 - Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.
Proverbs 22:24-25 - Make no friendship with a man given to anger, nor go with a wrathful man, lest you learn his ways and entangle yourself in a snare.
James 4:4 - You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.
I Corinthians 5:5 - So when you are assembled and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord.
Psalms 1 - Blessed is the one
who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
or sit in the company of mockers,
but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
and who meditates on his law day and night.
What are your thoughts?
What is your response to this chapter? What are your thoughts?
Quotes from Chapter 3
“Sometimes, when people have a low opinion of their own worth—or, perhaps, when they refuse responsibility for their lives—they choose a new acquaintance, of precisely the type who proved troublesome in the past… Freud called this a “repetition compulsion.” He thought of it as an unconscious drive to repeat the horrors of the past”
“There is no shortage of oppressors among the downtrodden, even if, given their lowly positions, many of them are only tyrannical wannabes. It’s the easiest path to choose, moment to moment, although it’s nothing but hell in the long run. Imagine someone not doing well. He needs help. He might even want it. But it is not easy to distinguish between someone truly wanting and needing help and someone who is merely exploiting a willing helper.”
“When it’s not just naïveté, the attempt to rescue someone is often fuelled by vanity and narcissism.”
“But Christ was the archetypal perfect man. And you’re you. How do you know that your attempts to pull someone up won’t instead bring them—or you—further down?”
“The same thing happens when well-meaning counsellors place a delinquent teen among comparatively civilized peers. The delinquency spreads, not the stability.65 Down is a lot easier than up.”
“Before you help someone, you should find out why that person is in trouble.”
“Besides, if you buy the story that everything terrible just happened on its own, with no personal responsibility on the part of the victim, you deny that person all agency in the past (and, by implication, in the present and future, as well). In this manner, you strip him or her of all power.”
“Success: that’s the mystery. Virtue: that’s what’s inexplicable. To fail, you merely have to cultivate a few bad habits.”
“Carl Rogers, the famous humanistic psychologist, believed it was impossible to start a therapeutic relationship if the person seeking help did not want to improve.”
“And none of this is a justification for abandoning those in real need to pursue your narrow, blind ambition, in case it has to be said.”
“Here’s something to consider: If you have a friend whose friendship you wouldn’t recommend to your sister, or your father, or your son, why would you have such a friend for yourself?”
“When you dare aspire upward, you reveal the inadequacy of the present and the promise of the future. Then you disturb others, in the depths of their souls, where they understand that their cynicism and immobility are unjustifiable. You play Abel to their Cain. You remind them that they ceased caring not because of life’s horrors, which are undeniable, but because they do not want to lift the world up on to their shoulders, where it belongs.”