Jordan Peterson P5 - Compare Yourself to Who You Were Yesterday


(SeanO) #1

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.

Chapter 4

Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who someone else is today

Arrogance, deceit and resentment are destructive forces that result from comparing ourselves to others and being frustrated with what we do not possess. The constant, nagging critical voice in our minds that denigrates us and reminds us how horrible the world is - that is not wisdom. Living in constant envy of our bosses’ position is not wisdom. Wisdom is also not escapism or wish fulfillment. Wisdom is facing the world exactly as it is and opening our eyes to opportunities to improve ourselves, the world and those around us. We must express faith by making an irrational commitment to the goodness of Being and pursuing a better path - for us, for others, for the world. You may not be able to manage more than paying your bills on time for a start, but you have to start somewhere. Do what you can and will and do not stop - and a few years from now you will find yourself wishing upon a star - living in hope.

Why Are These Ideas Appealing?

What do you guys think?

Many people struggle with self-doubt and a critical spirit towards themselves and others. Peterson attempts to equip people with a set of questions to help them focus on immediate and achievable goals rather than the noise and chaos that make life seem unbearable - to help them stop envying their boss. It’s very practical and seeks to address a common problem.

Critique of Chapter 4

Peterson allows his readers to reject as a mere result of the harsh realities of life the God of the Old Testament, to reject as wishful thinking the ethics of the New Testament and then reinterprets the Sermon on the Mount to simply mean ignoring the chaos of life and daring to believe in the ‘goodness of Being’. In a striking irony, Peterson defines faith in exactly the way in which it is so often critiqued - as a mere leap in the dark - a mere hoping against hope - even hoping when you know there is no hope - that things can be better. He implies the answer to the critical voice in our heads is to ignore the harsh and chaotic reality we know is out there and focus instead on a few meaningful goals to drown out the noise.

The Scriptures, in contrast, present faith as something with ‘substance’ and as ‘evidence’. Faith is not merely a wishing - it is a trust in the living God based upon His work in history and in our lives. We have the eye witness accounts of those who ate and lived with our Lord and if He has not been raised, our hope is in vain. But praise God that He is indeed risen!

Hebrews 11:1 - Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Hebrews 13:8 - Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

I John 1:1 - That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched–this we proclaim concerning the Word of life.

I Corinthians 15:14 - And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.

2 Peter 1:18 - We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.

In addition, the Bible’s answer to criticizing ourselves and others is not ignoring reality but rather trusting in God and the humility found in the Gospel. Our own self-critical voice is silenced by God’s love for us and our critical voice towards others is altered by that same love.

I John 4:19 - We love because he first loved us.

What are your thoughts?

What is your response to this chapter? What are your thoughts?

Quotes from Chapter 4

Life is a zero-sum game. Worthlessness is the default condition. What but willful blindness could possibly shelter people from such withering criticism? It is for such reasons that a whole generation of social psychologists recommended “positive illusions” as the only reliable route to mental health.

If the critical voice within says the same denigrating things about everyone, no matter how successful, how reliable can it be? Maybe its comments are chatter, not wisdom. There will always be people better than you—that’s a cliché of nihilism, like the phrase, In a million years, who’s going to know the difference? The proper response to that statement is not, Well, then, everything is meaningless. It’s, Any idiot can choose a frame of time within which nothing matters. Talking yourself into irrelevance is not a profound critique of Being. It’s a cheap trick of the rational mind.

It’s also unlikely that you’re playing only one game. You have a career and friends and family members and personal projects and artistic endeavors and athletic pursuits. You might consider judging your success across all the games you play. Imagine that you are very good at some, middling at others, and terrible at the remainder. Perhaps that’s how it should be.

When the internal critic puts you down using such comparisons, here’s how it operates: First, it selects a single, arbitrary domain of comparison (fame, maybe, or power). Then it acts as if that domain is the only one that is relevant. Then it contrasts you unfavourably with someone truly stellar, within that domain. It can take that final step even further, using the unbridgeable gap between you and its target of comparison as evidence for the fundamental injustice of life. That way your motivation to do anything at all can be most effectively undermined.

It’s part of an evil triad: arrogance, deceit, and resentment. Nothing causes more harm than this underworld

We live within a framework that defines the present as eternally lacking and the future as eternally better. If we did not see things this way, we would not act at all. We wouldn’t even be able to see, because to see we must focus, and to focus we must pick one thing above all else on which to focus.

How can we benefit from our imaginativeness, our ability to improve the future, without continually denigrating our current, insufficiently successful and worthless lives?

That’s how you deal with the overwhelming complexity of the world: you ignore it, while you concentrate minutely on your private concerns. You see things that facilitate your movement forward, toward your desired goals. You detect obstacles, when they pop up in your path. You’re blind to everything else (and there’s a lot of everything else—so you’re very blind). And it has to be that way, because there is much more of the world than there is of you. You must shepherd your limited resources carefully. Seeing is very difficult, so you must choose what to see, and let the rest go.

This doesn’t mean that you can have what you want merely by wishing it, or that everything is interpretation, or that there is no reality. The world is still there, with its structures and limits. As you move along with it, it cooperates or objects. But you can dance with it, if your aim is to dance—and maybe you can even lead, if you have enough skill and enough grace.

You can only find out what you actually believe (rather than what you think you believe) by watching how you act. You simply don’t know what you believe, before that. You are too complex to understand yourself.

The Bible is a library composed of many books, each written and edited by many people. It’s a truly emergent document—a selected, sequenced and finally coherent story written by no one and everyone over many thousands of years. The Bible has been thrown up, out of the deep, by the collective human imagination, which is itself a product of unimaginable forces operating over unfathomable spans of time. Its careful, respectful study can reveal things to us about what we believe and how we do and should act that can be discovered in almost no other manner.

was realists who created, or noticed, Old Testament God. When the denizens of those ancient societies wandered carelessly down the wrong path, they ended up enslaved and miserable—sometimes for centuries—when they were not obliterated completely. Was that reasonable? Was that just? Was that fair?

That seems more optimistic, more naively welcoming, but (in precise proportion to that) less believable. In a world such as this—this hothouse of doom—who could buy such a story? The all-good God, in a post-Auschwitz world? It was for such reasons that the philosopher Nietzsche, perhaps the most astute critic ever to confront Christianity, considered New Testament God the worst literary crime in Western history.

Faith is not the childish belief in magic. That is ignorance or even willful blindness. It is instead the realization that the tragic irrationalities of life must be counterbalanced by an equally irrational commitment to the essential goodness of Being. It is simultaneously the will to dare set your sights at the unachievable, and to sacrifice everything, including (and most importantly) your life.

Ask, and ye shall receive. Knock, and the door will open. If you ask, as if you want, and knock, as if you want to enter, you may be offered the chance to improve your life, a little; a lot; completely—and with that improvement, some progress will be made in Being itself. Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who someone else is today.

(Jimmy Sellers) #2

This is probably to simplistic of a comment but it reminds me of David Ramsey’s advice on how to get out of debt, pay your smallest to largest bills until they are paid under the heading of “immediate and achievable goals”. Live like no other so that you can live like no other.
It reminds me of the answer to the question ask of a football coach whose team has just won the National championship, “Coach, how did you do it?” everyone is waiting for a genius answer and he says, “Blocking, tackling and execution of the fundamentals of the game.” and someone asks, “Is that all?”

(SeanO) #3

@Jimmy_Sellers Yes, good example. This chapter really boils down to a very simple piece of advice. Though there were some theological / philosophical / rational gymnastics done to try to justify why you should be motivated to do it in the presence of a meaningless universe in the first place. His answer seems to be just pretend there is meaning and start doing what needs to be done.