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.
Summary Chapter 10
Be precise in your speech
Not thinking about something you don’t want to know about doesn’t make it go away. Ignored reality transforms itself (reverts back) into the great Goddess of Chaos, the great reptilian Monster of the Unknown—the great predatory beast against which mankind has struggled since the dawn of time. To conquer chaos we must thoughtfully articulate the reality we comfortably but dangerously leave hidden behind the veil of ignorance and the pretense of peace. That applies to every area of our lives, but one very obvious example is our marriages and significant relationships. In our relationships we must continually and honestly risk conflict in the present, in the service of longer-term truth and peace.
Why are these ideas appealing?
What do you think? Why do you think people are attracted to these ideas?
Peterson makes a great point in this chapter. It is true that avoiding truth in order to avoid confrontation has detrimental long term consequences - in our relationships, in our health and in our spiritual life. This is a truth people recognize. We have all seen relationships where a lack of truthfulness and communication ultimately led to destructive realities.
Critique of Chapter 10
There is a very noble quality in what Peterson says in this chapter. We must speak truth in our life and into our relationships. We must slay the dragon of chaos that haunts our lives by speaking truth.
However, Peterson does not get at the root reality - he does not answer the question of Paul in Romans 6-8 - “Why do we keep sinning even when we know it is wrong? Why do we lie to ourselves?” In reality we are slaves to the father of lies - the evil one - who has been a liar from the beginning and to our own flesh and pride.
But praise God that Jesus has set us free from slavery to sin and death! We are now slaves to God through the power of the Holy Spirit. Peterson recognizes that we need to speak truth and confront lies where we find them, but he fails to recognize the difficulty of doing so without the Spirit of God in our lives.
Titus 3:3-7 - At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. 4 But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.
2 Timothy 2:25-26 - Opponents must be gently instructed, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, 26 and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.
Quotes from Chapter 10
Our evolved perceptual systems transform the interconnected, complex multi-level world that we inhabit not so much into things per se as into useful things (or their nemeses, things that get in the way). This is the necessary, practical reduction of the world.
The limitations of all our perceptions of things and selves manifest themselves when something we can usually depend on in our simplified world breaks down. Then the more complex world that was always there, invisible and conveniently ignored, makes its presence known. It is then that the walled garden we archetypally inhabit reveals its hidden but ever-present snakes.
When we’ve been careless, and let things slide, what we have refused to attend to gathers itself up, adopts a serpentine form, and strikes—often at the worst possible moment.
Everything is intricate beyond imagining. Everything is affected by everything else. We perceive a very narrow slice of a causally interconnected matrix, although we strive with all our might to avoid being confronted by knowledge of that narrowness.
What we perceive, when things fall apart, is no longer the stage and settings of habitable order. It’s the eternal watery tohu va bohu, formless emptiness, and the tehom, the abyss, to speak biblically—the chaos forever lurking beneath our thin surfaces of security. It’s from that chaos that the Holy Word of God Himself extracted order at the beginning of time, according to the oldest opinions expressed by mankind
Communication would require admission of terrible emotions: resentment, terror, loneliness, despair, jealousy, frustration, hatred, boredom. Moment by moment, it’s easier to keep the peace. But in the background, in Billy Bixbee’s house, and in all that are like it, the dragon grows. One day it bursts forth, in a form that no one can ignore. It lifts the very household from its foundations. Then it’s an affair, or a decades-long custody dispute of ruinous economic and psychological proportions.
the traditional household division of labour has been demolished, not least in the name of liberation and freedom. That demolition, however, has not left so much glorious lack of restriction in its wake as chaos, conflict and indeterminacy. The escape from tyranny is often followed not by Paradise, but by a sojourn in the desert, aimless, confused and deprived. Furthermore, in the absence of agreed-upon tradition (and the constraints—often uncomfortable; often even unreasonable—that it imposes) there exist only three difficult options: slavery, tyranny or negotiation.
Here’s the terrible truth about such matters: every single voluntarily unprocessed and uncomprehended and ignored reason for marital failure will compound and conspire and will then plague that betrayed and self-betrayed woman for the rest of her life. The same goes for her husband. All she—he—they—or we—must do to ensure such an outcome is nothing: don’t notice, don’t react, don’t attend, don’t discuss, don’t consider, don’t work for peace, don’t take responsibility. Don’t confront the chaos and turn it into order—just wait, anything but naïve and innocent, for the chaos to rise up and engulf you instead.
not thinking about something you don’t want to know about doesn’t make it go away.
Maybe you’ll get hurt. Probably you’ll get hurt. Life, after all, is suffering. But maybe the wound won’t be fatal. If you wait instead until what you are refusing to investigate comes a-knocking at your door, things will certainly not go so well for you. What you least want will inevitably happen—and when you are least prepared.
To re-emerge, to escape, to be reborn, she must thoughtfully articulate the reality she comfortably but dangerously left hidden behind a veil of ignorance and the pretence of peace.
What if she had continually and honestly risked conflict in the present, in the service of longer-term truth and peace?
But if you talk to your doctor, all those terrible possible diseases will collapse, with luck, into just one terrible (or not so terrible) disease, or even into nothing. Then you can laugh at your previous fears, and if something really is wrong, well, you’re prepared. Precision may leave the tragedy intact, but it chases away the ghouls and the demons.
If you shirk the responsibility of confronting the unexpected, even when it appears in manageable doses, reality itself will become unsustainably disorganized and chaotic. Then it will grow bigger and swallow all order, all sense, and all predictability. Ignored reality transforms itself (reverts back) into the great Goddess of Chaos, the great reptilian Monster of the Unknown—the great predatory beast against which mankind has struggled since the dawn of time.
This is so frequently why couples cease communicating. Every argument degenerates into every problem that ever emerged in the past, every problem that exists now, and every terrible thing that is likely to happen in the future. No one can have a discussion about “everything.” Instead, you can say, “This exact, precise thing—that is what is making me unhappy.