Jordan Peterson Rule 4
“Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who someone else is today.”
I couldn’t help thinking about Bill Murray in “What About Bob” while I read the chapter because Bob’s therapist recommended taking “baby steps” to help Bob overcome his difficulties.
I have always seen “Reality Therapy” or “Choice Therapy” as the pastoral method of helping people deal with their lives. You could take some of Peterson’s points right from the Wikipedia article on “Reality Therapy”. I have a comfort level with Jordan Peterson’s “12 Rules for Life”. I have spoken these same things to many people, only with a scriptural foundation. Start small, do something; et least make your bed and life will start getting better.
Here are some notes:
“Inside us dwells a critical internal voice and spirit that knows all this. It’s predisposed to make its noisy case. It condemns our mediocre efforts. It can be very difficult to quell. Worse, critics of its sort are necessary.”
“The winners don’t take all, but they take most, and the bottom is not a good place to be. People are unhappy at the bottom. They get sick there and remain unknown and unloved. They waste their lives there. They die there. In consequence, the self-denigrating voice in the minds of people weaves a devastating tale. 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. Their credo? Let a lie be your umbrella. A more dismal, wretched, pessimistic philosophy can hardly be imagined: things are so terrible that only delusion can save you.”
We are talking about dealing with this critical voice within in a manner that produces results in bettering our lives.
“If the internal voice makes you doubt the value of your endeavours—or your life, or life itself—perhaps you should stop listening.”
“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.”
“Value judgments are a precondition for action. Furthermore, every activity, once chosen, comes with its own internal standards of accomplishment. If something can be done at all, it can be done better or worse.”
He identifies a problem in the language that the internal voice tends to use (we allow it).
“You are either a success, a comprehensive, singular, over-all good thing, or its opposite, a failure, a comprehensive, singular, irredeemably bad thing. The words imply no alternative and no middle ground. However, in a world as complex as ours, such generalizations…are a sign of naïve, unsophisticated or even malevolent analysis.”
“To begin with, there is not just one game at which to succeed or fail. There are many games and, more specifically, many good games—games that match your talents, involve you productively with other people, and sustain and even improve themselves across time.”
“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.”
“…the specifics of the many games you are playing are so unique to you, so individual, that comparison to others is simply inappropriate.”
He describes the internal critic comparing you to someone else far better than you making the gap seem unbridgeable. It can lead you to see it as an injustice of life justifying your lack of action.
“As we mature we become, by contrast, increasingly individual and unique. The conditions of our lives become more and more personal and less and less comparable with those of others.”
“What is it that you actually love? What is it that you genuinely want? Before you can articulate your own standards of value, you must see yourself as a stranger—and then you must get to know yourself. What do you find valuable or pleasurable? How much leisure, enjoyment, and reward do you require, so that you feel like more than a beast of burden…You could watch the precious days tick by. Or you could learn how to entice yourself into sustainable, productive activity.”
“Dare, instead, to be dangerous. Dare to be truthful. Dare to articulate yourself, and express (or at least become aware of) what would really justify your life.”
“Consult your resentment. It’s a revelatory emotion, for all its pathology. It’s part of an evil triad: arrogance, deceit, and resentment. Nothing causes more harm than this underworld Trinity.”
“When you have something to say, silence is a lie—and tyranny feeds on lies. When should you push back against oppression, despite the danger? When you start nursing secret fantasies of revenge; when your life is being poisoned and your imagination fills with the wish to devour and destroy.”
“But God only knows what battles must be fought, forthrightly, voluntarily, on the road to peace. What do you do to avoid conflict, necessary though it may be? What are you inclined to lie about, assuming that the truth might be intolerable? What do you fake?”
He is leading us into learning to focus: “Be cautious when you’re comparing yourself to others. You’re a singular being…You have your own particular, specific problems—financial, intimate, psychological, and otherwise. Those are embedded in the unique broader context of your existence. Your career or job works for you in a personal manner, or it does not, and it does so in a unique interplay with other specifics of your life. You must decide how much of your time to spend on this, and how much on that. You must decide what to let go, and what to pursue.”
“We are always and simultaneously at point “a” (which is less desirable than it could be), moving towards point “b” (which we deem better, in accordance with our explicit and implicit values). We always encounter the world in a state of insufficiency and seek its correction. We can imagine new ways that things could be set right, and improved, even if we have everything we thought we needed Even when satisfied, temporarily, we remain curious. 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.”
“We can envision new ways that things could be better…The advantages of this are obvious: we can change the world so that the intolerable state of present can be rectified in the future. The disadvantage to all this foresight and creativity is chronic unease and discomfort. Because we always contrast what is with what could be, we have to aim at what could be. But we can aim too high. Or too low. Or too chaotically. So we fail and live in disappointment…How can we benefit from our imaginativeness, our ability to improve the future, without continually denigrating our current, insufficiently successful and worthless lives?”
“The first step, perhaps, is to take stock. Who are you?”
“Here’s a hint. The future is like the past. But there’s a crucial difference. The past is fixed, but the future—it could be better.”
“Perhaps happiness is always to be found in the journey uphill, and not in the fleeting sense of satisfaction awaiting at the next peak. Much of happiness is hope.”
“Called upon properly, the internal critic will suggest something to set in order, which you could set in order, which you would set in order—voluntarily, without resentment, even with pleasure…Imagine that you are someone you must negotiate with…’Excuse me’, you might say to yourself, without irony or sarcasm. ‘I’m trying to reduce some of the unnecessary suffering around here. I could use some help.’”
“Five hundred small decisions, five hundred tiny actions, compose your day, today, and every day. Could you aim one or two of these at a better result? Better, in your own private opinion, by your own individual standards? Could you compare your specific personal tomorrow with your specific personal yesterday? Could you use your own judgment, and ask yourself what that better tomorrow might be? Aim small.”
“What you aim at determines what you see.” He goes over the famous gorilla amongst the basketball players that you don’t see because you are focusing on the counting of passes by Daniel Simons.
“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 it has to be that way…”
“If things are not going well for you—well, that might be because, as the most cynical of aphorisms has it, life sucks, and then you die. Before your crisis impels you to that hideous conclusion, however, you might consider the following: life doesn’t have the problem. You do. At least that realization leaves you with some options…Perhaps your value structure needs some serious retooling…Perhaps you are holding on to your desire, in the present, so tightly that you cannot see anything else—even what you truly need.”
“You might decide to take a different tack. You might ask, instead, for the revelation of a different plan. I will try to want whatever it is that would make my life better–whatever that might be—and I will start working on it now.”
“…allow a whole new world of possibility, hidden from you because of your previous ambition, to reveal itself. And there’s a lot there. What would your life look like, if it were better? What would Life Itself look like? What does “better” even mean? You don’t know. And it doesn’t matter that you don’t know, exactly, right away, because you will start to slowly see what is “better,” once you have truly decided to want it.”
“You have to scour your psyche. You have to clean the damned thing up. And you must be cautious, because making your life better means adopting a lot of responsibility, and that takes more effort and care than living stupidly in pain and remaining arrogant, deceitful and resentful.”
“We only see what we aim at. The rest of the world (and that’s most of it) is hidden. If we start aiming at something different—something like “I want my life to be better”—our minds will start presenting us with new information, derived from the previously hidden world, to aid us in that pursuit. Then we can put that information to use and move, and act, and observe, and improve.”
“Religion concerns itself not with (mere) right and wrong but with good and evil themselves—with the archetypes of right and wrong. Religion concerns itself with domain of value, ultimate value.”
“You cannot aim yourself at anything if you are completely undisciplined and untutored.”
“It is therefore necessary and desirable for religions to have a dogmatic element. What good is a value system that does not provide a stable structure?”
“But a person capable of obedience—let’s say, instead, a properly disciplined person—is at least a well-forged tool.”
“The Bible is, for better or worse, the foundational document of Western civilization (of Western values, Western morality, and Western conceptions of good and evil). It’s the product of processes that remain fundamentally beyond our comprehension…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.”
“Because of that envy, the world you inhabit reveals itself as a place of bitterness, disappointment and spite. Imagine that you come to notice, and contemplate, and reconsider your unhappiness. Further, you determine to accept responsibility for it, and dare to posit that it might be something at least partly under your control. You crack open one eye, for a moment, and look. You ask for something better. You sacrifice your pettiness, repent of your envy, and open your heart. Instead of cursing the darkness, you let in a little light. You decide to aim for a better life…”
He ends with “Pay Attention” and looks at the sermon on the mount.
“Align yourself, in your soul, with Truth and the Highest Good. There is habitable order to establish and beauty to bring into existence. There is evil to overcome, suffering to ameliorate, and yourself to better.”
“It is this, in my reading, that is the culminating ethic of the canon of the West. It is this, furthermore, that is communicated by those eternally confusing, glowing stanzas from Christ’s Sermon on the Mount, the essence, in some sense, of the wisdom of the New Testament. This is the attempt of the Spirit of Mankind to transform the understanding of ethics from the initial, necessary Thou Shalt Not of the child and the Ten Commandments into the fully articulated, positive vision of the true individual. This is the expression not merely of admirable self-control and self-mastery but of the fundamental desire to set the world right. This is not the cessation of sin, but sin’s opposite, good itself. The Sermon on the mount outlines the true nature of man, and the proper aim of mankind: concentrate on the day, so that you can live in the present, and attend completely and properly to what is right in front of you—but do that only after you have decided to let what is within shine forth. So that it can justify Being and illuminate the world.”
He quotes the “Seek ye first” section of the sermon. It looks like he mixed and matched Mathew and Luke.
“Realization is dawning…you are paying attention. You are telling the truth, instead of manipulating the world. You are negotiating, instead of playing the martyr or the tyrant. You no longer have to be envious, because you no longer know that someone else truly has it better. You no longer have to be frustrated, because you have learned to aim low, and to be patient. You are discovering who you are, and what you want, and what you are willing to do. You are finding that the solutions to your particular problems have to be tailored to you, personally and precisely. You are less concerned with the actions of other people, because you have plenty to do yourself.”
“Attend to the day, but aim at the highest good. Now, your trajectory is heavenward. That makes you hopeful.”
“Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who someone else is today.”
Let’s make a sermon!
Jordan Peterson: Rule #4; “Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who someone else is today.”
Text: Phil 3:13-14 one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, 14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
- Seek First
Everything Jordan Peterson talks about falls so easily into the Christian walk. He ended his chapter with the Sermon on the Mount. With this: Luke 12:27-31 Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 28 If then God so clothes the grass, which today is in the field and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will He clothe you, O you of little faith? 29 “And do not seek what you should eat or what you should drink, nor have an anxious mind. 30 For all these things the nations of the world seek after, and your Father knows that you need these things. 31 But seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you.
Here we have the perfect advice. Focus and action. Focus on the kingdom of God and start seeking God’s will for your life within that kingdom.
You do not need to worry about how well someone else is doing; because God could be doing something completely different in their life. It is you and God.
I use this verse to exemplify this: Ps 1:1-3 Blessed is the man Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, Nor stands in the path of sinners, Nor sits in the seat of the scornful; 2 But his delight is in the law of the Lord, And in His law he meditates day and night. 3 He shall be like a tree Planted by the rivers of water, That brings forth its fruit in its season, Whose leaf also shall not wither; And whatever he does shall prosper.
I love this because the tree brings forth its fruit in its season; in reality the cherry first, followed by the apricot, then the peach and pear and finally the apples. Each of us grow and produce at the pace we and God set for ourselves.
Blessed walking in fruitfulness and prosperity or scornful (nihilist) and sinning (searing the conscious); which one are you living?
- Glory to Glory
We get New Testament words like “adding”, “growing” and “maturing” to describe this Christian task of discovering and walking in the will of God for our lives.
The direction: 2 Cor 3:17-18 Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. 18 But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.
Rom 12:2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
Eph 4:22-24 that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, 23 and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.
Everything screams “change” and “grow” for the better. Everything Jordan Peterson wants to do is done for him and anyone else who would like to look behind the curtain for the truth about the spiritual make up of this life we live.
III. Growing in Wisdom
Each day of walking with Jesus brings an added bonus: wisdom.
This is not the wisdom of the world. Jordan Peterson’s and every other self-help book is loaded with good thoughts, many, if not most; easily found in the bible. Our wisdom is different.
1 Cor 2:13-14 These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. 14 But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
Col 1:9-12 For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; 10 that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; 11 strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy;
James 3:13-18 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. 15 This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. 16 For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. 17 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.
Look from where you have come.
The proof is in the pudding.
“Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who someone else is today.”
If you are seeking the Kingdom of God first it is easy to see yourself changing and growing in a positive direction from day to day.