Someone gave me an interesting book to read: 12 Rules for Life – an Antidote to Chaos, by Jordan Peterson. It took me some time before I started reading it. Although I knew nothing about the book, I didn’t like the title. Why do people always have to bring out new rules and new principles and new steps, when Yahweh already gave us his rules and his principles for life? I am always wondering: Have they considered and mastered the 10 Words or the 10 Commandments before these authors set off writing their books? 12 Rules for Life, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, 10 Steps to Ignite your Life, 8 Proven Principles of Possibility Thinking, 9 Things Successful People Do Differently, 11 Ways to Love – there are literally hundreds of books like these that one may try out. But it said on the cover of this book (12 Rules for Life) that it was a multi-million copy bestseller, so I started reading it. And slowly but surely, as I read the book, I became more interested.
The 12 Rules that Jordan Peterson, a Canadian Professor of Psychology, highlights in his book, are really quite simple, but somehow, also surprisingly profound. A few examples of the 12 Rules are: (1) Treat yourself like someone you are responsible for helping; (2) Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who someone else is today; (3) Set your house in perfect order before you criticize the world; (4) Assume that the person you are listening to, might know something you don’t. It is unlikely that Peterson considers himself to be a believer in Yahweh. But in his book he uses examples from the Bible all the time and, when one takes a closer look, it becomes clear that even the “rules”, themselves, are firmly based upon Scriptural principles. Isn’t it strange that the majority of modern people are not intrigued by the Bible any longer, but when a few Biblical principles are included, in a slightly disguised format, in a psychological book, written by a world renowned author, it becomes a multi-million copy bestseller! Let us take a brief look at the Scriptural foundation of the 4 “rules” highlighted earlier in this paragraph.
(1) Treat yourself like someone you are responsible for helping. In this chapter, Peterson writes, among other things: “You are not simply your own possession to torture and mistreat. This is partly because your being is inexorably tied up with that of others, and your mistreatment of yourself can have catastrophic consequences for others … you have a spark of the divine in you, which belongs not to you, but to [Yahweh]. We are, after all—according to Genesis—made in His image.” The point Peterson is making here, is extremely important for a proper Scriptural understanding of oneself. There are people who feel hugely responsible for helping others who are suffering in one way or another, but they don’t feel that same responsibility towards themselves and their own well-being. Let us not forget the spark of the divine that is within us. I am not talking about the new age idea, saying “You are you own god” or “You can create your own reality”. The so-called “spark of the divine” is something that sound interpreters of Scriptures have recognized over the centuries as being part and parcel of the Biblical message. In a world that has been contaminated and wounded as a result of sin and unrighteousness, Yahweh has made sure that within us as humans beings, there is still the capacity (in the form of a “seed” or a “spark”) to relate meaningfully to Him as our Creator and to other human beings, our fellow creatures. And this includes ourselves – body, soul and spirit.
1 Pet 1:23 You were born again – not of corruptible seed, but incorruptible – through the living Word of Elohim, which remains forever.
1 Cor 6:19 Or do you not know that your body is the Dwelling Place of the Set-apart Spirit who is in you, which you have from Elohim, and you are not your own?
Ps 139:14 I give thanks to You, For I am awesomely and wondrously made! Wondrous are Your works, And my being knows it well.
(2) Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who someone else is today. In this chapter, Peterson says: “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 … 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.” When you constantly compare yourself with somebody else, you are forgetting that Yahweh created each one of us as a unique individual. Just like Avraham’s journey was different from Yaakov’s journey and Mosheh’s journey and David’s journey, so my journey is different from my brother’s journey or my uncle’s journey. And even if I look up to my uncle or my brother and admire his life and his achievements, quite simply I am not my uncle, or my brother. At the moment, I find myself somewhere on my own journey and the promises of Yahweh in front of me, together with the Spirit of Yahweh within me, have brought a dimension to my life, that enables me to grow and to overcome and to achieve and to be content with that.
Heb 13:5 Let your way of life be without the love of silver, and be satisfied with what you have. For He Himself has said, “I shall never leave you nor forsake you.”
2 Cor 10:12 For we do not presume to count ourselves or compare ourselves with those who commend themselves. But they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.
(3) Set your house in perfect order before you criticize the world. Peterson goes about this chapter in a practical manner: “Have you taken full advantage of the opportunities offered to you? Are you working hard on your career or are you letting bitterness and resentment hold you back and drag you down? Have you made peace with your brother? Are you treating your spouse and your children with dignity and respect? Do you have habits that are destroying your health and well-being? Are you truly shouldering your responsibilities? Have you said what you need to say to your friends and family members? Are there things that you could do, that you know you could do, that would make things around you better? Have you cleaned up your life? If the answer is no, here’s something to try: Start to stop doing what you know to be wrong. Start stopping today.” The advice that he gives here, is quite simply a few well known principles from the Word of Yahweh, put into different words. Don’t give in to bitterness. Live in peace with your neighbour. Treat others with dignity and respect. Look out for your own health and well-being. Do not run away from your responsibilities. Be honest, be disciplined, be trustworthy, be punctual. I like the very practical idea that if things are not like that in one’s life – then “start stopping today!” Don’t brood on it. Don’t try to figure out for months and years how things got so out of hand. Start stopping today! And if you can’t stop with everything at once, start stopping with one thing at a time. The end-result may be life-changing. Why? Because you are aligning your life with the pattern of Yahweh’s Word. And in the process you are switching from criticizing mode to healing mode, which is much better for your general well-being.
Mat 7:4 Or how is it that you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the splinter out of your eye,’ and see, a plank is in your own eye?
(4) Assume that the person you are listening to, might know something you don’t. Once again, Peterson shows an understanding of some great Biblical principles: “You categorize your experience, grouping some elements together, and separating them from the rest. There is a mysterious arbitrariness about all of this. You don’t form a comprehensive, objective record. You can’t. You just don’t know enough. You just can’t perceive enough. You’re not objective,
either. You’re alive. You’re subjective.” Peterson emphasizes the importance of listening to people properly and he quotes Carl Rogers who said: “The great majority of us cannot listen; we find ourselves compelled to evaluate, because listening is too dangerous. The first requirement is courage, and we do not always have it.” The importance of really listening to people – not with the idea to create a good impression, but with the understanding that you may actually learn from them, is a sound, Biblical teaching. If one has to single out the one, most important lesson that the people of Israel had to learn during their 40 years’ journey through the desert, it is this: They had to learn what it means to listen with the complete willingness in their hearts to change their lifestyles, if necessary. I am convinced that not many of us have reached that point. Perhaps we have come to know a little bit more of the truth than what we knew before. And all of a sudden we think: I don’t have to be a listener any longer. I should now be a teacher. I should now begin to convince others to adopt my point of view. Let us be aware that this is one of the biggest traps there is!
Prov 12:15 The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.
Prov 18:2 A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.