Jordan Peterson is a Canadian clinical psychologist, and a professor of psychology at the University of Toronto. He is also a writer, and his most notable books are Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief and 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos. He has given live theatre lectures, and co-created an online writing therapy program with a series of online writing exercises called the “Self Authoring Suite”. He covers numerous subjects in both his books and talks, including: psychological, philosophy, theology and politics. The common themes of his works include: personality responsibility, individuality, truth, and the importance of articulation in writing and speech.
Here are 5 of his quotes, with my interpretation underneath for further clarity and understanding.
“You should be better than you are, but it’s not because you’re worse than other people; it’s because you’re not everything you should be.”
Life is a journey of growth and self-improvement, and we should always be challenging ourselves to become even better. Part of this process is facilitated through a healthy and realistic comparison to others, with the aim of being inspired and motivated to achieve greater heights. We must be careful that this comparison does not turn to envy and resentment, which often implies we are employing unrealistic thinking or we are being driven by excessive narcissism.
“How do you overcome the suffering of life? Be a better person.” (picture)
Suffering is almost inevitable in a word of chaos, malevolence, and tragedy, but that doesn’t mean we cannot overcome it and find meaning through it. The best way to achieve this is to work on your character and aim towards becoming a better version of yourself.
“If you live a pathological life, you pathologize your society, and if enough people do that, then it’s hell.”
With every moral decision, the world takes one step closer to heaven or hell. If you believe one person cannot make a significant difference to the world, whether for good or evil, then look up Jesus Christ, Martin Luther King, Adolf Hitler, and Joseph Stalin. It is not always immediately evident how our behaviour can cause ripples of change in the world, and one seemingly insignificant action may cause a tidal wave of change. You should not try to live a meaningful and virtuous life just because it is the right thing to do, but because if you do not, then we may all suffer the consequences of living in a world where virtue is a relic of the past and the lie becomes the gospel.
“The solution to the problem of tragedy and malevolence is the willingness to face them.”
Unfortunately, we live in a world of both tragedy and malevolence, and whilst humanity has made significant progress over the last 200,000 years, many problems remain unsolved. It is comforting and reassuring to realise that with sufficient courage and virtue, we are able to deal with and overcome many of the fears and problems that still exist in the world, namely evil, corruption, and tragedy. Of course, undergoing moral and spiritual growth through the fire of personal transformation is rarely a pleasant or simple process.
“Assume that the person you are listening to might know something you don’t.”
This quote is Rule 9 from Jordan’s book 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos. Until you know everything, you do not know enough, and therefore it is better to assume that others may have something to teach you, rather than to assume you are already omniscient. Adopting an attitude of curiosity and humility will serve you far better in the long run, than one of apathy and hubris.
The key themes of these pearls of wisdom by Jordan are self-improvement, moral agency, responsibility, courage, and humility. If we practice and develop these attributes enough, we should be well-equipped to deal with the challenges of life without turning down a dark path towards corruption and malevolence.