Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules of Life


I’ve just finished reading Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules of Life.  Overall, I’d give it a 3.5/5.  In case you aren’t familiar with Peterson, he is a professor and psychologist from Canada who has become famous online for standing up to Orwellian Social Justice Warrior bullies who are trying to change language around pronouns.  But that is just his most famous episode.  He is probably the most famous person on YouTube right now, and his integrative teaching on the biblical stories has turned 1000s, maybe millions, back to  traditional religious practice.  

I commend Jordan Peterson and his work for several reasons:

  • Most men in Western cultures have few if any male role models to look up to.  On the one hand there is the stereotypical anti-intellectual macho type who has no conscience, or very little of one, or on the other, more common hand there is the effeminate, consumerist, narcissistic shallow man, who worships at the altar of money and political correctness.  They are two sides of the same coin for their lack of courage or depth.  If they have to choose, men will reject the latter and go with the former, because at least the first has a sense of honor and courage.  Peterson is attempting to rehabilitate the moral and spiritual life of men.  

  • Religious culture in American life is anti-traditional and anti-intellectual and has a disdain for learning, which Peterson seeks to correct.

  • People erroneously view science and religion as incompatible, though they are two different types of knowledge.  Peterson correctly points out that the two CANNOT be compared, because they are two different modes of thinking.

  • Peterson is often pointing out that sin, or evil, is primarily an individual phenomena, not a social one.  It starts with individuals and individual behavior in the context of the group.  The modern movement towards “social justice” is amorphous and removes the impetus from individuals for moral improvement and places it out there somewhere beyond reach.  This is a flawed way of thinking and Jordan Peterson is correct to point this out, before its too late.  The burden is ALWAYS on the individual.  

  • Peterson is correct to point out the balance between chaos and order, and this is a helpful paradigm.  All internal moral developments and positive reform requires periods of chaos and order in order to move the needle towards a better future.  He is very good at teaching this.

The 12 Rules of Life (spoiler alert) are:

  1. Stand Up Straight With Your Shoulders Back
  2. Treat Yourself Like Someone You Are Responsible For Helping 
  3. Make Friends With People Who Want the Best For You
  4. Compare Yourself to Who You Were Yesterday, Not to Who Someone Else is Today
  5. Do Not Let Your Children Do Anything that Makes You Dislike Them
  6. Set Your House in Perfect Order Before You Criticize the World
  7. Pursue What is Meaningful 
  8. Tell the Truth- Or, At Least Don’t Lie
  9. Assume the Person Your Are Listening To Might Know Something You Don’t
  10. Be Precise in Your Speech
  11. Do Not Bother Children When They Are Skateboarding
  12. Pet A Can When You Encounter One on The Street’

I recommend reading the book, though I did get bogged down halfway through.  If you’ve never read anything like this, you will probably find it fascinating.  Peterson assimilates the work of Carl Jung, and his work on archetypes.  Jung is a psychologist who had an impact on me when I was trying to find my own way.  Many for this same reason have accused Peterson of being a gnostic, and I tend to agree, in that he seems to deny or at least equivocate about true historical religious revelation.  

You get the sense reading Peterson that he is still on his own spiritual journey.  He can’t seem to take the final leap of faith, or possibly doesn’t have the courage to.  His personal failings are our own failings, or own “loss of nerve.” Maybe that’s why we like him and can relate to him so well?  Regardless, I empathize with him, and can overlook this, to garner the great truths he is communicating, particularly the religious ones.

There is so much prejudice against religious tradition and teaching in our culture, it is well over into the category of insanity.  I was at a lecture on marriage recently where an economics professor at George Mason University discussed how her non-profit promoting marriage was placed on a “hate group” list by the Southern Poverty Law Center.  So we have seen a complete reversal in values.  Peterson may not be the key to turning around the sinking ship, but I commend him for trying.  


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