Rules for Life

Jordan Peterson, a clinical psychologist and a professor at the University of Toronto, has just published a new book titled 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos. I am only a few chapters in and it’s pretty fascinating. Peterson is an interesting guy. He taught mythology to lawyers, doctors, and business people, consulted for the UN Secretary General, helped his clinical clients manage depression, OCD, anxiety, and schizophrenia. He taught at Harvard before going to Toronto and has lectured extensively in North America and Canada. He also has a strong YouTube presence. He has published more than a hundred scientific papers, transforming the modern understanding of personality as well as the psychology of religion. In the Overture of the book, Peterson says: “People need ordering principles, and that chaos otherwise beckons. We require rules, standards, values – alone and together.” Here are the Twelve Rules he sets forth in the book:

RULE #1 – Stand up straight with your shoulders back
RULE # 2 – Treat yourself like someone you are responsible for helping
RULE # 3 – Make friends with people who want the best for you
RULE # 4 – Compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not to who someone else is today
RULE # 5 – Do not let your children do anything that makes you dislike them
RULE # 6 – Set your house in perfect order before you criticize the world
RULE # 7 – Pursue what is meaningful (not what is expedient)
RULE # 8 – Tell the truth – or, at least, don’t lie.
RULE # 9 – Assume that the person you are listening to might know something you don’t
RULE # 10 – Be precise in your speech
RULE # 11 – Don’t bother children when they are skateboarding
RULE # 12 – Pet a cat when you encounter one in the street

These rules are fascinating, just like Peterson himself, and I am looking forward to completing the book. However, this reminded me of another set of rules/commandments that were given to Moses by God on Mt. Sinai a long, long time ago as an attempt to establish order and meaning among the Israelite people. These rules are significant in both Christianity and Judaism. Do you remember what they are? Failing to abide by these rules can lead to big problems:

I – You shall have no other gods before me
II – You shall not make for yourself an idol
III – Do not take the Lord’s name in vain
IV – Remember the Sabbath Day and keep it holy
V – Honor your father and mother
VI – You shall not murder
VII – You shall not commit adultery
VIII – You shall not steal
IX – You shall not bear false witness
X – You shall not covet (Exodus 20)

Some say that rules are made to be broken. But these rules exist for the well-being of God’s people and society. There are many in our culture who cannot name the Ten Commandments. Therefore, how could they follow them? All of us fall short because we are human and sin is real. But these rules serve as a compass for morality and ethics. We ignore them to our own detriment.


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