What Dr. Jordan Peterson Can Teach Young, Catholic Singles
Dr. Jordan Peterson, a Canadian psychologist and professor of psychology at the University of Toronto, is making waves on social media with his hours-long lectures and no-fluff advice. He’s gained internet fame for his skill of translating complex ideology into simple, understandable conversations. And people are listening up. His lecture, “Introduction the Idea of God” has more than 1.6 million views. In fact, Peterson’s lectures that approach Christianity from a psychological perspective are his most popular videos.
Peterson’s advice and lectures should be taken with a grain of salt. In an article published by Catholic Herald, Brandon McGinley writes, “If the Church is to baptize ‘Jordan Peterson the internet sensation’, it must be for his reputation as an authentic and awe-filled truth-seeker, not as a politically incorrect provocateur. His sincere reverence for the awesome reality of the human person is a potent antidote for a civilization whose spirit has been oppressed by secularism and nihilism. And if, God willing, the Church is to baptize Jordan Peterson the man, let us pray that the grace of the sacrament washes away his commitment to individualism and replaces it with an integrated view of the human person, striving not for the greatness of alpha status in a world of brutes but for the greatness of communion with the God who is love.”
Peterson does offer advice particularly relevant to single adults living in today’s world. Here are six things Dr. Jordan Peterson can teach single Catholics today:
1. Be specific with your life goals
One part of life is setting goals, then striving to meet them. Maybe you’re working on setting career goals, goals with your family relationships, or goals in your romantic relationship. Dr. Peterson advises his students to be incredibly specific when it comes to mapping out goals for life.
“Specify your goals,” Peterson said in a lecture to students. “How are you going to hit something if you don’t know what that is? Often people won’t specify their goals because they don’t like to specify conditions for failure. So if you keep yourself all vague and foggy, which is real easy because that’s just a matter of ‘not doing’ as well, then you don’t know when you fail. People might say, ‘Well, I really don’t want to know when I fail because that’s painful and I’ll keep myself blind about when I fail’. That’s fine, except you’ll fail all the time, then. You just won’t know it until you’ve failed so badly that you’re done. That’s willful blindness – you could have known but you chose not to.”
2. Diligently work to maintain trust in your relationships
A YouTube viewer asked Peterson the secret to a long, healthy, fruitful marriage. And while Peterson touched on the importance of physical attraction, the one quality that he discussed the most was trust. “There is no marriage that is successful without trust,” he told viewers. “You have to tell each other the truth.” And while this sounds like a simple answer, it’s much more complex at second glance. “Telling the truth to someone is no simple thing,” Peterson explained. “Because there’s a bunch of things about all of us that are terrible and weak and reprehensible and shameful, and all of those things have to be brought out into the open and dealt with.”
Peterson discussed the beauty of truth in a marriage – something that he sees as an inseparable bond. “I am going to handcuff myself to you, and you’re going to handcuff yourself to me. And then we’re going to get to tell each other the truth, and neither of us get to run away,” he said. “Once we know the truth, then we’re either going to live together in mutual torment, or we’re going to try to deal with that truth and straighten ourselves out – and straighten ourselves out jointly. And that’s going to make us more powerful and more resilient; and deeper and wiser as we progress together through life.”
3. Give up something today so tomorrow can be better
“You generally learn things painfully, that’s how life goes,” Peterson explained in a video on romantic relationships.”If you ask yourself a question about the truth about yourself, the response you get is often painful. But that’s short term pain. So people will avoid it and think ‘I don’t have to go through that pain’. That’s fair enough – who wants to go through pain? But the problem is that, most of the time, to thrive to the long run, you have to undergo a fair bit of short-term pain. Take the short-term pain, that’s sacrifice. Give up what you have to give up today so that tomorrow can be better.”
4. Take good care of yourself
In his latest book, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos, Peterson writes about the subject of self-care and self-respect. “We deserve some respect. You deserve some respect, you are important to other people, as much as to yourself,” he writes. “You have some vital role to play in the unfolding destiny of the world. Therefore, you are morally obliged to take care of yourself. You should take care of, help and be good to yourself the same way you would take care of, help and be good to someone you loved and valued. You may therefore have to conduct yourself habitually in a manner that allows you some respect for your own Being—and fair enough. But every person is deeply flawed. Everyone falls short of the glory of God. If that stark fact meant, however, that we had no responsibility to care, for ourselves as much as others, everyone would be brutally punished all the time. That would not be good. That would make the shortcomings of the world, which can make everyone who thinks honestly question the very propriety of the world, worse in every way. That simply cannot be the proper path forward.”
5. Be grateful in spite of your suffering
“Suffering is essential to the nature of human existence,” Peterson explains in an episode of his podcast. “Suffering exists as a consequences of our limitations. Every single person alive is going to deal with serious physical illness and mental distress. If they aren’t suffering it immediately and directly right now on their own, it’s almost inevitable that every single person who walks this earth is confronting the bare bones reality of that level in the guise of an affiliated family member.”
So, despite suffering, be grateful for the life that you live. “There’s nothing worse for your soul than meaningless suffering,” Peterson goes on to explain. The Catholic faith specifically makes sense of suffering through hope and redemption. We can’t run away from suffering – we’re forced to deal with it in our own lives and the lives of those we love. So what can we do with such a gloomy dilemma? Peterson recommends that we find meaning in our suffering, and be grateful despite the pain that we endure during our time on earth.
6. You can’t change other people (but you can change yourself!)
When life presents obstacles, it can be easy to focusing on getting to the root of the issues at hand. But that can sometimes result in a blame game. “Blaming others for your problems is a complete waste of time,” Peterson says. “When you do that, you don’t learn anything. You can’t grow and you can’t mature. Thus, you can’t make your life better.
In the video lecture, Peterson went on to describe how, in his three decades as a professor and psychologist, he has discovered that there are two attitudes we can take towards life and sorrow. “Those with the first attitude blame the world,” he explained. He then went on to describe the alternative attitude, saying: “Those with the second ask what they could do differently. . . You can’t change other people, but you can change yourself. But it’s difficult. It takes courage to change, and it takes discipline. It’s much easier – and much more gratifying to your basest desires – to blame someone else for your misery. The proper way to fix the world isn’t to fix the world – there’s no reason to assume that you’re even up to such a task. But you can fix yourself. And in that manner at least, you will make the world a better place.”
Chloe Langr is a very short stay-at-home-wife, whose growth has probably been stunted by the inhumane amounts of coffee she regularly consumes. When she is not buried in a growing stack of books, she can be found spending time with her husband, geeking out over Theology of the Body, or podcasting. You can find more about her on her blog "Old Fashioned Girl."