Recently, I read a book titled “12 Rules For Life: An Antidote To Chaos”, by Jordan B. Peterson. I found it to be a deep, insightful book that requires a slow, thoughtful read, and then a re-read. At the end of May I wrote a short blog about rule number 1. Following, is a short summary of rule number 2.
Treat yourself like someone you are responsible for helping
Why do people often take better care of their pets than they do themselves? Some people go to a doctor, have medications prescribed and then promptly neglect to take them as directed. Sometimes, they never even have the prescriptions filled. Many of these same people take their pets to the vet and would never even consider not following the advice they are given. Why would someone take better care of their pet than themselves?
When I first read this book, I was struck by the depth Peterson goes into explaining each of these rules. Sometimes, as in this chapter, the road of explanation and enlightenment is long and winding. I find it fascinating that every chapter includes references to the Bible. In rule number 2, he refers to the stories of Genesis chapters 1 and 2. These chapters are about the creation of the universe, the beginnings of man and woman, and then the fall and banishment from paradise. He also goes into the fundamental elements of life; chaos and order. Through these examples, stories, and metaphors, we are led to the conclusion that as descendants of Adam, we are naked, ugly, ashamed, frightened, worthless, cowardly, resentful, defensive, and accusatory. Why should anyone take care of someone like that? Even if that something is yourself?
Getting back to the question of caring for a pet better than one’s self, there is a fundamental difference between humans and all other creatures on earth. Only humans are capable of reason. While all other animals act out of instinct, humans are capable of hating, scheming, plotting, and torturing other beings. Only humans will inflict suffering for the sake of suffering.
Certainly, this does not apply to everyone. Many people have a good and healthy self-image and do take good care of themselves. Most people believe that others should not suffer and will work to help alleviate it.
Taking good care of yourself is not a selfish trait. You are important to other people and this morally obliges you to treat yourself the way you would treat someone you love. Think about the possibilities if you do this. You could become more helpful and productive, which would enhance the lives of others and all of society. So, it is not just about you.
He closes the chapter with a quote from Friedrich Nietzsche. “He whose life has a why can bear almost any how”. Treat yourself as if you were someone you are responsible for helping.