Guarding Against Deception
Dr. Jordan Peterson is a well-known speaker, author, and clinical psychologist. He’s polarizing, with strong views about social trends, politics, and the individual’s responsibility for their life.
The book that launched Peterson into the mainstream conversation was his 2018 work, “12 Rules For Life: An Antidote To Chaos.”
In that book, he charts a course forward for individual readers, warning them that the world is chaotic, their lives are messy, and offering 12 principles to assist in gaining order.
Rule #8 is one of Peterson’s tenets with far reaching effects in our lives:
“Tell the truth — or, at least, don’t lie.”
Rule #8 starts with a universal affirmation: truthfulness is a virtue. Stable and moral societies value honesty; chaotic societies and environments do not.
But the second part of the rule (“…at least, don’t lie”) is less recognized. Peterson explains that we are likely often lying. Even the best of us are dealing with some deception (actively or passively) every day.
A life well-lived is based upon truth. A good life involves calling things by their proper name and seeking clarity.
Let’s examine various areas of life where we tend to deceive ourselves and what can be done to rectify that habit.
We’re really into deception. The internal narrative in our heads and our reactions to the world around us are all too often widely different. We make up stories for our lives and reasons to explain and reinforce those narratives.
Telling the truth to other people (with discernment) is essential; seeking truth in our headspace is vital. What follows are areas where we often deceive ourselves.
How many of us claim to value one thing but do the opposite?
We value health but consume junk food. We value relationships but invest little time in them. We appreciate hard work but waste time when no one is looking.
We have to stop lying to ourselves about our priorities. As long as we believe that there is no disconnect in our lives, we will refuse to change.
How we spend our time is an excellent indicator of what we truly value.
Try this exercise: track your activities for two weeks, listing each activity and its duration. If we look at it honestly, it’s hard to argue with a written record.
If you find yourself saying, “I just can’t find the time…” it’s because the activity is not truly a priority (yet). Your written activity list for two weeks will describe to you what you (truly) consider worth your time.
What You “Know”
It’s easy to be an “expert” in our modern-day. Any particular idea you might have, there’s already a website full of content run by other people who share your views.
It’s tempting to forget about sources, ignore discernment, and get drawn into a feedback loop that only reinforces our opinion. We “know” things to be true without ever examining them against any standard.
We’re finite and limited in our abilities and knowledge; we should not assume that we have it all figured out.
We judge ourselves by our intentions but others by their actions. Individuals are complex and are a mixed bag of motivations, fears, desires, and emotional baggage. Each of us falters, fails, and struggles.
You might tell yourself that you have a particular individual figured out, dialed in. You “know” them. But that’s deceptive; it’s hard enough examining yourself, let alone glimpsing into another’s inner life. Keep the door open for people to surprise you.
Are you an angry person? Are you content?
Perhaps excitable? What about responsible?
We each have a picture of ourselves, of the person we think we are. How accurate is that self-portrait? What events or aspects of your daily life lend credibility to that caricature?
You know your motivations best. Be honest about why you are engaging in activities or behaviors. Don’t lie about your emotions or reactions.
What Shakes Out
The result of this ongoing exercise of self-examination and honesty is a positive change.
It’s aligning our thoughts, words, and deeds. It’s taking the mistakes of yesterday and learning from them to craft a more honest life tomorrow.
What shakes out is a better, more humble, and more useful version of you.
Where are the areas that you typically deceive yourself?
Start today: pick one area of your life where you will concentrate on addressing deception. See what reflections and changes shake out when you examine that area honestly.
Originally published at https://fjwriting.com on July 1, 2021.