Dr. Jordan Peterson claims to have found the antidote to suffering: the Truth. This is a bold claim. If it’s true, we better start immunizing ourselves with truth because we have a pandemic of suffering. I have a four-year-old girl who has a neurological speech disorder. She is very smart but is extremely limited in her speech and often gets frustrated at being misunderstood. The other day my five kids and I were in the van and she was very upset with her older sister. I kept telling her to be quiet and calm down but she was uncontrollable. Finally, after listening to the chaos for awhile, I had the thought that I should just repeat to her what was happening. I said, “Laynie, you are upset because you want to play with Kyla’s toy but she won’t let you, huh?” She instantly stopped crying. She calmed right down without even getting her way. As I was pondering this later, I realized speaking the truth of what was happening was enough to calm her.
If the truth calms a child in the storm of perceived toy-injustice, there is great hope in its utility in our genuinely strife-filled lives. JBP says, “What is there, then, that’s going to help you fight against suffering? That’s easy: It’s the Truth. The truth is the antidote to suffering. The reason for that is because the truth puts reality behind you, so that you can face the reality that’s coming straight at you without becoming weak.” There is something about simply stating the truth that brings safety and peace to a situation.
JBP says truth speaks order out of chaos. I like to conceptualize this more as truth being the mediator between justice and mercy. In the Garden of Eden, God gave both Adam and Eve the opportunity to tell him what happened. He wanted to hear the truth from each of their perspectives.
Genesis 1:12 The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” 13 Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”
Eve speaks the truth about Satan tempting her and takes responsibility for eating the fruit. Adam tells the truth of Eve offering him the fruit and takes responsibility for eating it. God cares about circumstances that lead to sin, but he always wants us to admit our own part. God, in perfect fairness, delivers proper justice by removing them from the garden, and mercy in guarding the tree of life and sending their Savior. Trusting in the fairness of God makes speaking the truth safe.
Cain did not follow his parents’ example. When asked by God if he had seen his brother Abel, Cain said, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”. Dishonesty has been the norm ever since. I can think of several reasons why, in that moment of choice given to each of us, we choose to lie:
OJ was acquitted after all
2. We don’t actually want fairness
-I want Notre Dame to get all the breaks and USC all the penalties
3. We are so steeped in lies (ideology) we don’t remember the truth anymore
-“If you tell enough lies, often enough, the truth will become hidden from you…and then you are in hell.” Jordan Peterson
4. We give in to temptation
-“Sin has many tools but a lie is a handle which fits them all.” Oliver W. Holmes
Truth in an Age of Lies
Abraham Lincoln credited his unlikely election on his reputation for honesty. “All through the campaign my friends have been calling me ‘honest Old Abe,’ and I have been elected mainly on that cry.” In medieval times the Knights Code of Chivalry stated “At all times speak the truth.” Times have changed. Honesty is a rare commodity in today’s society and deceit is expected of even our most influential leaders. The only thing to trust is that truth is rare, and therefore valuable. One English poet said, “An honest man’s the noblest work of God.”
Dishonesty is our commonality. Men lie, women lie. Feminists lie, stay-at-home moms lie. Despite our community of dishonesty, I believe it is the Truth that can unite all women. If we are honest with ourselves and about our own perception, we can learn from one another. It’s not an easy thing to even know the truth; it can be buried and blurred. JBP suggests it is much easier to recognize when you are lying because when you speak a lie it makes you weak. I suggest watching this clip as he highlights how to “burn off the deadwood” of deceit so we can start on the path of truth. *Clip most relevant at 2:18.
Feminists as Liars
I hope I don’t come across as a feminist hater. I know feminism, at least in theory, is directed at a real problem. However, I do believe feminism, in its modern form, is a negative force for women and men. I believe that women are swallowing up lies left, right, and center at the great expense of society and their own meaningful lives. When women decide to make careers supreme, or that marriage will oppress them, or that kids would burden them, they feel the need to justify these self-centered choices as faultless. One day these women may look in the mirror and realize perhaps they made the wrong sacrifices for the wrong rewards. They may feel as my daughter did, distressed without the ability to soothe themselves. But before they can speak the truth they must be able to delineate the lie. The lie is that happiness results from the pursuit of self. I am not blaming these women necessarily- they have simply accepted as truth the deceptions others have spoken.
I was quite disappointed to hear Michelle Obama perpetuating some of these lies in an interview with the actress Ellis Ross. Ross lamented the fact that boys and girls are taught to dream differently. Michelle Obama agreed: “Unfortunately I think that our girls still dream of weddings and the security of the Prince Charming…but I think we are working on it.” (applause) She then praised the actress for not getting married or having kids and pointed out her resultant accomplishments. It seems a little disingenuous of Michelle when she has previously stated, “My most important title is ‘mom-in-chief’. My daughters are still the heart of my heart and the center of my world.”
Preserving the Feminine Spirit
“Suffering is a promise life always keeps.” Many women will find disappointment and rejection. The trick is to not allow ourselves to become haters of the things we don’t have. Women are built to take care of others. If we don’t do that in the “traditional” ways, we find other releases for it. We can use our feminine traits to bring healing to others. There is a lot of power in women who don’t have kids but still value femininity. One of my friends has never gotten married, mostly because she hasn’t found the right guy. She is not sitting around getting bitter or resentful. She literally travels the world helping at-risk children. She is making a difference I cannot. She also doesn’t pretend marriage and kids are not valuable. The attitude Michelle Obama expressed in her interview is different; it does not simply allow additional opportunities for women, but downgrades a woman’s choice to get married and have kids. Some so-called feminists even encourage women to forgo marriage and family despite their own experience proving its value.
I have received several emails from women describing their “deprogramming” from negative-feminist lies. One woman said that Jordan Peterson helped “give her permission to be traditional without feeling inferior.” I highly suggest watching the clip below from a podcast between JBP and Jocko Willink describing the similar necessity of deprogramming from communist ideology. JP details the plight of committed communists; dragged into the gulags and made to face the fulfillment of their own ideology. (Clip posted at the end, the applicable section starts at 41:40-44:05 but the first half will blow you mind if you compare the Soviet era to some modern-day ideologies.)
If a young woman that you care about is on the path of negative-feminism, have the courage to speak the truth as you see it. If she dismisses marriage and family, defend that path as one of significance. JBP says, “If I am forced into a position where I have to validate your identity… What if your identity is wrong? What if its pathological? What if it doesn’t serve you well?…and if I start validating you, do you think I am your friend? I am not your friend at all, I am a mirror for your narcissism.”
Mothers as Liars
Feminists often claim stay-at home moms are fake. They say we project perfection, but are really unfulfilled and insecure. We could be offended, or like JBP’s rule #9 we could “assume the person you are listening to might see something you don’t”. It’s not easy to face our pathologies. Since we are all very far from perfection, any attempt to portray it is dishonest. The subtle deceit between 1950’s housewives at the local bake-off is now digitized, globalized, and commercialized by social media.
So I will start with a little honesty. I am a below-average homemaker. I lose my temper with my kids. I tend to be judgmental. I don’t plan on posting photos of my sink full of dishes or take pride in my inadequacy – but I am not going to pretend I’m perfect. If I am living in an honest way then should I clean up my living room before I snap a photo for Instagram? Should I be overly patient in public but yell in private? Should I act accepting when inside I am judging?
When we dishonestly hide our weaknesses instead of being real and vulnerable, we miss an opportunity to help each other. I ask advice from my friends who are good cooks. I call my patient sister when I am frustrated with my kids. I try to remember the words of scripture when I hear myself being critical. Our fear of someone discovering our weaknesses might keep us from seeking help in overcoming them, and helping others in the areas we are strong.
When we live in a deceitful way in order to be admired, we deceive ourselves. It goes back to the beginning – Adam and Eve decided to be honest before God; Cain decided to play the world’s game of dishonesty. Look how that turned out. If we are honest about ourselves, we trust that God is ultimately the One who matters. Next time you are tempted to portray yourself dishonestly, remember, “The moment you stop caring what other people think is most likely when you start doing what God wants,” St. Patrick.
Lastly, truth can help us feel more fulfilled as mothers. As I spoke about in post #1 – my dream as an idealistic young woman was to move to Africa and to “save the world” – I had the chance to walk that path but I choose the path of motherhood. As I look at my single friend, traveling to India and Africa helping vulnerable children, I could be jealous of her life unburdened by laundry. Or, I can speak the truth – she is walking the path God has for her and I am walking my path – the one that raises His precious children. As God’s plan for us progresses, we may have new callings. As we continue to speak the truth, we will be able to clearly see His path.
The Truth Will Free Us From Suffering
Dostoyevsky describes the natural progression of a life lived in deceit, “Above all, don’t lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to such a pass that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect he ceases to love, and in order to occupy and distract himself without love he gives way to passions and coarse pleasures…all from continual lying to other men and to himself.”
As JBP says, “There’s no better way to bring a better Being into Being than to speak the Truth.” Sometimes we are stuck in a place where we are suffering. We may find ourselves resentful or insufficient. Like my daughter, we can’t even articulate what has gone wrong. We need to cut away the lies we have accepted, and those we are perpetuating. Only then can we start to gain sight of the truth. Ultimately, as my daughter did, we will feel safe in the arms of truth.
*Side note: I was blown away that Dr. Peterson shared my blog. I am still in shock and awe, and incredibly grateful. I believe it demonstrates his esteem of motherhood. I started writing because I took his advice to follow your passions and they will lead you on the proper path. I would appreciate you sharing this blog with your friends if you feel these are messages the world needs to hear. I now have a Facebook site you can follow where I will notify of posts. Thank you for your support and I welcome all comments and suggestions.