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Tell the truth-or, at least, don't lie

12 Rules for Life-Rule #8:  “Tell the truth-or, at least, don’t lie”


It’s pretty incredible to consider that when the most well-known clinical psychologist of his day was asked to come up with some foundational building blocks for life, this made his list of 12.  Remarkable to me, because I consider this rule to go without saying.  But Dr. Peterson is talking about more than the mistake that I made when I was 4 years old.  One of my earliest memories was taking a bath with my baby brother, and him turning the faucet to cold water.  I didn’t like that much, so, I slapped him…hard.  Hans obviously started balling, and when Dad came in and asked if I had hit him, I said, “No!”  After confiding in my mother, I had to confront my father, and MAN was I in trouble.


Though Dr. Peterson touches on the importance of alleviating these and other “little white lies,” he also addresses the element of truthfulness at it’s core:  “Taking the easy way out or telling the truth-those are not merely two different choices.  They are different pathways through life.  They are utterly different ways of existing,” (Peterson, p. 209).


As usual, Dr. Peterson explores the application of this principle in many and various settings, but he strongly addresses this overarching principle with the same tact as previous rules: with humility and tenacity.  “‘Did what I want happen?  No.  Then my aim or my methods were wrong.  I still have something to learn.’  That is the voice of authenticity.  ‘Did what I want happen?  No.  Then the world is unfair…That is the voice of inauthenticity,” (Peterson, p. 214).  In order to work through our previous convictions and seeing if they stand the test of time, it will take (once again) ownership and adaptability.


Dr. P also indicates, unlike previous chapters, the ramifications to the utmost degree of failing to apply truth into our lives.  Deceit builds and corrupts:  “If you act out a lie, you weaken your character.  If you have a weak character, then adversity will mow you down when it appears, as it will inevitably.  You will hide, but there will be no place left to hide.  And then you will find yourself doing terrible things,” (Peterson, 212).  See, there is no such thing as a “white lie.”  Because that untruthfulness leads to another and another.  There is such a thing as a “deceitfulness debt” that will need to be undone.  Avoid this trap altogether.


Personally, I hate lies.  After all, “the truth will set you free,” right?  But one area that Dr. P definitely called me out on is the tendency that I can have to base my answers upon an ideal or a façade or a status, etc.  Can I get an “Amen,” from my people pleasers…my conflict avoiders…my “don’t rock the boat”ers?  “If you pay attention to what you do and say, you can learn to feel a state of internal division and weakness when you are misbehaving and misspeaking…I learned to recognize when I was lying, in fact, by noticing this sinking and division, and then inferring the presence of a lie,” (Peterson, 224).   He then goes on to say:  “It often took me a long time to ferret out the deception.  Sometimes I was using my words for appearance.  Sometimes I was trying to disguise my own true ignorance of the topic at hand,” (Peterson, 224).


To be honest (pardon the pun, ha), working through this may not be easy.  But it is right.  “Set your ambitions, even if you are uncertain about what they should be.  The better ambitions have to do with the development of character and ability, rather than status and power,” (Peterson, 224).  If you truly desire to be an individual of integrity, which is a worthy and admirable goal, I’d like to encourage you to begin listening to yourself like Jordan B. Peterson suggests.  Ensure that truth is the only thing that comes from your lips.  When tempted to fall back into routine answers because they are “easy,” or “What I have always done…” Stop.  Own it.  Adapt. Even if you or I don’t know what that better, future self will look like (and how can we if it’s different from anything that we have experienced?), I believe this man/woman to be a much more noble being.  Not to mention that the resultant circumstances I truly think, may be some of the most rewarding of our lives.  “Tell the truth-or, at least, don’t lie.”

Until next time,


-Brock Baumgarn, CA and Nutrition Coach at Health 1st Chiropractic



Peterson, J.B., Doidge, N., &Van, S.E. (2018).  12 rules for life:  An antidote to chaos.


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