(VIDEO) Jordan Peterson's Rule 8: Tell the Truth (or at least, don't lie)
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Limit white lies and black truths. Prioritise moral principles.
Don't be ignorant and fall prey to wilful blindness.
Self-discovery begins with honesty.
Is there a time and place to tell white lies?
Can you tell someone they have really bad B.O, should you tell your friend she probably needs a wax because guys are beginning to notice her moustache? Or, how do you tell someone, you’ve been on 4 dates with, that your just not sexually attracted to them?
We’ve all lied in job interviews or told ‘selective truths’ to our boyfriends or girlfriends to either protect our egos, or avoid an argument.
Obviously, we should aim to tell the truth all the time… but it’s not that easy. Truth and lies are multidimensional, contextual and complex. In some situations, sometimes ‘honesty’ just isn’t the best policy.
Welcome to Jordan Peterson’s Rule 8: Tell the truth, or at least don’t lie.
This has taken me weeks to digest. I think because I couldn’t wrap my head around the complexity and immeasurable damage of ‘white lies’ and on the other hand, telling a ‘black truth’ is just as bad! The main message Papa JP is hammering home is that lies and deceit damage the structure of being. With every lie you tell, a piece of your character dies and you become a little bit more lost in who you really are.
The problem with lying is that it’s a ‘hydra’. You tell one lie, it has one of the consequences you might expect and you get away with it. But it has 3-4 others that you don’t expect and so it grows some complexity. Then you have to tack a lie on each of those complexity outcrops ad they grow more complexities…and soon this little lie turns into this big ball of lies… and by that time it becomes painfully obvious.
This chapter wasn’t really a lecture to ‘tell the truth’ because we already know that. It was more of a deep dive into the ramifications not telling the truth on ourselves and society.
So anyways here’s 3 interesting concepts I learned:
1. WHITE LIES & BLACK TRUTHS
White lies are suboptimal solutions to complex problems. Because they are true at some levels of analysis and false at others.
White lies are the easy way out. They’re bandaids for bigger issues that need to be addressed in which we are avoiding. Eg. It’s just a friendly text message, she’s just being nice. Although, you both know that hoe is out to get yo’ man. But the bigger issue is, what behaviour is your man vibing out to the world to illicit those messages in the first place?
The inverse of this a black truth. Where we select the smallest version of truth to manipulate the situation we’re in.
Eg. a black truth is when you’re smug friend tells you something and then says ‘oh well I’m just telling you this for your own good’ just to one up you.
Or let’s say your bf hasn’t been very attentive to you, you resent him, one day you have this massive fight and you say haphazardly say ‘if I was still single I would definitely go for Jake, he’s hot and he would be such a good boyfriend.’
It’s true on some insignificant level, but at a higher moral principal it’s just plain wrong. Your using truth to be a bitch.
So, is it ok to tell white lies? I guess it’s case by case and highly dependent on your intentions and moral principles at play.
“Taking the easy way out or telling the truth –those are merely two different choices, They are different pathways through life. They are utterly different ways of existing.” Pg. 209
This is probably my favourite quote in the chapter. It’s like that other quote, how you do anything in life is how you do everything in life. Are you going to be a cheat or a good human?
2. WILFUL BLINDNESS
“Wilful blindness is the refusal to know something that could be known.” (pg 213)
What you don’t know won’t hurt you right? Sometimes it’s easier to turn a blind eye. Sometimes it’s easier to keep telling ourselves stories which fit into our ‘ideal’ perception of our world.
Maybe you keep saying, one day we’ll be official, ahhhh sorry girl you’ve been dating for 4 months and he hasn’t messaged you in 3 weeks. Perhaps he’s not going to be your boyfriend… or maybe you think my telling white lies about your job and income to girls might help you score.
“if you betray yourself, if you say untrue things, 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.” Pg 212
It’s like that ‘hydra’ Papa JP was talking about before, sooner or later, that little seed of a lie is going to grow into mammoth tree.
Wilful blindness also blocks our vision of reality.
“What you are currently aiming at might not be worth attaining, just as what you are currently doing might be an error… I have seen people define their utopia and then bend their lived into knots trying to make it a reality.” Pg 210.
He later goes onto explain that when things don’t happen the way we hoped it could be, either our aim or method may have been wrong and that there is still something to learn.
Maybe you didn’t get that job because you had a weak CV, well then upskill next time. Maybe that date never called you back after the first date, maybe you shouldn’t have slept with them on the first night.
Ahhhhh, wilful blindness is worse than naivety because you’re consciously choosing to be ignorant. Maybe it’s time we grow some balls and ask ourselves some hard-introspective questions we’ve been avoiding right?
Telling the truth isn’t just about being a good citizen. It also forces you to be honest with who you are and what you could be.
“If you will not reveal yourself to others, you cannot reveal yourself to yourself… it means that so much of what you could be will never be forced by necessity to come forward… When you explore boldly, when you voluntarily confront the unknown, you gather information and build your renewed self out of that information.”
I love this because it’s not just a ‘conceptual’ woo-hoo mantra, there’s a biological component to it too:
“Researchers have recently discovered that new genes in the central nervous system turn themselves on when an organism is placed in a new situation. These genes code for new proteins. These proteins are building blocks for new structures in the brain. This means that a lot of you is still nascent in the most physical senses and will not be called forth by stasis. You have to say something, go somewhere and do things to get turned on.” (pg 212)
It’s fascinating that we could actually do things to change our biology. So tell the truth, articulate who you are and build those protein blocks in yo brain!
That’s all for Rule 8 folks to recap:
1. Before you tell a white lie or black truth, think about the most appropriate moral principle you want to be guided by.
2. Don’t be ignorant and fall prey to wilful blindness.
3. Self-discovery begins with being honest with yourself.
Catch you next week for Rule 9!