Notes Psychology

Rule 3: Make Friends With People Who Want The Best For You (12 Rules For Life)


Peterson grew up in Fairview, Alberta – a city with cold, harsh weather in Canada where he spent most of his time drinking while going out on long drives with his friends. He befriended nihilists for most of his adolescent years, and while he cleaned up his act, some of his friends didn’t. And they didn’t wish him the best.

They had a repetition compulsion (a term coined by Freud), a desire to repeat their mistakes from the past – partly to master their emotions of these experiences, and partly because there was no other way.

They continually made friends with people who weren’t good for them and engaged in self-destructive activities. One of his friends eventually committed suicide.

Younger people, or older but naive people think it’s a virtue to save the damned. But the damned don’t always want to be saved, and it’s not easy to tell the difference between people who genuinely need help, and people who are exploiting you.

Don’t Be Naive

In Notes from Underground, Dostoevsky describes the sadism of the underground man – who fools a prostitute into believing that he would be her salvation. After sleeping with her, he implores the prostitute to reconsider her choices, and tells her about how she is wasting her youth, and preaches the importance of family and children.

Through this speech, he manages to stir the emotions of the young woman, until he compels her to try to prove that she has had a genuine and meaningful human relationship. But the underground man has no real experience to draw on, his words were drawn out of novels. He enjoyed the psychological power he was able to wield over the prostitute but he had no real interest in helping her if he was honesty with himself.

While it may be tempting to think that you can pull someone up, the truth is that your imperfections are more likely to push you down. Instead of assuming that you truly want the best for others, you should come to terms with your own misguided incentives, and your own flaws.

“How dare I cast aspersions on the motives of those who are trying to help?”

It may sound harsh to say that one should not offer a helping hand. After-all, isn’t it the moral and righteous thing to do?  Isn’t it what Christ did?

Peterson reminds us, however, that we are not Christ.

Perhaps Christ could genuinely help people, but Christ was the archetypal perfect man and you’re you.

Your attempts to save people may be more vainly motivated than you think. Perhaps you want to convince yourself that you are a virtuous person worthy of praise, or you’re just looking for attention. Perhaps by associating with someone who has it much worse, you make your sins seem a lot better in comparison.

“Your raging alcoholism makes my binge drinking appear trivial.”

Or maybe you associate with them not because you are trying to help them, but because it’s easier to engage in an implicit contract that promotes nihilism and failure. The person you are trying to help may have consciously made a choice to avoid responsibility and has accepted their suffering.

It’s less likely that people in trouble are merely victims. By assuming this, you deny them agency – both in the past and future. It’s better to carefully think about the complex reasons that led them to this point, rather than try to naively nurture them out of their own despair.

It’s not harsh to think this way. Failure and abdication of responsibility is easy and expected. Success and constant sacrifice is hard and unexpected.

Help Yourself

Don’t maintain friendships that are bad for you out of a sense of loyalty. It’s hard to make friends with people who want what’s best for you- associating with people who are closer to the ideal puts pressure on you, but if you want to improve your own life, it’s what you should do.

Make friends with people who want the best for you.

Read 12 Rules For Life

Rule 3: Make Friends With People Who Want The Best For You (12 Rules For Life) 1

"Silence is the best expression of scorn" - G.B. Shaw

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