Once a week.
Subscribe to our weekly newsletter.
Jordan Peterson on the art of forgiveness
Owning your mistakes matters.
- Jordan Peterson says that recognizing your mistakes is essential, but you shouldn't "beat yourself to death" because of them.
- Atoning and repenting for mistakes clear the path for personal growth.
- If you avoid the responsibility of your errors, however, you're likely to make them again and again.
Apologizing shouldn't be hard. Recognizing and then owning your mistakes leads to a healthy relationship with truth. It also makes you a better person in the eyes of those close to you and those you come across in the course of your days. Honesty and integrity matter; building trust with others requires admitting when you've erred.
Requesting forgiveness is a balancing act. For example, never start an apology with "I'm sorry if…" Trying to qualify guilt is an avoidance technique. Throwing it back at the aggrieved is counterproductive. You're effectively saying, "I'm sorry that you misunderstood my intentions." That's not an apology. It's arrogance.
A large part of the problem, write Carol Tavris and Elliot Anderson in Mistakes Were Made (but not by me), is that Westerners treat mistakes like personal failings, not as inherent to the learning process. An example in the book involves a pair of American researchers that sat in a Japanese classroom watching a student struggle to achieve the right answer. He was at the board for 40 minutes; the discomfort was palpable. Only later did the researchers realize they were discomfited, not the student; he stayed with the challenge, making mistake after mistake, until the right answer arrived. At that moment the entire class erupted in applause. His peers were not snickering, but cheering him on.
What a difference from a culture that treats any mistake as an existential failing, a mindset that creates guilt whenever one strays from the path. Instead of owning the mistake and asking for forgiveness we often double down. As Tavris and Anderson write:
"An unbending need to be right inevitably produces self-righteousness. When confidence and convictions are unleavened by humility, by an acceptance of fallibility, people can easily cross the line from healthy self-assurance to arrogance."
The flip side to avoiding mistakes is getting so bogged down by them progress becomes impossible. This is sometimes within the design of religion. For example, original sin. The notion that just by being born you've created a grave error is a sure way to amass loads of guilt, though, as we'll get to, the idea also has important utility when applied differently.
Jordan Peterson | I cheated on my wife; how do I save my marriage?
As Jordan Peterson says in the video above, biblical figures made tons of mistakes; at times it seemed erring was an occupation. The Canadian professor spends a lot of energy contemplating the motivations and mindsets of Old and New Testament characters in an attempt to apply Abrahamic lessons to modernity.
Making mistakes, he continues, is simply part of life. While purposefully making them isn't intelligent, recognizing them as part of the path is essential for sanity. Peterson acknowledges that learning from mistakes without "beating yourself to death because of them" is critical in maintaining a credible relationship to society.
Discussing a topic always requiring forgiveness, infidelity, he continues:
"We don't take adulterers out into the public square and stone them. So you probably shouldn't do that to yourself. If you regret it, well then you have to repent and then atone."
Repenting, he continues, means reviewing your actions to understand why "you were so damn clueless and so damn stupid." Going through each decision point along the way provides a map for you to pinpoint faulty choices.
You likely flirted a bit too much with the object of your affection upon meeting them. You knew at the time what you were doing, but you proceeded anyway. If you're going to ask for forgiveness, you need to understand the reasons why you decided to move forward knowing where you'd end up.
"If you walk along the path and you get lost, you have to figure out how it is you wandered off the path."
Jordan Peterson | When should you forgive
When you're able to find your way back to the path, Peterson says, repenting will help ensure you don't wander off again. Wanderers are likely to err again; sex too is an addiction. If you can uncover the exact place you faltered—the emotional pattern, the psychological justification, the dopamine rush of flirting—you know where to end the chain reaction if you should find yourself in the position again. Then growth happens.
He compares this to one of his principles: "Use no more force than is necessary." When back on the path, stop beating yourself up. Atone, repent, evolve.
The critical part of this process is making amends with those you've hurt—not "I'm sorry if…" but an honest and vulnerable "I'm sorry." Rebuilding trust is hard; for some, impossible. But for those who have recognized errors and are fully committed to not repeating old patterns of behavior, attempting to gain the trust of loved ones requires trust in yourself.
While Peterson believes the notion of original sin is not entirely beneficial, he does recognize potential growth possible in the concept:
"In this particular situation, you're a bad person, but so is everyone else, so it doesn't mark you out as particularly horrible. That doesn't mean the horribleness isn't real. But it's not just you. And then what you do about it is try to be better. And that's what you do about what's wrong with you to begin with."
We all have room to learn, Peterson concludes. The balance between avoidance and excessive guilt is challenging but attainable, for within that space resides growth. This is not far afield from Buddhism: we all suffer from perceptions created by our minds. There is a way out of suffering just as there is a road beyond original sin. United we are in emotional struggles. Remembering this fact in the midst of chaos produces calmer waters. Refusing to recognize the other in yourself, though, you're doomed to repeat your mistakes.
Jordan Peterson | Why winning isn't the real purpose of arguing
What is human dignity? Here's a primer, told through 200 years of great essays, lectures, and novels.
- Human dignity means that each of our lives have an unimpeachable value simply because we are human, and therefore we are deserving of a baseline level of respect.
- That baseline requires more than the absence of violence, discrimination, and authoritarianism. It means giving individuals the freedom to pursue their own happiness and purpose.
- We look at incredible writings from the last 200 years that illustrate the push for human dignity in regards to slavery, equality, communism, free speech and education.
The inherent worth of all human beings<p>Human dignity is the inherent worth of each individual human being. Recognizing human dignity means respecting human beings' special value—value that sets us apart from other animals; value that is intrinsic and cannot be lost.</p> <p>Liberalism—the broad political philosophy that organizes society around liberty, justice, and equality—is rooted in the idea of human dignity. Liberalism assumes each of our lives, plans, and preferences have some unimpeachable value, not because of any objective evaluation or contribution to a greater good, but simply because they belong to a human being. We are human, and therefore deserving of a baseline level of respect. </p> <p>Because so many of us take human dignity for granted—just a fact of our humanness—it's usually only when someone's dignity is ignored or violated that we feel compelled to talk about it. </p> <p>But human dignity means more than the absence of violence, discrimination, and authoritarianism. It means giving individuals the freedom to pursue their own happiness and purpose—a freedom that can be hampered by restrictive social institutions or the tyranny of the majority. The liberal ideal of the good society is not just peaceful but also pluralistic: It is a society in which we respect others' right to think and live differently than we do.</p>
From the 19th century to today<p>With <a href="https://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?year_start=1800&year_end=2019&content=human+dignity&corpus=26&smoothing=3&direct_url=t1%3B%2Chuman%20dignity%3B%2Cc0" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Google Books Ngram Viewer</a>, we can chart mentions of human dignity from 1800-2019.</p><img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDg0ODU0My9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MTUwMzE4MX0.bu0D_0uQuyNLyJjfRESNhu7twkJ5nxu8pQtfa1w3hZs/img.png?width=980" id="7ef38" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9974c7bef3812fcb36858f325889e3c6" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
American novelist, writer, playwright, poet, essayist and civil rights activist James Baldwin at his home in Saint-Paul-de-Vence, southern France, on November 6, 1979.
Credit: Ralph Gatti/AFP via Getty Images
The future of dignity<p>Around the world, people are still working toward the full and equal recognition of human dignity. Every year, new speeches and writings help us understand what dignity is—not only what it looks like when dignity is violated but also what it looks like when dignity is honored. In his posthumous essay, Congressman Lewis wrote, "When historians pick up their pens to write the story of the 21st century, let them say that it was your generation who laid down the heavy burdens of hate at last and that peace finally triumphed over violence, aggression and war."</p> <p>The more we talk about human dignity, the better we understand it. And the sooner we can make progress toward a shared vision of peace, freedom, and mutual respect for all. </p>
With just a few strategical tweaks, the Nazis could have won one of World War II's most decisive battles.
- The Battle of Britain is widely recognized as one of the most significant battles that occurred during World War II. It marked the first major victory of the Allied forces and shifted the tide of the war.
- Historians, however, have long debated the deciding factor in the British victory and German defeat.
- A new mathematical model took into account numerous alternative tactics that the German's could have made and found that just two tweaks stood between them and victory over Britain.
Two strategic blunders<p>Now, historians and mathematicians from York St. John University have collaborated to produce <a href="http://www-users.york.ac.uk/~nm15/bootstrapBoB%20AAMS.docx" target="_blank">a statistical model (docx download)</a> capable of calculating what the likely outcomes of the Battle of Britain would have been had the circumstances been different. </p><p>Would the German war effort have fared better had they not bombed Britain at all? What if Hitler had begun his bombing campaign earlier, even by just a few weeks? What if they had focused their targets on RAF airfields for the entire course of the battle? Using a statistical technique called weighted bootstrapping, the researchers studied these and other alternatives.</p><p>"The weighted bootstrap technique allowed us to model alternative campaigns in which the Luftwaffe prolongs or contracts the different phases of the battle and varies its targets," said co-author Dr. Jaime Wood in a <a href="https://www.york.ac.uk/news-and-events/news/2020/research/mathematicians-battle-britain-what-if-scenarios/" target="_blank">statement</a>. Based on the different strategic decisions that the German forces could have made, the researchers' model enabled them to predict the likelihood that the events of a given day of fighting would or would not occur.</p><p>"The Luftwaffe would only have been able to make the necessary bases in France available to launch an air attack on Britain in June at the earliest, so our alternative campaign brings forward the air campaign by three weeks," continued Wood. "We tested the impact of this and the other counterfactuals by varying the probabilities with which we choose individual days."</p><p>Ultimately, two strategic tweaks shifted the odds significantly towards the Germans' favor. Had the German forces started their campaign earlier in the year and had they consistently targeted RAF airfields, an Allied victory would have been extremely unlikely.</p><p>Say the odds of a British victory in the real-world Battle of Britain stood at 50-50 (there's no real way of knowing what the actual odds are, so we'll just have to select an arbitrary figure). If this were the case, changing the start date of the campaign and focusing only on airfields would have reduced British chances at victory to just 10 percent. Even if a British victory stood at 98 percent, these changes would have cut them down to just 34 percent.</p>
A tool for understanding history<p>This technique, said co-author Niall Mackay, "demonstrates just how finely-balanced the outcomes of some of the biggest moments of history were. Even when we use the actual days' events of the battle, make a small change of timing or emphasis to the arrangement of those days and things might have turned out very differently."</p><p>The researchers also claimed that their technique could be applied to other uncertain historical events. "Weighted bootstrapping can provide a natural and intuitive tool for historians to investigate unrealized possibilities, informing historical controversies and debates," said Mackay.</p><p>Using this technique, researchers can evaluate other what-ifs and gain insight into how differently influential events could have turned out if only the slightest things had changed. For now, at least, we can all be thankful that Hitler underestimated Britain's grit.</p>
A new study shows our planet is much closer to the supermassive black hole at the galaxy's center than previously estimated.
Arrows on this map show position and velocity data for the 224 objects utilized to model the Milky Way Galaxy. The solid black lines point to the positions of the spiral arms of the Galaxy. Colors reflect groups of objects that are part of the same arm, while the background is a simulation image.
Apple sold its first iPod in 2001, and six years later it introduced the iPhone, which ushered in a new era of personal technology.