12 Rules for Life – Part 3 of 3

I’ve decided to share these quotes in the order they appear in the book, plus occasional commentary. All quotes are from the 2018 hardcover edition.


  • plaintext – Worthy quotes
  • bold – Favorite quotes
  • italics – Quotes I disliked

12 Rules for Life: Best and Worst Quotes

The dominance hierarchy is not capitalism.  It’s not communism, either, for that matter . . . We (the sovereign we, the we that has been around since the beginning of life) have lived in a dominance hierarchy for a long, long time. (p. 14) – Agreed, seems pretty self-evident.

. . . the familiar Western images of the Virgin Mary with the Christ Child and the Pietà both express the female/male dual unity, as does the traditional insistence on the androgyny of Christ.  (p. 42) – “traditional insistence on the androgyny,” what is he talking about?

You should take care of, help and be good to yourself the same way you would take care of, help and be good to someone you loved and valued. (p. 62)

. . . a villain who despairs of his villainy has not become a hero.  A hero is something positive, not just the absence of evil.  (p. 78) – Exactly!

. . . winning at everything might only mean that you’re not doing anything new or difficult.  You might be winning, but you’re not growing, and growing might be the most important form of winning.  (p. 88)

Ask yourself: is there one thing that exists in disarray in your life or your situation that you could, and would, set straight?  Could you, and would you, fix that one thing that announces itself humbly in need of repair?  (p. 94)

What would your life look like, if it were better?  (p. 100)

The Old Testament Israelites and their forebears knew that God was not to be trifled with, and that whatever Hell the angry Deity might allow to be engendered if he was crossed was real.  Having recently passed through a century defined by the bottomless horrors of Hitler, Stalin, and Mao, we might realize the same thing.  (p. 105) – This is a terrible example of conflating all evils with “judgment from God.”  It’s not biblical (see Job).  Granted, Peterson here is speaking of the “Old Testament God” as a concept, not necessarily as a real Person.  But this kind of thing is what I meant by “repurposing the Bible” to fit a philosophy.

. . . if  you look close enough, the biggest of lies is composed of smaller lies, and those are composed of still smaller lies – and the smallest of lies is where the big lie starts. (p. 228)

People think they think, but it’s not true.  It’s mostly self-criticism that passes for thinking . . . Thinking is an internal dialogue between two or more different views of the world. (p. 241)

The past is not necessarily what it was, even though it has already been. (p. 267) – On second reading, I’m not exactly sure this makes logical sense, but I get the gist of it, and it’s a hard truth.

Assume ignorance before malevolence. No one has a direct pipeline to your wants and needs – not even you.  (p. 320) – Good advice for managing conflict.

When [boys] told off the teachers, they were pushing against the authority, to see if there was any real authority there – the kind that could be relied on, in principle, in a crisis. (p. 331) – Yeah, I’m not really buying that one.  Backtalk is backtalk, let’s not romanticize it.

Maybe the environmental problem is ultimately spiritual. If we put ourselves in order, perhaps we will do the same for the world. (p. 364)


  1. Stephen Avatar

    Thanks for sharing these. I'm actually drawn to this one:\”Ask yourself: is there one thing that exists in disarray in your life or your situation that you could, and would, set straight? Could you, and would you, fix that one thing that announces itself humbly in need of repair? (p. 94)\”I like this one because it is often easy to be overwhelmed by a situation, or life…but there's usually one small thing we can do. It may be as simple as vacuuming or getting the refrigerator somewhat organized, but there's always something there we can DO to start asserting control again.


  2. Sharon Wilfong Avatar
    Sharon Wilfong

    Interesting. I've been hearing a lot about Peterson lately, just because he's a brave voice in the media arena going against the flow of popular thought.I'll have to say I do agree with what he says about boys or girls pushing against authority. I don't think they are consciously testing the boundaries, I think their sinful nature compels them to do so.Nevertheless, an adult who stands their ground and with wisdom and love commands their respect, does induce a sense of security in children because they feel that someone bigger than them is in control and keeping them safe.


  3. Cleo @ Classical Carousel Avatar
    Cleo @ Classical Carousel

    p. 42 … I don't know what he's talking about either. I don't know where he gets that tradition from.p. 105 I didn't know that the Israelites believed in Hellp. 105 again … \”whatever Hell the angry Deity might allow to be engendered \” does this sentence even grammatically make sense?I like your favourite about lies. And the very last one.I think this was an excellent way to review this book. Brava!


  4. Marian H Avatar
    Marian H

    Exactly! IIRC, he also advocates rewarding yourself for making progress and not trying to overdo it – just doing what you set out to do, however small. I know from experience that depression and anxiety always tell you you don't do enough, but it's wise to take things one at a time.


  5. Marian H Avatar
    Marian H

    I can't remember which chapter it was, but the one about \”do not let your children do anything that would make you dislike them\” really contained some good parenting advice. I guess I thought that quote was a little contradictory but maybe, as you say, he was making an observation rather than an interpretation.


  6. Marian H Avatar
    Marian H

    Thanks, Cleo! It feels like a very disjointed and incomplete review, but after 368 pages of philosophy, religion, literature, and psychology, it was about all I could muster. 🙂


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