This is a piece of no nonsense advice directed to young men by Jordon Peterson. Millions of men listen to Peterson because he is like a father figure, representing a man who cares for them, who is concerned for their well-being and speaks with authority into their lives. He express deep empathy for their plight in the cultural wars. When they are told men are dangerous, of little use to society and needing to deal with their “toxic masculinity,” Peterson is a breath of fresh air, tapping into an inner void of immature, passiveness in men, who are confused, needing affirmation in their masculine souls. .
Shane Morris wrote a piece about the earnestness of Peterson observing how he speaks to men without a trace of irony, mockery or pretense of superiority. “You know what? You’re not a monster, and you’re not an idiot, and you’re not what’s wrong with the world, and I understand you’re feeling lost and don’t know what to do with your life. But resentment and blaming other people is not going to get you anywhere. I’m here to help you find your way out of the black hole of impotence and I want you to start by cleaning your room.”
Much of the negative reaction to Peterson is prompted by a culture that has become more rights-centered rather than responsible-centered. Dennis Prager wisely notes, “It is not good for either sex to be rights-preoccupied, but it is particularly devastating to developing men, as men are supposed to be obligation-directed.” He asks the question, “Is America still making men?” We might also ask, “If you think tough men are dangerous wait until you see what weak men are capable of.”
As young men listen to Peterson he gives them direction and sense of purpose to their lives. Many are not able to bring order into their daily lives. Peterson tells them to simply start by “cleaning up their rooms.” Men who are drawn to Peterson live like orphans in a wasteland of conflicting points of view, leaving them unable to move forward with any conviction of making a difference in their lives and others. Peterson doesn’t give easy answers. “To be fully human and fully worthy of responsility is to fight your entire life to bring order to chaos, to make an imprint upon the world in some meaningful way.”
While Peterson is not a follower of Jesus, he gives advice that speaks to the inner reality that every man faces. Life is hard, we have to choose. He speaks with earnestness and passion. He can be misunderstood. For example – “It’s very helpful for people to hear that they should make themselves competent and dangerous and take their proper place in the world.” In other words, if we are going to stand for something, we need to be willing to sacrifice. You could become dangerous. Jesus said, “If anyone wants to follow me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follower me” (Matt. 16:24).
The essence of the masculine is taking the initiative; speaking and acting according to the truth. Peterson’s words remind me of many of the exhortations found in the first chapters of Proverbs. For example, “Listen, my son, to a father’s instruction; pay attention and gain understanding. I give you sound learning, so do not forsake my teaching” (Prov. 4:1-2). His sincerity is felt as he sees the wreckage of the lives of young men without direction today. Later on in Proverbs 4 we read, “But the way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know what makes them stumble” (v19).