Encourage Your Children

Published: Jun 18, 2019
Updated: Apr 19, 2023

If it’s not obvious from the other content on my site, I’m a huge Jordan Peterson fan. He has this way of weaving together multiple disciplines – mythology, psychology, and biology, to name a few – into a fascinating message (sermon?), that pulls at the deepest parts of you. He recently released a short video named encourage your children. I liked it so much, I’ve transcribed it below.

When you love someone you love them not only despite their fragility but also because of it. They wouldn’t be who they were if they weren’t fragile and limited in their particular way. When you have a sick kid it’s like, “Oh my God, how can the world be constituted so that a child can unfairly suffer in this manner?” You can’t have them being vulnerable and cute and interesting and small and needing care, but striving to develop and grow without them also being prone to pain and destruction and vulnerability.

Then what do you do? You teach them to be strong. That’s what you do. You don’t get rid of the vulnerability. You teach them to be strong. You don’t protect your children. In fact, you do the opposite. You expose them to the world as much as you possibly can. And you make them strong. That’s the best antidote to their vulnerability.

The first noble truth of Buddhism: life is suffering. This is true. And it’s worse than that because its suffering contaminated by malevolence. And so that’s very pessimistic, but the optimistic part is that you’re so damn tough you can actually not only deal with that, you can improve it.

It’s like “Hmm, oh, well that’s a horrible situation, but it turns out that I’m armed for the task.” Well that’s a great thing for people to know. I think the fact that we’re armed for the task is even more true than the fact that life is catastrophe contaminated by malevolence. Were stronger than things are terrible. And I do believe it’s the case because I’ve watched people do very difficult things.

Like people who’ve worked in palliative care wards. So all they’re ever dealing with is pain and death, and they can do it. They get up in the morning, they go to work, and they take care of those people. They lose people on a weekly basis, and yet they can do it. And what that shows is that if you turn around and confront the suffering voluntarily, you find out that you are way tougher than you think.

It’s not that life is better than you think. Life is as harsh as you think, it might even be worse. But you are way tougher than you think, if you turn around and confront it. It’s a very good thing to know, and it’s not naïve optimism. It’s a very different thing. It’s like “No, things are terrible, they’re brutal, and you are so damn tough, you can’t believe it”.

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