12 Rules for Life — an Anecdote to Chaos?

My take on 12 Rules — Rule 3: Make friends with people who want the best for you.

In this chapter Dr. Peterson talks about where he grew up: Fairview, Alberta. A very typical cowboy, town according to him. A place where animal skins were purchased in bars.

I can imagine it; gunslingers and taverns full of hookers — well, not quite.

For a town with a population of just 3000 or so people, and winters that could freeze your cat to the front step of your house if the rotor fan of your car didn’t get him first, it sounded like a harsh place to grow up.

Especially for cats and drunks.

Temperatures going as low as minus 30º — I get cramps if it goes below 5º!

Cars need electric blankets just to start in the morning!

He mentions one of his friends at the time, Chris, a good friend that was smart but resentful and without hope. This friend had a beaten up pick-up truck which seemed to emulate his nihilist nature.
His bumper sticker read;

Be alert, the world needs more lerts

When I imagine America, or Canada even, especially in the rural areas, pickup trucks come to mind. Driven by skinny toothless banjo playing boys in shabby clothes. I don’t think that was the case here though. Although they did spend the long cold evenings driving around after hours.

There wasn’t much else to do.

It seems that the lifestyle wasn’t so bad though. When Chris crashed his pick-up, it would quickly be replaced with another vehicle which he showed no interest in. He had a motorbike and an ice-cream truck.

I am still trying to get my head around how you would sell ice-cream in Canada.

Still, Chris wasn’t happy.

Dr. Peterson mentions the parties that would get out of control when the parents were away — mostly because of toothless banjo playing types.

He said he never cared much for parties , because you can’t have engaging conversations when music is blasting and people are vomiting in the stairwells.

I used to feel the same way.

As he draws you into his past, he gets you thinking about yours, I am not sure if it is intentional or if he was just writing about his past as a means of getting it out.

His own self-authoring.

He had known quite early on that he wanted to leave his hometown, and branch out. He said that many of his friends did.

The oil rigs didn’t lure him none.

He then went onto high school and then college, making new friends with common interests. He was determined to shake off his old town and to go somewhere where everybody on the street didn’t know everything about him. Until you have lived in a small town it is hard to imagine what it is like.

He made an interesting observation about a weekend that he spent away from home, with Chris and his cousin, when he was 15. They traveled all the way to Edmonton, which was quite a distance, (an 800 mile road trip) only to experience the same thing they would back home; score weed and sit in a hotel in a shady area of town all weekend drinking.

“Although we had traveled a long distance, we had gone nowhere at all.”

For some people that distance can be a lifetime.

Chris ended up going from bad to worse until committing suicide when he was in his thirties.

It is hard to imagine how somebody could kill themselves, you would have to be in a really bad place. When the only choice you feel you have is death.

This stuck a chord with me because Chris reminded me of an ex-boyfriend of mine. My first ever boyfriend, John. We had a rocky three year relationship and a complicated one.

Too complicated for a 16/17 year old, which I was at the time.

John contacted me after 26 years, via Facebook. It was fun for a while until he became resentful and mean, caused a whole heap of trouble, sent me hate mail and then blocked me. Before he caused all the trouble, he told me he had tried to kill himself.

That is what caused him to become resentful and mean — because I tried to help him.

I immediately contacted all his friends and told them to message him, I never told them why, I just said he needed cheering up. I even contacted his brother, which John had strictly told me never to do, under any circumstances.

I told his brother what had happened. He got back to me later on and said that John seemed fine.


Dr. Peterson mentions in this chapter how hard it can be to help people. Those that don’t want to be helped will drag you down with them if you are not careful. Or we might find that we are just trying to play savior to somebody to make ourselves feel better and feed our ego

Neither was the case here.

Some time later John sent me a friend request, I was hesitant at first but then I accepted it. I never spoke to him much or commented on any posts, I didn’t want to set him off.


One evening he contacted me and told me he had a phone for me, he seemed like a changed man. The phone being a peace offering of sorts. He sent it too me and we conversed more after that. He told me he had been making Cajon Box Drums and seemed to be doing well, a music magazine wanted to interview him, but he refused.

I couldn’t understand this. He had been so ambitious when he was younger and now he didn’t care. He wasn’t even thinking of his legacy for his daughter. This didn’t make sense to me. Although he too had been heavily into drugs, most people were in the 90s. It takes its toll eventually.

After a year or so, he told me he had an iPhone for me. I said it wasn’t necessary, he didn’t have to do that…

He insisted.

A day or so later he got back to me and said that the phone was broken and he couldn’t send it. He seemed overly upset by this, like, really upset.

The reason why would become apparent a few weeks later.

Then one evening I got a strange message from him, telling me that he had loved me from the first time he saw me. I joked a little with him, but I knew that this comment was more concerning than it seemed. I had to be careful what I said or he could spin out again.
I asked if he was okay and that sent him over the edge, again. He went on to say that he was okay and started to promptly insult me.

The more I tried to help — the worse he got.

He blocked me after sending a very poisonous message. The message didn’t bother me, but I was concerned that his suicidal tendency might have returned.

I thought of contacting his brother — I even asked my mother what she though and she said it might be better I stay out of it.

So I did.

A week later I got a message off his brother saying that he had killed himself.

Nobody had suspected anything. They had all been surprised by his suicide. He had been happy, they said. He gave his mother £100 on the Friday before mother’s day, he had been doing lots of nice things for people. It made sense why he was so upset about the iPhone.

It seems that he had been preparing to kill himself for a while.

He was surrounded by people that wanted the best for him, as Dr. Peterson advises — but there was something in him. Something HE had to change.
There are times when it doesn’t matter how many well-intentioned friends you surround yourself by. Some of the most depressed people I know are constantly surrounded by friends.

The thing is, when you are like John, people accept you for what you are, which isn’t a bad thing, but they actually stop seeing you. You could be sitting right next to them and dying inside and they wouldn’t see it.

I don’t have a great deal of friends, but I know that I could call any of them at 2am if I really needed help.

But I wouldn’t.

In the past people friended me because they felt sorry for me, in a new town no friends etc. It is never a good base for a friendship.

I don’t think that it is so important to make friends with those that want the best for us, I think it is more important to want the best for ourselves.

Until then…how can we see who is best for us?