Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Caged Rats and Humans; The fear of the unknown

Written by: on November 10, 2023


Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief by Jordan Peterson is one of few challenging books, yet full of great insights that evoke more questions than answers. Even though it is hard to read, I have found a few areas where I identify with Peterson. He writes intriguing concepts worth exploring.

Humans explore their environment out of fear of the unknown.

Whether my inspiration came from the voices I was listening to or God’s Spirit pressing it in my heart, it is left for the observer to decide. The genocide in Rwanda happened around the same time Nelson Mandela and his fellow South Africans were modeling the fantastic power of forgiveness and reconciliation. As a relatively young believer, I thought if I put together a team of Bible believers to spearhead Biblical Reconciliation in post-genocide Rwanda, lasting peace and stability could be realized quickly. It wasn’t long before I started to see the real challenges involved in the kind of mission I had embarked on.

Maps of Meaning speaks the reality of an author who struggled with fears and found ways to do something about it. Peterson tells of his first encounter with the fear of Nuclear Weapon and what they could do to his environment. “My concern with the general social and political insanity and evil of the world – sublimated by temporary infatuation with utopian socialism and political machination – returned with a vengeance. The mysterious fact of the Cold War increasingly occupied the forefront of my consciousness.”[1]

The author’s claim above might have influenced him to become great at what he is doing as a cultural critic and a professor of psychology.

The great societies of the world were feverishly constructing a nuclear machine with unimaginably destructive capabilities. Someone or something was making terrible plans. Why? Theoretically, normal and well-adapted people were going about their business prosaically, as if nothing were the matter. Why weren’t they disturbed? Weren’t they paying attention? Wasn’t I?[2]

Like Peterson, the evils of Rwanda and the region have not left the forefront of my consciousness. The genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda and the horrible injustice that I witnessed as a child refugee left me with no better prayer than education and to hopefully contribute to change in one way or another. I had seen millions of Rwandans engage in the slaughter of fellow humans, not distant strangers or enemies in any way, shape, or form but countrymen and countrywomen, speaking the same language and sharing the same cultural and ethnic background.

Caged Rats and Humans

Peterson spoke on his experience in Prison, where fear had engulfed him after he had been separated from his supervisor.[3] Prison Chaplaincy has allowed me to understand what happens inside prison walls than I thought while on the outside. It is expected to find people who have spent so much time inside to the extent that life outside becomes unbearable. Some of the men and women that I serve become so nervous towards the time of their release, and some will get out and commit other crimes to return home to their familiar environments.

If you place a rat in a new cage, its first reaction is to freeze. The rat is afraid – and understandably so. After all, grave danger could lurk in this new, unfamiliar territory. The rat will only begin to explore its new surroundings – sniffing, licking, and scratching its way through the cage. The more it gets used to the new environment, the calmer it becomes.[4]

People enjoy stories

“Whether you’re talking about the ancient Greek gods, fairy tales, or Star Wars – narratives that include courageous heroes have always captured people’s attention. That is true since the beginning of civilization.”[5]

I agree with Peterson that stories are delightful, and it doesn’t matter what language or who tells them. We find ourselves captivated by a good story, especially when it touches our emotions in one way or another. Since ancient times, shared stories about the sun and stars, gods and kings, heroes and monsters have been essential to human culture. Great myths like those in Egyptian cosmology or Greek/Roman mythology belong to this category, as well as Christian passion tales.[6]


[1] Jordan B. Peterson, Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief (New York: Routledge, 1999).

[2] Peterson.

[3] Peterson.

[4] Jordan Peterson, Maps of Meaning, Blinkist Summary (Blinkist), accessed November 9, 2023, https://www.blinkist.com/en/app/books/maps-of-meaning-en.

[5] Jordan Peterson.

[6] Jordan Peterson.

About the Author


Jean de Dieu Ndahiriwe

Jean de Dieu Ndahiriwe is a Clinical Correctional Chaplain and former Child Refugee from War-torn Rwanda. A member of the Maxwell Leadership Certified Team, Jean is passionate about Servant Leadership and looks forward to seeing more leaders that inspire Lasting Peace and Justice for all, especially "the least of these".

6 responses to “Caged Rats and Humans; The fear of the unknown”

  1. mm David Beavis says:

    Hey Jean,

    I appreciate your writing style. You opened with your experience with wanting to start a biblical reconciliation coalition, but you did not close the loop on your story until later in the post. This made things more engaging as the reader. Great job!

    This statement you made stood out: “Some of the men and women that I serve become so nervous towards the time of their release, and some will get out and commit other crimes to return home to their familiar environments.” Have you seen any rehabilitation efforts work that help people step into the unknown and unfamiliar world outside of prison with greater ease?

  2. Thanks for your comment David,
    Yes I know a few who return and stay productive lives in community. I wish we had more of the successful rehabilitated stories.

  3. Caleb Lu says:

    Jean, thanks for your post! Much like Peterson was set down his path by images of nuclear war, did you find yourself set down a path by the genocide that you witnessed?

    I’m wondering as well how you reconciled the hope that we have in the gospel story with your experiences and challenges that arose even as you tried to be a peacemaker.

  4. Thanks Caleb,
    The genocide has had much to do with my life path, career, and the way I see the world. Like Peterson, I have realized people can do horrible things, and I am not different. By God’s grace, I have had better opportunities and chosen to follow Jesus, which makes all the difference. I have become learned to remain non-judgmental, listening and attempting to understand others.
    As far as hope is concerned, we have lots of models to imitate in the Gospel, remaining hopeful against all odds.

  5. Alana Hayes says:

    Thank you for pulling out something that strikes a cord with me: I agree with Peterson that stories are delightful, and it doesn’t matter what language or who tells them.

    I had a hard time with this one, but I agree with you and him! Culture is important!

  6. Kristy Newport says:

    What a powerful position you have:
    “Prison Chaplaincy has allowed me to understand what happens inside prison walls than I thought while on the outside.”
    I understand the psychology behind this. It must be a frieghtening thing to leave prison. I pray that you will be able to reframe the fears that they have….a reframe that extends hope and healing.
    What have you found to be helpful in working with prisoners to reduce their fears in leaving? I am so curious. My prayer: break bonds of fear for those Jean works with. amen

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