A Good Man is Not a Harmless Man: Quote Explanation

Jordan Peterson, a clinical psychologist and professor, is known for his controversial opinions and ideas on a variety of subjects, from religion to politics. In this quote “A harmless man is not a good man. A good man is a very dangerous man who has that under voluntary control”, he touches on the idea that being “good” is not simply a matter of being harmless or inoffensive. Rather, a truly good person has the ability to be dangerous but chooses to control that power voluntarily. In this blog post, we will delve deeper into this quote and its implications.

a good man is not a harmless man

The Meaning Behind the Quote

At first glance, Peterson’s quote may seem paradoxical. How can a good person be dangerous? Shouldn’t a good person be the opposite of dangerous, i.e., harmless? However, Peterson’s point is that true goodness is not about being meek or timid. It is about having the ability to be dangerous but choosing to use that power for good.

This idea is rooted in the concept of agency, or the ability to act and make choices for oneself. According to Peterson, a truly good person is someone who has agency and is capable of making choices, even difficult ones. This includes the choice to use one’s power for good or evil. A person who lacks agency and is incapable of making choices is not truly good because they do not have the capacity to make a conscious decision to do good.

In addition, Peterson emphasizes the importance of having control over one’s dangerous potential. A person who is dangerous but lacks self-control can be a threat to others and themselves. However, a person who has that potential under voluntary control can use it to protect and defend others.

Examples of “Good” Dangerous People

While the concept of a “good” dangerous person may be difficult to grasp, there are many examples of people who fit this description. One example is Mahatma Gandhi, who used his influence and power to bring about change peacefully. Gandhi could have used violence to achieve his goals, but he chose to use nonviolent resistance instead. Another example is Martin Luther King Jr., who fought for civil rights in the United States through peaceful protest and civil disobedience.

Both Gandhi and King were dangerous in the sense that they had the potential to incite violence or lead their followers to commit acts of aggression. However, they chose to control that power and use it for good instead of evil. They were able to channel their dangerous potential into a force for positive change.

Applying the Quote in Practice

So how can we apply Peterson’s quote to our lives? One way is to recognize the importance of agency and self-control. We should strive to have agency and make conscious choices in our lives, rather than simply going along with the status quo. We should also strive to control our own potential for harm, whether it is through physical strength, intellectual power, or social influence.

Another way to apply this quote is to think about the kind of people we surround ourselves with. Are they people who lack agency and simply go along with the crowd? Or are they people who have the potential for danger but choose to use that power for good? Surrounding ourselves with the latter group can inspire us to be better and strive for greatness.


In conclusion, Jordan Peterson’s quote “A harmless man is not a good man. A good man is a very dangerous man who has that under voluntary control” may be controversial, but it contains a powerful message. Being “good” is not about being harmless or inoffensive, but about having agency, self-control, and the potential for danger under voluntary control. By recognizing these qualities in ourselves and others, we can strive to be better and make a positive impact on the world.

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