The book is 41 years old.
The binding has weakened, and pages have separated themselves in small and large sections. When I open the book, it often makes a crackling sound as old glue loosens its grip.
As old as it is, and as worn as its condition is, I treasure this book for its wisdom and insight. There are underlined passages that still reach out to remind me of important truths, truths that we often don’t want to face. They are, however, some of the truths that are foundational when life becomes difficult, when relationships become strained, when loss becomes real and personal, when we struggle to grow and change.
In the book’s title, author M. Scott Peck incorporates words from a Robert Frost poem. Through the years, “The Road Less Taken” has become a favorite tome of mine, as its frayed pages attest. Following are some of my favorite pieces of the wisdom puzzle that gets put together during a lifetime.
“Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it…Most do not fully see this truth that life is difficult. Instead they moan more or less incessantly, noisily or subtly, about the enormity of their problems, their burdens, and their difficulties as if life were generally easy, as if life should be easy.”
“…when we avoid the legitimate suffering that results from dealing with problems, we also avoid the growth that problems demand from us.”
“The feeling of being valuable….is essential to mental health and is a cornerstone of self-discipline.”
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“The life of wisdom must be a life of contemplation combined with action.”
“Love is not effortless. To the contrary, love is effortful….Love is as love does. Love is an act of will – namely, both an intention and an action. Will also implies choice. We do not have to love. We choose to love.”
“Love is not simply giving; it is judicious giving and judicious withholding as well. It is judicious, praising and judicious criticizing. It is judicious arguing, struggling, confronting, urging, pushing and pulling in addition to comforting. It is leadership. The word ‘judicious’ means requiring judgment, and judgment requires more than instinct; it requires thoughtful and often painful decision-making.”
“Listening well is an exercise of attention and by necessity hard work. It is because they do not realize this or because they are not willing to do the work that most people do not listen well.”
“The experience of change, of unaccustomed activity, of being on unfamiliar ground, of doing things differently is frightening.”
“As human beings grow in discipline and love and life experience, their understanding of the world and their place in it naturally grows apace. Conversely, as people fail to grow in discipline, love and life experience, so does their understanding fail to grow.”
Peck explores the difficult journey of change, the problems we face in the process and the growth we experience if we embrace it. He challenges us to go deeper than we may want to, but he leads us to understand that living life with more depth and intent is well worth the effort.