The Road Less Traveled

“I shall be telling this with a sigh. Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” ~Robert Frost (Quote source here.)

Those words are written in a poem titled, The Road Not Taken,” published in 1916 by one of America’s most celebrated poets, Robert Frost (1874-1963). The entire poem can be read at this link“About Frost, President John F. Kennedy, at whose inauguration the poet delivered a poem, said, ‘He has bequeathed his nation a body of imperishable verse from which Americans will forever gain joy and understanding’” (quote source here).

Many years later, M. Scott Peck, (1936-2005) an American psychiatrist and best-selling author, wrote the book, The Road Less Traveled,” published in 1978. “Peck began his trek down “The Road Less Traveled” as a Buddhist when he wrote his best selling book by that title. By the time his second book was published [another bestseller titled, People of the Lie,” published in 1983], he claimed a conversion to Christianity. However, his Buddhist teachings remain a vital part of his writings, along with… process theology, Mormonism, New Age doctrine, and the secular humanist values of psychotherapy” (quote source here).

The Road Less Traveled was wildly popular, and Peck “made millions with his first book by advocating self-discipline, restraint, and responsibility–all qualities he openly acknowledged were notably lacking in himself. “The Road Less Traveled” was first published in 1978. It eventually spent 13 years on the New York Times bestseller list to create a paperback record, sold 10 million copies worldwide and was translated into more than 20 languages” (quote source here).

From an interview with Dr. Peck which was published in Psychology Today on November 1, 2002, and titled, M.Scott Peck: Wrestling with God,” by Robert Epstein, PhD., author, editor, and psychology researcher and professor, Epstein writes the following:

Epstein: Most people struggle with issues of spirituality in one form or another. Sometimes they arrive at a place of peace, and sometimes they don’t. Must we go through this struggle, or can you point us to a shortcut?

Peck: I do not think that everybody has to struggle. But to probably at least half of the people, it never seems to enter their minds that they might be engaged in a struggle or that there might be something to struggle with.

One of my shticks is about why we need to do hard scientific research on religion. A study shows that if you ask people whether they believe in God, probably 95 percent of Americans will say they do. And there is nothing particularly great about their mental health. But if you ask them whether they have ever had any personal experience with God, only about 15 to 20 percent will say “yes.” Those few have also been judged as more mentally healthy than the others. And the experience is not necessarily one we choose. Everyone is different, so your spirituality is not going to be my spirituality; your wrestling match is not my wrestling match. But right off the bat, the wrestling match has been a gift of God to you. (Quote source and full interview is available at this link.)

Peck is not without his critics. In an article titled, M. Scott Peck: Traveling Down the Wrong Road,” by H. Wayne House, Research Professor of Biblical and Theological Studies at Faith Seminary, and Professor of Law, Trinity Law School in Santa Ana, House writes:

While studying world religions at the Friends Seminary, Peck encountered and later embraced Zen Buddhism. This was the beginning of his spiritual journey. Peck remembers himself as a “freakishly religious kid,” but he was not at all taken with Christianity, which he considered mere “gobbledygook.”

His purported conversion to Christianity occurred in 1980 prior to the publication of his second book, “People of the Lie.” He had a nondenominational baptism, and was discipled by a Roman Catholic nun. “I entered Christianity,” he said, “through Christian mysticism. I was a mystic before I was a Christian.” In “People of the Lie” he provides an account of his conversion: “After many years of vague identification with Buddhist and Islamic mysticism, I ultimately made a firm Christian commitment . . . . My commitment to Christianity is the most important thing in my life and is, I hope, pervasive and total”. . . .

Since Peck now says that “Christianity is the most important thing” in his life and is, he hopes, “pervasive and total” within it, it is important to ask what he means by being a Christian. When a patient asked him this soon after his claimed conversion to Christianity, he remarked that at the core of the Christian faith is some “strange concept of sacrifice.”

Even now, more than 15 years after his supposed conversion, Peck admits that he doesn’t know what it means to be a Christian. The best definition he has been able to give is that a Christian is one who “will be for Jesus a pleasant place of shelter.” The “who” includes just about anyone of any religion, whether Muslim, atheist, or agnostic.

One of Peck’s strengths is his attempt to be honest and open. Certainly this reflects a biblical perspective. The willingness to lay one’s life open to others is commendable—but only when honesty is joined with repentance. The latter is not the case with Peck.

Peck rejects most of the moral standards of biblical Christianity, not to mention even conventional societal standards. He calls himself a “hard-drinking, hard-smoking, hard-swearing” evangelist. He clearly lives up to this reputation, since many believe that he is an alcoholic, and he admits his addiction to cigarettes and “uppers.” He also takes pride in his use of profanity and pornography. Peck also believes that homosexuality reflects God’s love for variety. . . .

M. Scott Peck presents an important challenge to those concerned with defending the Christian faith. Certainly it would be rare for Christian magazines, churches, colleges, counseling centers, and individuals to defend the heretical teachings of a cult. Yet Peck, who shares the same heretical teachings as the cults, has been touted as a hero. This poses a conundrum in the minds of those who are committed to presenting God’s truth. How can we confront the cults when the church embraces a heretic? The fact that Richard Abanes and my recent book is the first major analysis of Peck’s thinking shows that the Christian community has not taken him seriously enough. Certainly I wish for Peck to come to know the Savior, but I also desire for the Christian community to gain spiritual discernment and maintain fidelity to the Word of God. This the Christian community has failed to do by promoting someone who manifests neither the proper understanding of orthodox Christian doctrine nor basic Christian morality. (Quote source here.)

Years ago when “The Road Less Traveled” and Peck’s second book, “People of the Lie,” were published, I read them both. And like most people who read a lot (or even a little), I don’t remember anything in particular about either book. The only thing I remember thinking was that of the two books, I liked “People of the Lie” the best. I didn’t read any of Peck’s later books, but he was definitely an icon in the culture at that time.

In a 2017 article titled, Why I Choose to Take the Road Less Traveled,” by Melissa Dawn, life and business coach, and founder of CEO of Your Life,” she writes:

It’s only by trying new things, pushing your limits, doing things differently that you can truly change your life and get rid of what is blocking you or no longer working for you. Doing things differently makes you stronger.

In my life and business, as in my travels, I like to enjoy the journey. My journey is mine. I will not let people tell me which way to go or how to do it. Even if a path has proven successful to others.

To some, I might be going the “wrong way.” I might be going backwards. I might even be crazy. I do what feels right for me. I connect with my inner voice and let it guide me. I ensure that every thing I do, every step I take, is aligned with my big picture vision, values and heart. My mission is to help as many people as possible do the same. It’s the only way to live a life where you feel good from the inside out.

Sometimes, you start off doing things the way that feels right to you, and end up caving to pressure when everyone else is doing it another way. . . .

I decided to stick to the path I chose. In the end, we had an amazing experience [a recent hiking trip mentioned in the article]. Choosing the ‘wrong’ path [on the hiking trip] was right for me. When your gut, your inner voice, tells you something is right (or wrong), listen to that voice. It’s your instinct. It’s speaking to you for a reason and it knows, better than anyone, what’s best for you. (Quote source here.)

If a person is a Christian, it’s important to listen to what Jesus had to say on the subject. In an article titled, Narrow is the Gate: What Did Jesus Mean?” by Cecil Maranville, retired pastor, on Life, Hope and Truth, he states:

Surprisingly, all but a relatively small number of disciples turned away from Jesus by the end of His ministry. The thousands that once chased our Savior like a celebrity apparently dwindled away to a few hundred after His death (Acts 1:151 Corinthians 15:6). How strikingly different the true picture is from the supposedly easy path to becoming a Christian by just giving your heart to the Lord.

In Matthew 7:13-14 we read of Jesus saying, “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.”

[At this point in the article the author gives several examples of Jesus’ encounters with others that challenges any of his would-be followers to count the cost of what it means to follow him. Near the end of the article is this statement]:

On the surface, it again appears that Christ’s approach seemed illogical, because His words did not entice people to join Him. Clearly, Christ did not want just numbers. However, He wanted all who became His disciples—students or learners and members of the spiritual body called in Scripture “the Church of God” (Acts 20:28)—to make it through to the end. They needed to know that they would encounter the most difficult challenges of their lives. He would have been irresponsible had He failed to prepare the disciples.

By analogy, failing to counsel them on the challenges they would face if they became Christians would be like taking a group of average citizens and sending them on a military mission meant for an expert team such as the U.S. Navy SEALS or the British SAS. Without proper training, the people would not likely survive such a mission. And it would be disastrous for the mission itself. God wants all to achieve their potential, and He wants Christians to understand the serious nature of their commitment to follow Him.

Of course, warnings about the challenge of becoming a Christian is not the only counsel Christ gave. He also promised those who did commit to this way of life, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). The NKJV Study Bible comments, “This quotation is one of the most emphatic statements in the NT. In Greek it contains two double negatives, similar to saying in English, ‘I will never, ever, ever forsake you.’ Jesus uses the same technique to express the certainty of eternal life for believers” (see John 10:28).

You may have heard the military saying “Never leave a man behind!” Similarly, the Father and the Son are fully committed to those who respond to God’s calling. Jesus made a similar promise at the end of Matthew 28:18-20 saying He would never stop being with [genuine followers] at any time throughout the ages. (Quote source here.)

We all choose a path in life. . . .

Which path . . .

Will you choose . . . .

YouTube Video: “Backseat Driver” by TobyMac:

Photo #1 credit here
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