BOOK REVIEW: The Road Less Traveled

Laziness was the original sin, might be even the devil, suggests Morgan Scott Peck in The Road Less Traveled (1978).

The late American psychiatrist’s book underlines how LAZINESS is the primary reason people world over continue to moan about life’s difficulties and the enormity of its problems yet it shouldn’t be the case… with “disciplined DISCIPLINE.”

In his view, once we truly know that life is difficult—once we truly understand and accept it— then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.

“Life is a series of problems. Do we want to moan about them or solve them? Do we want to teach our children to solve them?” he said. “Without discipline we can solve nothing. With only some discipline we can solve only some problems. With total discipline we can solve all problems.”


Discipline, the author says, is achieved when one gets rid of the laziness, one that manifests itself by attempts to avoid necessary suffering or taking the easy way out.

For instance, he argues that the serpent-and-the-apple story in the Bible makes no sense, that young children were not cursed because their ancestors had eaten from the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Original sin

“The story suggests that God was in the habit of “walking in the garden in the cool of the day” and that there were open channels of communication between Him and man. But if this was so, then why was it that Adam and Eve, separately or together, before or after the serpent’s urging, did not say to God,

“We’re curious as to why you don’t want us to eat any of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. We really like it here, and we don’t want to seem ungrateful, but Your law on this matter doesn’t make much sense to us, and we’d really appreciate it if you explained it to us?”

“But of course they did not say this. Instead they went ahead and broke God’s law,” says Speck.

To conduct the debate, Mr. Speck argues, is to open ourselves to suffering and struggle. Each and every one of us, more or less frequently, will hold back from this work, will also seek to avoid this painful step. Like Adam and Eve, and every one of our ancestors before us, we are all lazy.

So couldn’t you be suffering just because of your laziness, your reluctance to extend self to new areas of thought, responsibility and maturation?

Outmoded maps

In Mr. Speck’s view, people find new information distinctly threatening, because if they incorporate it they will have to do a good deal of work to revise their maps of reality, and they instinctively seek to avoid that work. 

Their resistance is motivated by fear, yes, but the basis of their fear is laziness; it is the fear of the work they would have to do. 

Similarly, there is the risk of extending ourselves into new territory, new challenges, commitments, responsibilities and criticisms, new relationships and levels of existence. 

Things that instruct

It is only because of problems that we grow mentally and spiritually. It is through the pain of confronting and resolving problems that we learn.  As Benjamin Franklin said, “Those things that hurt, instruct.”

This tendency to avoid problems and the emotional suffering inherent in them is the primary basis of all human mental illness.

“So, let us teach ourselves and our children the necessity for suffering and the value thereof, the need to face problems directly and to experience the pain involved. That way, we are teaching ourselves and the children how to suffer and also how to grow,” Speck argues in his book.

Besides, as part of the discipline, there is need master to delay gratification. It involves scheduling the pain and pleasure of life in such a way as to enhance the pleasure by meeting and experiencing the pain first and getting it over with. 

Unfortunately, we’ve got some “Do as I say, not as I do” parents who themselves are unselfdisciplined, and therefore serve as undisciplined role models for their children.

That’s undisciplined discipline.

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