Scott Peck on Love: The Road Less Traveled

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.

M. Scott Peck


The Road Less Traveled by Jay Coffelt

I was 18 and still in Ateneo when I first encountered M. Scott Peck through Fr. Dacanay’s Theology of Marriage course. An excerpt from his book, The Road Less Traveled, was assigned reading and it centered on love. Ah, yes. Lurrrve. 🙂 It didn’t matter how much I read because I failed that particular course – the only course I ever failed in my academic career. It wasn’t even my major! I thought I didn’t study hard enough but, in retrospect, though Peck made an impression on me at that age, I didn’t realize the importance of his message until now – 8 years after I first attempted to digest it.

“Genuine love is volitional rather than emotional. The person who truly loves does so because of a decision to love. This person has made a commitment to be loving whether or not the loving feeling is present. …Conversely, it is not only possible but necessary for a loving person to avoid acting on feelings of love.”

My parents have been married for 26 years and I sincerely believe that they will stay married until the end of their lives in spite of the occasional bumps that life offers them. A couple of friends, Jim and Cindy, have been together  for 36 years. Some say that the romantic infatuation or “in love” feeling lasts between 2-3 years. So what keeps these couples going? Cindy has a very simple explanation for it: one falls in love several times in one’s lifetime… but with the same person.

It’s not always smooth sailing. And it requires a deep understanding of the idea behind commitment for a person to stay in the relationship well after the flush of infatuation has faded away and has been replaced by screaming kids and mounting household bills. Loving is not an effortless undertaking but requires history, patience, respect, trust, friendship and, most of all, choice.

“The second most common misconception about love is that dependency is love…. When you require another individual for your survival, you are a parasite on that individual…. Two people love each other only when they are quite capable of living without each other but choose to live with each other.”

We know all the corny lines from movies and we sometimes make jokes or groan in exasperation when someone dares to say something like “I need you because I love you.” But have you ever thought what that truly means? Some cliches have a core of truth.

When I met Chris, I was happy with my job, my life, and my status as a single woman. Some of my most important personal goals were within reach, and I felt content for the first time in a long time. A relationship was the last thing I expected. Chris was situated as well. In spite of his illness, he has managed to successfully care for himself. We didn’t need each other to live, but we decided to give up a few things and make brand new goals that we wanted to attain because we choose to be together. One cannot achieve happiness by searching for it through companionship but by first finding it within oneself.

“If being loved is your goal, you will fail to achieve it. The only way to be assured of being loved is to be a person worthy of love.”

My father has asked me what makes me trust my fiance’s fidelity. We live 8,000 miles away (for now). Although the communication lines are great, the reality is we’re not physically around each other most of the time. The trust is mutual. I don’t subscribe to the “what he doesn’t know won’t hurt him” philosophy. Whether the other party has proof or not, cheating will damage something within the cheater, which will endanger the relationship that both have pledged to protect.

Unconditional love with all its perks and hardships is not demanded. It is earned.

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3 thoughts on “Scott Peck on Love: The Road Less Traveled

  1. Agreed. Now I am not a very religious person but, I can appreciate one of verses that is sometimes recited at a wedding (see below). If there is any absolute truth in life this passage has it right.

    “1 Corinthians 13
    Love
    1If I speak in the tongues[a] of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames,[b] but have not love, I gain nothing.

    4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

    8Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. 11When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. 12Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

    13And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

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