Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
I think everyone has heard that Robert Frost poem about the road not taken. I have heard it quoted so much that it has become trite. It connotes being a maverick and an individualist and all that blather about doing it your way. But there is a reason that people don't take the road less traveled. This is because it is hard.
Make no mistake about it. The path is not difficult because few people take it. Granted, no one is going to support you on it, but there is not going to be a long line of haters along the way heaping scorn and derision on you. They are usually at the start of the hard path, but they fade out as you go along. This is because they will have to follow you to keep hating on you. Hate fades quickly and is replaced by apathy. No one cares that you have taken the hard path.
The hard path is lonely. If you are someone who is extroverted and needs people surrounding you, the hard path is not for you. This is where that individualist association with the hard path comes from. But this is imprecise. It is not individualism but introversion. You have to be someone who can keep company with just your thoughts and the presence of God. You need to have an interior life to take the hard path.
The hard path forces you to call upon those inner reserves. It demands commitment and fortitude. If you have these virtues, then the hard path is not so hard. You make a friend of pain. You become closer to God. Suffering is not what makes the hard path hard.
The hard path is hard because of temptation. I have learned that you can suffer and endure almost anything when you don't have any options. But when you can quit and take the easy path, it becomes very difficult to remain on that hard path. When the suffering is most intense and the way is hardest, the Devil whispers in your ear, "You chose this?" Every step along the hard path is a choice, and the choice to quit and take the easy way tempts you with each footstep.
It is easy to choose the hard path. It is easy to endure the initial persecution. It is easy being alone. But it is hard to continue when you know that you can quit. Why wait for relief at the end when you can find relief now? That is taking up the cross and bearing it. The suffering is in that constant choice to remain on that path.
As I write this, it is the halfway point of Lent. Lent is a time of mortification, repentance, and reflection. I remember when it was way harder to be Catholic, but it is easier now. What has made it easier is that my options have diminished. At the beginning, it is easier to exit, but I am far down the path now. The haters have faded, and I have learned to trod onward. I know that any other path leads to ruin, so I am not so tempted now. It gets easier as you go along. And you find you are not so alone after all. And I agree with Frost. This hard path has made all the difference.