For every material end we wish to achieve in life, we can say there are generally two ways to achieve it: the hard way, and the easy way. However, since there is no such thing as a free lunch, the cost of the thing has to be offset somehow.
Sometimes it happens in subtle, salient ways: a couple reaches what seems to be an impasse, and breaks the relationship. A college student quits school because he is tired of working two jobs and getting low grades. Parents not ‘pressuring’ their child to succeed. A young woman turns to stripping because she can’t pursue her dream and pay the bills.
These are all easy solutions in the short run, and they are all product of the attitude that basically says: Why Bother? And really, why should we bother? Sorting relationships out is hard and requires growing up. Being able to work your way through college requires prior savings and a diligent background. Being your child’s best friend is much more fun. Stripping pays the bills.
The price we pay is the price of our souls.
Coming out of the relationship, the former couple is now broken and confused, and will probably drift into a meaningless string of relationships on which they will burn out. The college student gives up his self esteem and his childrens’ future security in a world that could go mad. The parents have raised the former college student, who comes back to live at home at 27. The young woman turns to a hollow shell, loses interest in life, and has become a broken person.
All these kinds of brokenness perpetuate themselves. Maladjustment breeds further maladjustment, and it increases exponentially. It gets passed to children like a genetic deficiency, and to partners like a sexually transmitted disease. It is temptation of the lowest kind – the path of least resistance.
Why should we bother to resist? Why should we knowingly take the path of resistance and hardship?
Everything in life has a cost, and yields consequences. When we trade in the hardships, we pay in sanity; we pay through a loss of happiness, the thing that gives a zest to life and makes us want to get out of bed in the morning, make pancakes and conquer the world. When we embrace hardship and pay in toil, blood, sweat, tears and frustration we gain necessity — the necessity of finding direction, of reaching a goal greater than ourselves. We gain meaning.
The challenge awaits. Each time you yield, you lose a bit of yourself. Each time you give in and avoid hardship, you trade away another part of a future of sanity and happiness for a slightly easier course, and worse, transient indulgence in self pity. You won’t know how bad of a trade you made until decades later.
What has that trade earned you but a sense of victimhood? Like a mass-printed certificate of completion given to every student, instead of an award for the students who rose above the tumultuous masses and did really quality work. It’s the choice you passed by, the missed opportunity, not the inherently bad nature of the lazy choice, that makes this a bad trade.
People confuse practical thinking with the avoidance of these bad trades. Another way to see it is that better opportunities existed, and they do not need to be denied. Why would you cut yourself out of a whole life of sanity and happiness, in which everything makes sense? Only a moment of weakness can decide.