Quotes NOT By Lewis: A Preliminary Examination

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Updated 11/20/16

Since publishing this post on January 26, 2014 I began a series of posts examining ONE quotation at a time. The series is called Confirming C.S. Lewis Quotations. Be sure to check it out for a detailed look at the topic. Also, after posting nearly thirty quotes, I created an article examining the Top 10 Questionable Lewis Quotes.

 

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Not long ago I was talking to Abraham Lincoln and he told me, “The thing about quotes on the internet is that you cannot confirm their validity.” My reply to him was that I thought C.S. Lewis had actually made that statement! Of course, I’m making this up; I’ve never spoken to Lincoln and I don’t believe Lewis ever said it. However, there are many quotations floating around online that are attributed to Lewis that he actually never wrote.

NOT CS Lewis QuotesBack in March, 2013 I posted in a couple Facebook groups that I was trying to collect quotations that were credited as being by Lewis that were suspect. Even though there was a decent response to my request, I began to be involved in other projects that took up my time. The issue came back to the forefront of my mind when a friend saw one of the more common quotes misattributed to Lewis shared on Facebook by a famous author. This led me to “dusting off” my electronic research files to at least begin a post to try to set the record straight. What follows is a preliminary report on quotes erroneously believed to be by Lewis. In some cases he may have said something similar, in others he did not. Regardless of whether you agree or disagree with the quotations, the point is that they didn’t originate with C.S. Lewis.

1. “You don’t have a soul. You are a Soul. You have a body.”

This is one of the more controversial quotes alleged to be by Lewis. While it’s definitely not by him, there are those who defend it as something he would agree with and others who believe such a statement goes against Orthodox Christian views. There are two online posts discussing this quote in great detail. The first is from a 2011 blog by a person who goes by Mackman. “C. S. Lewis was not a gnostic heretic” details why the quote runs afoul of Biblical teachings and says it’s by Walter Miller’s 1959 book Canticle for Leibowitz. Then in 2012 MereOrthodoxy.com posted “You Don’t Have a Soul”: C.S. Lewis Never Said It. This was a guest post by Hannah Peckham with updates from others who contribute to the site. The quote, or something similar to it is traced back further, all the way to 1895. Then its noted, a few years earlier, in 1892 that a British Quaker periodical had an article where the author of the piece attributed “you are a soul; you have a body” to George MacDonald (someone Lewis greatly admired).

2. “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.”

Who could argue with this statement? I certainly cannot. However, Lewis never used those exact words. Some claim it is from Mere Christianity, but I have the eBook version and that quote is not in it. Lewis does deal with the issue of pride in chapter eight of Book 3 – Christian Behaviour. I also own the original version of Christian Behaviour (seventh printing, US edition is from 1946) and while there are some differences in the text you will not find Lewis making that statement. In Mere Christianity Lewis does say “It is better to forget about yourself altogether” and near the end of the chapter entitled “The Great Sin” he states

“He will not be thinking about humility: he will not be thinking about himself at all.
If anyone would like to acquire humility, I can, I think, tell him the first step. The first step is to realise that one is proud.”

From where does the quotation in question come? The best I can determine is that it is from Rick Warren. In the 2002 edition of The Purpose Driven Life Warren makes that very statement and he doesn’t site a source. It is found in “Day 19” which is entitled “Cultivating Community.”

3. “You are never too old to set another goal or dream a new dream.”

Success sells, right? That may be true, however, this quote sounds more like something a motivational speaker would say, than a statement by Lewis. In fact, while there are many places claiming it is from him, I found one place that didn’t. It was from a professional motivational speaker (Les Brown) who even has a YouTube video about the statement (and a pretty silly story).

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As I mentioned, this is a post to begin to set the record straight on quotes attributed to Lewis that are not from him. In the future I hope to expand this and will provide a link to the new piece containing updated material. Please feel free to post comments offering quotes you are not sure are by Lewis and I will consider looking into them.

I wanted to keep this post short, but I do want to mention a few other quotations attributed to Lewis by some that I am either certain or nearly certain are not by him. A future post will go into details about them:

  • “Education without values, as useful as it is, seems rather to make man a more clever devil.”

  • “A woman’s heart should be so close to God that a man should have to chase Him to find her.”

  • “A little lie is like a little pregnancy-it doesn’t take long before everyone knows.”

  • “Isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes, but when you look back, everything is different…”

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26 comments

  1. Ed Coffman /

    My pastor based a sermon series on this one
    “Life is made up of( or consist of) a few main themes.”
    I don’t think it’s Lewis. He got it from Mark Batterson.
    I emailed Jerry Root and he said its is something Earl Plamer said
    When talking about Lewis. That’s as far as I got but I have found
    Attributed to Lewis’s in multiple websites. I really only pursued it
    This far so I could teases my pastor

  2. David Roseberry /

    I heard it from Earl Palmer too.

  3. Veronica Zundel /

    I always knew that one about ‘You are never too old’ was fake – no one during Lewis’ lifetime would have said that, at least not in the UK.

  4. Earl Palmer used to use the line about “a few main themes,” but I never heard him attribute it to Lewis.

  5. About humility, in Screwtape letters we find a concept very close to the quote…“Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.”

    • William OFlaherty /

      Great point, Patty. I had in my notes a quote from it, but didn’t use it. It’s in the 14th letter we find:

      “You must therefore conceal from the patient the true end of Humility. Let him think of it not as self-forgetfulness but as a certain kind of opinion (namely, a low opinion) of his own talents and character. Some talents, I gather, he really has. Fix in his mind the idea that humility consists in trying to believe those talents to be less valuable than he believes them to be.”

  6. With four new volumes of letters published the number of quotes to track are almost too much without electronic versions.

    • William OFlaherty /

      Fortunately the recent volumes of letters (there are actually three) are available a eBooks; in fact, the last one is a lot cheaper if you didn’t get a hardback when it first came out. Now there is another title that is somewhat of a “best-of” version of them called “Sincerely, Jack.” (it is also available as an eBook).

  7. Kimberly Bronson /

    One of the most common quotes mis-attributed to Lewis that I have seen lately is actually a quote from the movie version of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. It is “Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny.” I thought it was CS Lewis, until I wrote a stage adaptation of Dawn Treader and the Estate informed me that the copy right to that phrase belonged to the movie, and I was told I couldn’t use it in the script. It drives me crazy that I see the phrase in memes and graphics all over the web attributed to Mr Lewis, now that I know that he didn’t say it!

    • Hi Kimberly, can you show me where in the movie script this comes from? I’m also sure its not a genuine Lewis quote, but I cant find it in the movie script either.
      Thanks,
      Joe

      • William OFlaherty /

        I emailed Kimberly and asked her about this. I don’t think she would mind me sharing her reply:

        Reepicheep says it during the scene where Eustace has become a dragon and Reep is trying to comfort him. It’s a wonderful scene and line, it’s just not CS Lewis’ line.

  8. Justin /

    “Humility is not thinking less of ourselves, it’s thinking of ourselves less” does not come from the Purpose Driven Life. The Purpose Driven Life was published in 2002. The earliest I’ve been able to find this quote is in a book called This Was Your Life! Preparing to Meet God Face to Face by Rick Howard and Jamie Lash, which attributes the concept but not the quote itself to C.S. Lewis. That book was written in 1998, four years before The Purpose Driven Life. Interestingly, the quote also appears on the LEGO website under the values of The LEGO Group.

    • William OFlaherty /

      Warren’s 2002 (and maybe other editions) have the quote as I shared: “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.” However, you are correct that the book by Howard and Lash first expressed he idea; it’s just the way Warren has it in his work is shared the most. Either way, someone should do a meme with the Howard and Lash wording and give them credit!

  9. Alie Butterfield /

    I have been trying to figure out where the humility quote originated. I believe it actually came from the 1998 book, This Way Your Life!: Preparing to Meet Face to Face with God by Rick Howard. He attributes the concept to Lewis but the quote is his.

  10. I have found another one for you. “Repeated failures, are finger posts on the road to achievement. One fails forward toward success.” I have seen several sources credit C.S. Lewis as saying this, but it was in fact Charles F. Kettering that said it. It drives me crazy. This doesn’t even sound like something he would say. Fake C.S. Lewis quotes on the Internet have reached epidemic levels, and they must be stopped!

  11. Michael O'Malley /

    Here is a suspicious looking one making the rounds on Facebook: “Be weird. Be random. Be who you are. Because you never know who would love the person you hide.” If nothing else, the use of “random” in that manner doesn’t pass the sniff test.

    • William OFlaherty /

      Correct. Its not Lewis and I plan to write about it in the near future.

      • Saphira /

        I’ve been looking for your reply, as I’ve seen this one on Facebook as well and it’d be nice to have more than a comment to link to. I take it the “near future” hasn’t come just yet? 😉

        • William OFlaherty /

          I actually addressed this pretty quickly on the FB group that supports my work on questionable quotations. Here’s a link to it:
          https://www.facebook.com/groups/ConfirmLewisQuotes/

          Something I shared in the comments was what Lewis DID write in letter #7:
          “Let him begin by treating the Patriotism or the Pacifism as a part of his religion. Then let him, under the influence of partisan spirit, come to regard it as the most important part. Then quietly and gradually nurse him on to the stage at which the religion becomes merely part of the “cause”, in which Christianity is valued chiefly because of the excellent arguments it can produce in favour of the British war-effort or of Pacifism … Once you have made the World an end, and faith a means, you have almost won your man, and it makes very little difference what kind of worldly end he is pursuing. Provided that meetings, pamphlets, policies, movements, causes, and crusades, matter more to him than prayers and sacraments and charity, he is ours – and the more “religious” (on those terms) the more securely ours.”

          Here are two articles written by others on the topic that might help:
          Simcha Fisher
          http://aleteia.org/blogs/simchafisher/of-memes-and-demons-and-your-vote/

          Gina Dalfonzo
          http://www.breakpoint.org/tp-home/blog-archives/blog-archives/entry/4/29996

          • Nancy Dauphinais /

            Hi! Can you help me find on your FB group where you confirm that the “Be weird, be random” quote is NOT C.S. Lewis? Thanks!

          • William OFlaherty /

            The FB group can be found via this link:
            https://www.facebook.com/groups/ConfirmLewisQuotes/

            I believe someone had asked about it, but I don’t recall. I see from my research file that I did check out the weird/random quote not long ago, but I haven’t done an article on it. I couldn’t find the quote in my database of nearly all of Lewis’ works and many places online list it as “Unknown” as the source.

  12. Another fake one by a modern Christian pastor (going around FB quite a bit during the 2016 election):

    My Dear Wormwood,

    Be sure that the patient remains completely fixated on politics. Arguments, political gossip, and obsessing on the faults of people they have never met serves as an excellent distraction from advancing in personal virtue, character, and the things the patient can control. Make sure to keep the patient in a constant state of angst, frustration and general disdain towards the rest of the human race in order to avoid any kind of charity or inner peace from further developing. Ensure that the patient continues to believe that the problem is “out there” in the “broken system” rather than recognizing there is a problem with himself.

    Keep up the good work,

    Uncle Screwtape

    • William OFlaherty /

      I’ve yet to hear who this fake quotation is from. If anyone does then please leave a comment.

  13. The quote is by C.S Lewis. It is in the Screwtape Letters

    • William OFlaherty /

      Which quote are you saying is from The Screwtape Letters?

  14. Michael O'Malley /

    I inquired about the “Weird…random….” attribution in April of this year. You replied on 17 April that it was not a Lewis quote and you planned to write about it. I thought I should jog your memory, as someone else is now asking you about it.

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