Top 5 Questionable Lewis Quotes for 2015

Top 5 (Purple)It’s no secret that not every quote attributed to C.S. Lewis found online (and sometimes even in books) is actually something he wrote. While I’ve been exploring this issue the last few years, it was only about four months ago that I began to devote individual posts to questionable quotations. While I’ve only examined sixteen expressions so far (and it looks like there are at least twice as many more), I felt the start of the new year was a good time to highlight the most popular sayings up to this point (determined by most views on my site).

If you’ve read any of my previous posts on this issue then you know I’ve come up with three categories for the results of my investigation. If not, then be sure to read my INTRODUCTION to Confirming C.S. Lewis Quotations article.

What follows are each of the five most popular questionable quotations along with the main article about that expression. One component not found here, but available in most of the original posts, is the section sharing the closest material Lewis did write related to the topic. You can follow the link (in the title of the quote) to read the original post. Finally, for a complete list of questionable quotations that is updated as I add a new article can be found series overview page.

Hardships#1 (CCSLQ-1) Hardships Often Prepare

“Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny.”

This is a nice motivational expression that may sound like it came from a movie. Well, guess what, it’s in the Hollywood version of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

It is NOT, however in the book that Lewis wrote. Kimberly Bronson alerted me to this fact and in a personal email explained where it is in the movie. She wrote (7/19/14) “Reepicheep says it during the scene where Eustace has become a dragon and Reep is trying to comfort him.”

I did watch the movie again to confirm this. The scene is very touching and many find encouragement in the line, but regardless, it’s NOT from Lewis.

Humility#2 (CCSLQ-6) Humility Is Not

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

Humility is something that when it is lacking in another person is very easy to notice. However, we are often unaware when it is missing in our own lives. Thus, this virtue is clearly a desirable quality and finding expressions that support it is all that matters. The details of who exactly stated the quotation isn’t very important, right? Of course, promoting one respected quality at the sacrifice of another doesn’t make much sense.

That’s where the above quotation comes in. It’s a lovely concise expression that helps clarify what it means to be truly humble. For readers of C.S. Lewis it might “sound” a lot like him, because he was known for expressing complex ideas in succinct ways. However, this saying is not from him. How can I state this with certainty? First, it is not found in any of Lewis’s writings. Though some places reference Mere Christianity, it is not found there. The fact that it is located in another author’s book doesn’t necessarily mean they are the source. However, this quotation is found in a book that is known for having a lot of footnotes and citations. That book is The Purpose Driven Life and the author is Rick Warren. In the 2002 (original) edition it is found on Day 19 in a chapter entitled “Cultivating Community.”

As noted below, Lewis did write on the subject of humility and made statements that are similar. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if Rick Warren had been inspired by Lewis’s writings. Yet, in this case, whether or not it is a paraphrase of Lewis, he did NOT write it and shouldn’t be given credit. Rick Warren is the author of the statement and when sharing this expression that fact should be noted.

We Read#3 (CCSLQ-2) We Read To Know 

“We read to know that we are not alone.”

Stating that C.S. Lewis loved to read is like announcing dogs bark. It’s a given! You cannot, however, take for granted that the above quotation is from Lewis. The fact that there are at least two variations to this quotation should raise your suspicion. I’ve seen one variation that stated “We read to discover that we are not alone” and then as recently as August 9, 2015, a Christian-based review site called Movieguide shared another variation on their Twitter account, stating “We read books to know that we are not alone.”

Some of you may reply and say you can just close your eyes and SEE Lewis saying this. I can too, that’s because Anthony Hopkins says it as a fictionalize Lewis in the movie Shadowlands (1993).

It occurs just before the ninety minute mark in the film as Hopkins is recalling it as a statement from a student’s father. Near the end of the movie Lewis, oops, I mean, Hopkins says it again to a new student. However, it is not found in any of the published writings of Lewis. If fact, we have the screenwriter of the motion picture, William Nicholson, stating on his website that he made up the line himself.

What’s funny to me is that if you watch the movie, (and as I’ve already noted above) it doesn’t even claim Lewis came up with the line. At the end of the movie he does repeat the words, without giving credit to the student’s father that he borrowed it from. It’s a great line to encourage reading books, but the real Lewis never said it.

Never Too Old#4 (CCSLQ-7) Never Too Old

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

If you happen to be facing fewer years ahead of you than are behind you (like myself), than you likely wish the above statement is correct. While many hope such a proclamation is true, falsely attributing it to Lewis doesn’t make it any more accurate, but some find it more believable if a person as famous as Lewis stated it.

Growing up in the 1970’s I recall hearing something similar to this quotation in relation to the fact that Kentucky Fried Chicken is a franchise that didn’t start until Colonel Sanders was in his 60’s. A notion like this can be great motivation to those wanting to find success later in life.

When exploring the actual source for this quotation I found it on a website by Les Brown, a motivational speaker that credits him as the creator of the quote. It is found on his site that lists several of his own quotations that is part of his “About Les” section. There is also a YouTube video that was posted 8/29/2012 by Les Brown where he shares the quote and he doesn’t give credit to anyone else for it.

While Lewis believed in encouraging others his published writings do not contain any statement similar to this. His general style of writing is very different than this cliché-like expression. Also, there is very little reason Lewis would have said it. A possible reason we may think Lewis said it, or something very close, is because he was over 50 years old when the first Narnia story was published. Yet, he was already an accomplished writer by this time. Prior to Narnia, Lewis was famous because of The Screwtape Letters that came out as a book in 1942 and it was chiefly this that led to him being on the cover of Time in 1947, well before Narnia was published!

I pray#5 (CCSLQ-4) I Pray Because

“I pray because I can’t help myself. I pray because I’m helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time – waking and sleeping. It doesn’t change God- it changes me.”

There are a lot of reasons to pray. Sadly, most only pray to ask God for material things. The above quote clearly doesn’t carry that perspective. It’s a great quote that even states something that too many people miss. At the end it speaks about prayer changing a person, not God. This even reminds me of the overlooked similar notion that prayer doesn’t change things, but people, and people change things.

However, even with all the nice things that this quotes reminds me, it doesn’t take away from the fact that Lewis never said it. The fictional C.S. Lewis in the movie Shadowlands (played by Anthony Hopkins) DID say it, but that STILL doesn’t mean the real Lewis said it. Would it be something he agreed with? It seems reasonable to suggest he would. However, it is NOT reasonable to say that he made the statement when it is clear that it’s a line from a movie.


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