(CCSLQ-21) – Far Better Things

UPDATED (9/1/18) – The Misquotable C.S. Lewis is my book that examines 75 quotations attributed to Lewis that I caution you not to share. Some are falsely attributed to him, others are paraphrases of his words, and a few have context issues. Don’t share a quote attributed to Lewis unless you can confirm he wrote it and the meaning is clear without the context!


The following is a quote I examined that led me to writing The Misquotable C.S. Lewis. I started calling quotes like this as “questionable” because I wanted people to question whether or not Lewis wrote it. This led me to coming up with three main categories, or types of misquotes. You can learn about that in the INTRODUCTION to this series. There is also an “at a glance” page to see what quotations I’ve covered in the online series. Please note that the book has revised entries and provide more details about the expressions examined.  


 

Far Better Things“There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.”

This quotation is one that suffers from two different problems, which I’ll take in reverse order. While Lewis wrote something very close to this, I believe his meaning suffers when even his actual words are shared without their context. The initial problem of not being exactly what Lewis stated is easily resolved because only two extra words are contained in the questionable version.  The correct quotation is this:

“There are better things ahead than any we leave behind.” 

When you read the above words what do you think about? More than likely you think they are meant to be encouraging words for someone facing a unfamiliar situation, like finishing school, or beginning a new job. Or maybe these words are meant to encourage someone who has had a terrible past and is hoping for a better future? While those would be nice sentiments, the context shows a very different meaning. They are found in a letter Lewis wrote to Mary Willis Shelburne on June 17, 1963. It’s available in The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume 3.

Ironically, Lewis would die less than five months later. This is ironic because his words are part of comments expressed to Shelburne to comfort her as she was in the hospital and it was thought that her days were numbered. She actually went on to live twelve more years!

When you read the actual letter Lewis penned to Shelburne you find that early on he is challenging her about being fearful of dying by saying, “Can you not see death as the friend and deliverer?” At the close of the same paragraph he states “Has this world been so kind to you that you should leave it with regret? There are better things ahead than any we leave behind.”

There are some places online that share the above two sentences together. However, while this does provide more context for what Lewis was meaning it brings up other potential misunderstandings. As a Christian one understands that Heaven is a place we should prefer to be in. This, however, does not mean we should actively seek death to be with Christ.

Why be concern about this or other misunderstandings when sharing a quotation by Lewis, or any other author? Truth of the matter is, some expressions just don’t stand well alone. So, be slow to share something you see online, but be quick to read an author’s words from their own works!


The next quote examined is:

“Don’t shine so others can see you. Shine so that through you, others can see Him.”


Related Articles:

Surprised By Misquotes (2018 Taylor Talk)

Exploring C.S. Lewis Misquotes and Misconceptions (2017 6-part podcast series)

What Lewis NEVER Wrote  (Podcast)

Not Quite Lewis – Podcast Version

Not Quite Lewis – Questionable Lewisian Quotations (Conf. Paper)

Updated 9/1/2018
Originally posted 2/13/2016


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2 comments

  1. Steve Elmore /

    I’m guessing his quote got mixed with the famous quote from Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities: “It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to, than I have ever known.”

    • William OFlaherty /

      It’s possible…but there are far, far worst authors whose quotes Lewis could have been mixed with! LOL

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