This is part of a series exploring quotations attributed to C.S. Lewis that are questionable for one reason or another. Presently a new article is posted the first Saturday of each month. There is an “at a glance” page HERE to quickly see what has been posted so far in this series. Also, if you haven’t already, be sure to read the INTRODUCTION to this series.
“Try to remember that the ‘bottomless sea’ can’t hurt us as long as we keep on swimming.”
This IS a statement Lewis wrote. You probably see the reason it is not so great by itself. Alone it sounds like a cliché expression that Lewis wouldn’t make. “Keep on swimming?” For how long? Personally, I’m a terrible swimmer, so I can’t “keep on” for very long.
Let’s take a step back and discover the who, when and “what else.”
The quotation comes from a letter Lewis wrote on March 8, 1959 to Edward Lofstrom (that’s the when and who). The “what else” is to consider the context of what Lewis wrote in the letter. It is found in The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume 3. There we find the statement before it is this:
“We must divert our efforts from our general condition or frame of mind (what we can’t alter by direct action of the will) to what is in our power–our words and acts.”
It is AFTER THIS that Lewis makes the “bottomless sea” comment. Then he closes with “You will be in my prayers.”
So, by itself this quotations sounds like some mindless motivational mantra. The context reveals it is not meant to be. SO, even though Lewis wrote it, don’t quote it by itself.
You can actually read the entire letter Lewis wrote to the person in this entry from BibleGateway’s C. S. LEWIS DAILY devotional.
The next quote examined is: