(CCSLQ-28) – Happiness Depend On

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. 

Happiness Depend On“Do not let your happiness depend on something you may lose.”

Lewis penned many great lines in The Four Loves that challenge our thinking about what Scripture calls “a more excellent way” (1 Corinthians 12:31). However, the above expression does not mean what most people think and thus it should not be shared by itself. It might sound like a call to shun earthly pleasures. Indeed, generally speaking one’s happiness should not be based on temporary things. The context, however, reveals a different meaning.

This quotation is found in the final chapter of The Four Loves entitled “Charity.” Prior to this passage Lewis had been discussing his view on natural loves and how they may become rivals to loving God. He believes the greater danger is not being able to move from self-love to love towards others. Thus, our love has not yet risen to a level where it can even be a rival. In fact, he points out, “many people do not find it really difficult to hate their wives or mothers” because they have not yet moved beyond self-love. So, Lewis suggests we must first learn to love people on earth before really being able to love God.

That is the background of what Lewis was stating before he gives an example from St. Augustine’s Confessions with which Lewis disagrees. The above quotation, found in the eighth paragraph in the “Charity” chapter in The Four Loves, is how Lewis summarizes a moral that he finds unsettling. In fact, just before it Lewis even proclaims that he rejects “at the very outset” the reasoning he finds from St. Augustine on this issue. In the section in question within Confessions, St. Augustine is mourning the loss of a friend and Lewis summarizes it by stating that he believed he should not have given his “heart to anything but God.” Had St. Augustine lived the way he thought, he could have avoided the pain he felt when his friend died.

Lewis admits that this idea does appeal to his personality. He confesses he is “a safety-first creature” and he wishes to avoid suffering to the point of not giving his love to any but God. Yet, he goes on to warn “who could conceivably begin to love God…because the security (so to speak) is better?” Additionally, Lewis points out that “one must be outside the world of love, of all loves, before one thus calculates.”

Thus, when reading this isolated quotation from Lewis, it appears he is just warning a person about not relying on temporary pleasures for happiness. Yet, in context, one finds Lewis used the statement as an example of a very specific sentiment with which he does not agree.

The next quote examined will be (on 10/8/16):

A friend is someone who knows the song in your heart and can sing it back to you when you have forgotten the words.

Related Articles:

What Lewis NEVER Wrote  (Podcast)

Not Quite Lewis – Podcast Version

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

Updated 9/6/2016