Top 10 Questionable Lewis Quotes

top-10-pictureAt the beginning of 2016 I posted an article called Top 5 Questionable Lewis Quotes for 2015. Since then I’ve covered nearly twice as many more quotations (almost thirty) credited to Lewis that may or may not be from him. Also, recently I had a sharp increase of visitors to my site after an article by Gina Dalfonzo called Remaking Lewis. As a result, I thought it would be useful to list the top ten quotes since I started Confirming C.S. Lewis Quotations (CCSLQ) about fourteen months ago. The ranking is based on the number of visits to the individual pages.

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.

So, the following are the ten most popular posts about questionable Lewis quotations and whether or not the quotes are from him. Please note that only the main part of the article for each post is shared below. You’ll need to visit the original story to see an additional component found with most of the posts that shared the closest material Lewis did write related to the topic (or better quotations if he did, but the context makes it better if the questionable one is shared).  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 on the series overview page.

I pray

#1 (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.

#2 (CCSLQ-10) Children Distraction

Children Distraction

“Children are not a distraction from more important work. They are the most important work.”

Distractions are, well, distracting. But, what if what one thought was a distraction was actually what should be the main focus? Surely, C.S. Lewis, the author of the great children’s series about Narnia loved being around children and said the above statement. Check out the quotations below to find the surprising answer to what he really thought about kids (it may not be too surprising if you know Lewis very well). As for this expression, you’ve probably caught on that the above picture already reveals it wasn’t from Lewis. Unfortunately there are many that believe this MUST be from Lewis. In fact, as recently as 7/23/2015 Focus on the Family shared it on their Facebook page crediting Lewis as the author.

We know, however, that Dr. John Trainer is the creator of that expression. I’m very certain of this because he’s provided proof of this fact. I caught up with him on Facebook and learn that on December 30, 2012 he shared this express in a group chat with some friends.  He related to me that he had just come up with the quotation earlier in the day and shared it with the group.

#3 (CCSLQ-12) Monkey Bars

Monkey Bars“Getting over a painful experience is much like crossing monkey bars—let go to move forward.”

Motivational quotations are (as the saying goes) “a dime a dozen.” You can find them just about everywhere. However, their value seems to be greater when credited to famous individuals.

This is the only reason I can come up with to explain why the above quote is credited to Lewis. Several books published within the last five years lists the source as “Unknown.” But it is more common to find Lewis’s name attached to it. However, none of his published works ever uses the expression “monkey bars.” This is significant. Why? That’s because according to Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary that term only came into use in 1955 (I’ve also seen 1950 mentioned elsewhere). Lewis died in 1963 and so growing up he would have been more familiar with the expression “Jungle Gym” and this would have been the phrase he’d use if he made such an illustration as found in the above quotation.

#4 (CCSLQ-13) Right Thing

Right ThingIntegrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching.”

This is one of those quotations that has a variation worth noting. Another version that I’ve not found credited to Lewis is this: “Do the right thing when no one is looking.” This latter version is either credited to unknown, or I’ve seen it attributed to Vickie Milazzo.

When considering the former quotation that uses “integrity,” it’s interesting to note that in the published writings of Lewis he doesn’t often used that word. In fact, when you search for the combination “right thing,” in the available electronic versions of his works you not find anything close to the quote in question.

When searching for possible sources I found a book by Charles Marshall entitled Shattering the Glass Slipper that contain the closest possible alternative. In it he states “Integrity is doing the right thing when you don’t have to—when no one else is looking or will ever know—when there will be no congratulations or recognition for having done so.” Thus, it’s likely that someone paraphrase this passage and falsely attributed it to Lewis.

#5 (CCSLQ-3) Experience That Most Brutal

ExperienceExperience that most brutal of teachers. But you learn, my God do you learn.”

It’s been said “Experience is the teacher of all things.” According to the Internet this is a saying from Julius Caesar. Additionally, I’ve also heard it said that “It’s best to learn from other people’s mistakes, but most require first hand experience to really learn.” That’s my own vague memory of an idea that I picked up some years ago, somewhere. I’d be more specific, but I’m trying to prove a point. Which is our memory is a pretty faulty thing; at least that’s what I think I was wanting to point out when I starting composing this.

But seriously, the problem with many quotes attributed to C.S. Lewis and countless others (on or off-line) is that you don’t really know if it’s really by them and sadly most don’t care. Why not? Because we usually look for a quote to prove a point we already believe. Of course, sometimes one is not looking for a quotation and merely come across something that is interesting.

The above quote attributed to Lewis about experience is another one that Anthony Hopkins says in the 1993 edition of Shadowlands. At least, that’s what my research suggested and I believed it until I actually took the time to watch movie again and discovered it was in reality a misquote! So what we have here is a distorted misattributed quotation. The real (it seems funny phrasing it that way) false quote is “Experience is a brutal teacher. But you learn, my God you learn.” Hopkins says it after his wife has died to the actor playing his brother. BUT, it is NOT found in the published writings of Lewis.

Why does the fictional Lewis say that line in the movie? Lewis is (falsely) portrayed at the start of the film as  someone who can’t relate to pain. He can only repeat what he believes is true about the subject (more on that in a future article). In reality he had experience the death of his mother during his elementary years and ten years before his wife died, a close friend of his (Charles Williams) died unexpectedly.

#6 (CCSLQ-1) Hardships Often Prepare

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

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#7 (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.

Believe in Christ#8 (CCSLQ-15) Believe in Christ 

“I believe in Christ like I believe in the sun. Not because I can see it, but by it I can see everything else.”

Up until now this series has presented quotations that are NOT from Lewis (with a minor exception, see CCSLQ-5). While there are more that fit this category, I’ve decided to take a break from them and share expressions that are ALMOST from C.S. Lewis. What does this mean? These are sayings that are usually a paraphrase of an actual quote, or it may only be missing some words or has some incorrect words. For more details about my categories see my INTRODUCTION to Confirming C.S. Lewis Quotations article.

This leads me to the quotation shared above. What could be wrong with it? While it is a great statement, it is actually a poor paraphrase of what Lewis actually wrote and it contains an incorrect word at the start. Instead of “Christ,” he wrote “Christianity.” Here’s the correct version:

“I believe in Christianity as I believe that the Sun has risen, not only because I see it but because by it, I see everything else.”
from IS THEOLOGY POETRY (available in The Weight of Glory

As noted above, this comes from the essay Is Theology Poetry? (best found in The Weight of Glory essay collection). It is also the quotation found on the memorial stone in Poets’ Corner, Westminster Abbey, London. It was placed there in 2013 on the 50th anniversary of his death.

Never Too Old#9 (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!

Load That Breaks#10 (CCSLQ-11) Load That Breaks

“It’s not the load that breaks you down. It’s the way you carry it.”

Carrying a heavy load is rarely ever enjoyable. While among friends, loads are relatively lighter, they can STILL feel heavy. So, while this quotation, which is NOT from Lewis, appears encouraging one can easily ask if something like 1,000 pounds would be unbearable no matter HOW you carry it.

Who said it? A simple search online finds two other authors as the possible source: Lou Holtz and Lena Horne. Either way it is not found in the publishing writings of C.S. Lewis. So, choose to like the quotation or not, but just don’t give credit to Lewis.


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