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Faith & Failure: More Thoughts from the Mind of C.S. Lewis

April 3, 2008

The final selection of quotes in a series of three posts from Mere Christianity: 

On faith:

When you come to knowing God, the initiative lies on His side.  If He does not show Himself, nothing you can do will enable you to find Him.

After the first few steps in the Christian life we realise that everything which really needs to be done in our souls can only be done by God.

Thus if you have really handed yourself over to Him, it must follow that you are trying to obey Him.  But trying in a new way, a less worried way.  Not doing these things in order to be saved, but because He has begun to save you already.  Not hoping to get to Heaven as a reward for your actions, but inevitably wanting to act in a certain way because a first faint gleam of Heaven is already inside you.

On giving: 

If our expenditure on comforts, luxuries, amusements, etc., is up to the standard common among those with the same income as our own, we are probably giving away too little.  If our charities do not at all pinch or hamper us, I should say they are too small.  There ought to be things we should like to do and cannot do because our charitable expenditure excludes them. (Lewis denotes charities as particular cases of distress among your own relatives, friends, neighbors or employees to which God forces your attention.)

On failure: 

After each failure, ask forgiveness, pick yourself up, and try again…(from them) we learn, on the one hand, that we cannot trust ourselves even in our best moments, and, on the other, that we need not despair even in our worst, for our failures are forgiven.  The only fatal thing is to sit down content with anything less than perfection…Virtue–even attempted virtue–brings light; indulgence brings fog.”

On pride: 

Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only of having more of it than the next man.

It is the comparison that makes you proud:  the pleasure of being above the rest.

In God you come up against something which is in every respect immeasurably superior to yourself.  Unless you know God as that–and therefore, know yourself as nothing in comparison–you do not know God at all.

That raises a terrible question.  How is it that people who are quite obviously eaten up with Pride can say they believe in God and appear to themselves very religious?  I am afraid it means they are worshipping an imaginary God.

Pleasure in being praised is not Pride…The trouble begins when you pass from thinking, “I have pleased him [him being someone you rightly wanted to please]; all is well,” to thinking, “What a fine person I must be to have done it.”

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