Ignorant children making mudpies in a slum

The opening lines of C. S. Lewis’s address, “The Weight of Glory,” have been, I suppose, quoted and repeated and discussed many times since they were first spoken and then published.  It seems to me that they are worth repeating again, since there are those who have never encountered them, and therefore have not considered what is being said in them.  Without further ado, here they are:

If you asked twenty good men today what they thought the highest of the virtues, nineteen of them would reply, Unselfishness.  But if you asked almost any of the great Christians of old he would have replied, Love.  You see what has happened?  A negative term has been substituted for a positive, and this is of more than philological importance.  The negative ideal of Unselfishness carries with it the suggestion not primarily of securing good things for others, but of going without them ourselves, as if our abstinence and not their happiness was the important point.  I do not think this is the Christian virtue of Love.  The New Testament has lots to say about self-denial, but not about self-denial as an end in itself.  We are told to deny ourselves and to take up our crosses in order that we may follow Christ; and nearly every description of what we shall ultimately find if we do so contains an appeal to desire.

If there lurks in most modern minds the notion that to desire our own good and earnestly to hope for the enjoyment of it is a bad thing, I submit that this notion has crept in from Kant and the Stoics and is no part of the Christian faith.  Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak.  We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea.  We are far too easily pleased.


3 comments on “Ignorant children making mudpies in a slum

  1. kreitsauce says:

    Wow! I’d forgotten how well-spoken Lewis was, and I’m ashamed to say that sometimes I focus on my own “unselfishness” and forget that love is the principal thing. Thanks for posting this!

  2. I love this quote. I am writing up a series of blog posts that will use this quote actually.

    I noticed your Covenant Eyes link in the sidebar and thought you might be interested in seeing the new video by Covenant Eyes:


    If you like it, please splash it up in your blog sometime. We want to spread this important message like wildfire all over the Internet!

    Luke Gilkerson
    Covenant Eyes Blogger (CovenantEyes.com/blog)

  3. […] at Covenant Eyes sent me a link to this video a few days ago (actually he did it in his comment on this post) and asked me to “splash it up” on this blog.  Here goes, Luke – and thanks for what […]

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