A Counselor Reflects on Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
“They do not draw attention to themselves. You tend to think that you are being kind to them when they are really being kind to you. They love you more than other men do, but they need you less. (We must get over wanting to be needed: in some goodish people, specially women, that is the hardest of all temptations to resist.) (p. 223).” Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
What is it like to interact with a genuine Christian who is living out their faith? That is the question Lewis is seeking to answer. His answer:
- They are the kind of people you genuinely want to be nice to.
- As you are nice to them you find that you get more than you receive.
- The relationship is free from the “indebted” tone of most sacrificial relationships.
I find that the “over wanting” of being “needed” has more of a gender balance than Lewis implies, but his observation, in my opinion, is an important one. When we understand the gospel we will not find our significance in how many people rely upon us, and we will be so engaged in our relationships that we will naturally bless those who bless us (Gen. 12:1-3).
Let’s turn each of those three bullets into a reflective question.
First, are you caring for those around you as you fulfill your roles with excellence to such a degree that people want to be nice to you? This form of “excellent niceness” would have to be stronger than the people-pleasing activity we often call “being nice.”
Second, are you so gracious and grateful when people are nice to you that their life is better because of their having been with you? It can be challenging to find ways to bless those who bless us without trying to “pay them back.”
Third, after people have been in a friendship with you, are they less prone to score keeping and feeling compelled to weigh what they “need” from the relationship? This is a level of freedom in relationship that is very absent in our day. Some try to attain it by removing any moral constraint, but that only results in more people getting hurt as cultural restraint on sin is removed.
Chances are none of us answer yes, yes, and yes. The more important question, however, is “Are we asking these questions? Are these goals on our radar throughout our day? If married, are we using our home as an experimental laboratory for this style of relationship? Do we brainstorm/ daydream about the implications of these questions?”
If we can answer yes to this latter cluster of questions, then we will be able to, with increasing frequency, answer yes to the three bulleted questions Lewis raised. The answer to these questions will look different for each person who dares to ask them. More than that, they will likely look different in each relationship a person is brave enough to live out their implications.
However, to the degree that we answer them, we will find a level of enjoyment and satisfaction in our relationships that was possible no other way.
To see the first 100 posts in this series click here.