A Counselor Reflects on Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

“We all want progress. But progress means getting nearer to the place where you want to be. And if you have taken a wrong turning, then to go forward does not get you any nearer. If you are on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; and in that case the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive man (p.28).” Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

The most dangerous belief is the belief that we are right when we are actually wrong.  From that point forward we will always be asking the wrong question, and inevitably getting the wrong answer. We will want to move forward, not realizing that we have wrongly labeled backward as “forward.”

This difficulty is compounded by the fact that any significant task requires confidence and determination to achieve. If we are doing something worthwhile, we expect opposition and are willing to persevere for the cause. Yet in this case we would be mislabeling hardening our heart as “persevering.”

Motivation for changing our definition is thwarted by what would be required of us. If we admit we have mislabeled progress we will have to “waste time” going back to the point we got off track. Time will need to be spent “undoing” things (never a pleasant endeavor).

It is for these reasons that it is paramount that we live for something bigger than ourselves. And living for ourselves is usually the number one factor in mislabeling “prog


Living for God gives us the humility to balance our confidence and determination (not cancel them out). When I live for God’s glory I can be wrong and my purpose still be achieved.  Further, it may be that my error rightly handled will be used for God’s glory more than if I was right in the beginning. The detour would by no means be a short cut (meaning something we would counsel others to do), but it would still serve to advance God’s kingdom.

Living for God’s glory provides the motivation to turn around. If running a race is only about being ahead of others (self-centered progress) and there are people following behind you even if you are going in the wrong direction, turning around will make no sense. If running a race is about reaching a destination (God-centered progress), then you will turn around and encourage those behind you to do the same even if that now means they will be “in the lead.”

The problem for many of us is that we have poorly defined what the progress is that we are after. We live to survive more than we live to pursue. But that merely means that survival is our definition of progress. But this is a demoralizing goal because success only means we must continue striving. Surviving wins you the opportunity to continue to fight for survival.

Even in this God would mercifully call us either to understand our suffering for his glory (I Peter) or to begin to live for something bigger than day-to-day pleasures. What this may look like for any particular person is broader than a single post (or book for that matter) could cover. I would advise you to get plugged into your local church, develop a friendship with a more mature Christian in that church for encouragement or challenge, and look for opportunities to serve in a way that advances the Gospel in the life of others.