Meditations with C. S. Lewis: What Love Can Do

C. S. Lewis, best known as the author of The Chronicles of Narnia, was also one of the most profound thinkers of twentieth century Christianity.  Along with J. R. R. Tolkien, he has inspired millions of people, include all of the authors at Lantern Hollow Press.  On Sundays we would like to take a moment to offer up a little Lewis for your consideration.

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For this is one of the miracles of love; it gives — to both, but perhaps especially to the woman — a power of seeing through its own enchantments and yet not being disenchanted.

A Grief Observed

Love–in its truest sense–is not something that obscures our view of reality.  Instead, it sharpens it.  Through real love, according to Lewis, we see the one we love with crystal clarity…and we decide that we will love them anyway.

To Lewis, as to any really wise person, love is much more than a cascade of fuzzy emotion directed at what amounts to an idol.  It is something that really transcends both the lover and the object of his/her affection.  To use another of Lewis’s famous quotes, “Love is not affectionate feeling, but a steady wish for the loved person’s ultimate good as far as it can be obtained.”  It is a decision to which we choose to adhere far more than it is mere feeling. We want the best for someone we love, even in the times we may not like them very much.

Most of the modern world defines “love” no more deeply than the flurry of emotion that accompanies infatuation.  Unfortunately, this does not last and eventually we see through the idealized fantasy version of the person that we have “fallen for” and realize who they really are (who we all are)–a broken, imperfect creature with a tendency towards selfishness and failure.  In that moment, if we define love on terms as shallow as infatuation, our “love” for them ceases.  We become “disenchanted.”

Shortly after we quit “loving” them, we begin to feel that we need not be obligated to them either.  We go in search of a new “love” who will excite in us the same feelings the first one did.  Relationships fall apart, marriages end in bitter divorce, and children are often the innocent victims.  Society as a whole then suffers as a result of a misunderstanding by the sum of its parts.

The cycle is vicious and predictable. It also can be broken with a simple, infinitely difficult step:  We make the decision to practice real love with those to whom we have offered the word in lip-service for far too long.

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Click here for the entire run of “Meditations with C. S. Lewis” so far.  Interested in more about C. S. Lewis?  Check out Passing Through the Shadowlands–an extended project where I am blogging through his life in letters, essays, and books.

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About Brian

I am a history professor and author living with my family in the Virginia Mountains. It's hard to improve on a life like this!

Posted on June 10, 2012, in Brian Melton, C. S. Lewis, Christianity, Meditations, Philosophy and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. your defintion, with help from Lewis has real depth – true love is not superficial but reaches out and accepts things you thought you would never accept

    • Thanks! I actually first encountered the concept from my grandfather. He was on (what he thought) was his deathbed, and he said to my grandmother: “I loved you the moment I saw you. Even when you were a horse’s ass I loved you.” A bit more homespun than Lewis, but I got the point: When you can look at someone like that, you’re getting a taste of what real love is like. It’s shaped my relationships since then.

  2. Good point, Brian. On love and seeing: for a Christian, the truesight of real love can give a prophetic vision of what the beloved is in Christ and will be in heaven, one that enables us to help our friend on the journey toward more fully realizing that state here and now. Not a fuzzy romantic false vision that denies reality, but one that fully acknowledges the current flaws resulting from sin and loves redemptively in spite of them because it also has the prophetic vision, so that we operate by a fuller vision of Reality, including the not yet seen: that is the kind of love we all need from each other.

  3. Janet Brennan Croft

    Ideally — but I think accepting and loving the other person can go too far and become toxic if the other person is abusive. I think there also has to be room in this framework for a clear-sighted realization that this kind of unconditional acceptance for an abuser, at some point, is not helping but is simply enabling and perpetuating the cycle and causing more harm to both partners, and collateral damage to any children involved. The best “ultimate good” for the loved person might actually be to sever the relationship. (For an example, see Joy Davidman’s first marriage.)

    • Very true. I (and Lewis) were both assuming that the parties involved are normal people. When we cross from “imperfect” to “evil” it is another matter entirely.

      I don’t think it is really a question of “unconditional acceptance”. There are always conditions and standards beyond ourselves that matter more, and, as you pointed out, part of love is expecting each other to meet them and being willing to act to insure it, even if it hurts. So, there are always conditions that we place on each other and I don’t mean to imply that we should ignore them.

      • Janet Brennan Croft

        That’s a good way of putting it — imperfect crossing over the boundary into evil. I ran across this piece today, which is very blunt about the potential problems a woman (in particular — not than men don’t face these situations, but it’s much more often women) can face in evaluating and escaping an abusive situation if her religion and her spiritual advisors complicate matters by pushing her to endure more: http://www.rhrealitycheck.org/article/2012/06/09/happily-abused. Harrowing writing if you’ve been through any version of the same calculus yourself.

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