Don’t shine so others can see you. Shine so that through you, others can see Him.
Attributed to C. S. Lewis, but not by him. Someone already did the work on this for me. http://www.essentialcslewis.com/2016/03/05/ccslq-22-dont-shine/
Earliest known attribution to CSL is 2014. It’s not even on the discussion page for Lewis at Wikiquote, so I knew it was mostly likely a recent misattribution.
Additional thought: This sounds an awful lot like something from Cardinal Newman’s meditation on radiating Christ, which is the foundation for the Missionaries of Charity’s prayer discussed here.
There’s a screenshot going around on FB alleged to be from the Screwtape Letters, beginning: “Be sure that the patient remains completely fixated on politics,” with the tagline, “Uncle Screwtape~1942.”
That first sentence alone set off alarm flags. It’s not Lewis-ian in vocabulary or phrasing at all. Neither is the rest of the post, which reads a lot like it was written by a frustrated American Christian in 2016.
But to prove the point, I went to Google Books. Even when you can’t see an entire book, Google Books will tell you if a search returned anything. It didn’t:
It’s a fauxtation, I’m sure composed in innocent tribute and then picked up upon by someone who didn’t realize what it was.
You don’t have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body.
Attr. (falsely, not to give the end away or anything) to C. S. Lewis.
- It might sound like Lewis because he approached Christianity from a Platonist viewpoint. He was in good company, because Platonism was the dominant view (not the only view) for much of the first millenium. St. Augustine was a huge fan of Platonism. But I even before I went looking for the first time (I first saw this fauxtation a few years ago), I was almost certain that it wasn’t Lewis because it’s wrong, very fundamentally wrong. I’m not sure how Platonic-style Christianity handles the body-soul issue, but there is no doubt in Catholic teaching (in most ways Lewis was Catholic-minded) that you are neither soul alone nor body alone but a single being composed of body and soul together.
- But, okay, let’s say that Lewis could be wrong (as he was about some things). Wikiquote has it in the Misattributed section of CSL’s page. Here’s what they have to say about it:
Commonly attributed to Mere Christianity, where it is not found. Earliest reference seems to be an unsourced attribution to George MacDonald in an 1892 issue of the Quaker periodical The British Friend.
- A generic Google search turns up countless hits, unsourced of course. Sigh.
- Google books turns up countless hits, too, but none from CSL’s actual works, which are (as I found out a few days ago) all there on Google Books to be searched.
- Here are a couple of blog posts from people who’ve done the same search. Link one. Link two. Both of them explain in some detail what’s wrong with the saying, too.
- And Lewis wasn’t wrong on this point. In his essay “Priestesses in the Church” (found in God in the Dock), he wrote:
And as image and apprehension are in organic unity, so, for a Christian, are human body and human soul.
“Children are not a distraction from more important work. They are the most important work.” Attributed to C.S. Lewis
It doesn’t sound like him. None of the hits on the Internet return a primary source. It’s not on Wikiquote. It doesn’t come up with anything on Google books.
I’m calling it fake. I think it gets attributed to him because of the Narnia books.
Update for 8/23/2015
Since I first published this post, I’ve gotten several comments on it. One set of comments is associated with Dr. John Trainer, who claims to be the originator of the quotation.
Another set of comments claims that it is CSL, “from a speech he made in 1952 at the Library Association, titled ‘On Three Ways of Writing for Children.’ The speech was later adapted into an essay in Lewis’ ‘Of Other Worlds: Essays and Stories.’”
I don’t own that book, but I have a bibliophile friend who does, and he says that the quotation is not in the essay in the book. I couldn’t find it searching the text of the book on Google Books either. The essay also appears in Lewis’s On Stories, but I can’t find the quotation there either. I don’t have access to the speech so I can’t check there.
Absent a specific page number of a specific edition of a specific book, I remain skeptical that Lewis actually wrote this and will give the nod to Dr. Trainer unless someone can come up with a solid earlier citation.