Love is never wasted: C. S. Lewis?

Love is never wasted, for its value does not rest upon reciprocity.

Attr. to C. S. Lewis.

The word “reciprocity” gives it a certain credibility, raising it above the level of a common meme. But that doesn’t make it authentic.

  1. A Google search turns up the usual citation-less suspects.
  2. Wikiquote doesn’t have it, even on the discussion page of disputed quotes.
  3. Searching Google Books for the entire quotation with the author restricted to C. S. Lewis returns no hits. This is pretty telling because Google Books can search everything C. S. Lewis wrote. Just to be sure, I tried searching for the word reciprocity in a few books (e.g., The Four LovesThe Weight of Glory), but it’s not there. Just for good measure, I tried searching Google Books for the whole quotation with Lewis’s name at the end. No dice. It’s still possible this is something he wrote or said that’s not in any of his books, but ….
  4. I found a much more likely source. It’s attributed in various places to Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Latter Days Saints (Mormons). Tracing that down led me to this page, where the actual quotation appears to be: “However, never underestimate the power of privately extending a simple, loving, but direct challenge. Though it may not be reciprocated, such love is never wasted.” I can see how that got lifted out of context and meme-ified, giving the quote as we have it today. How it got attributed to CSL, I couldn’t say.

Bottom line: Not findable in Lewis’s works, but a variant form found somewhere else. I’m going to call this one fake.


C. S. Lewis and hardship

Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny.

—attr. C. S. Lewis

  1. It sounds suspicious to me, but by now my ear is so cynical that nearly everything sounds suspicious, so I kept looking, especially because it’s not horribly suspicious.
  2. A Google Web search turned up all the popular quotations web sites. Bah, humbug.
  3. Wikiquote has it in the “Unsourced” category on the discussion page.
  4. Google Books found it in secondary sources, one of which even gives a footnote. Alas, the footnote isn’t included in the preview. Since I can’t find a primary source, I’m suspecting the footnote refers to a secondary source.
  5. Google Books does have most (probably all) of Lewis’s works available. I tested by feeding it several CSL quotations known to be authentic, and it found them in primary sources. It doesn’t find the quotation in question.

Verdict: Fauxtation.

C. S. Lewis, children and work

“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.