Quote for the Day: C.S. Lewis on Love

February 26, 2010

“Love is not affectionate feeling, but a steady wish for the loved person’s ultimate good as far as it can be obtained.”

–C.S. Lewis, Answers to Questions on Christianity

This understanding of love is the basis by which we can determine what actions are truly loving.  If a person claims to love, yet acts in a manner that is contrary to the person who is “loved,” then we can rightfully question whether love is present, regardless of how anybody feels about it.

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2 Responses to “Quote for the Day: C.S. Lewis on Love”

  1. jonolan Says:

    One would then have to decide what is “good” and what is “contrary” to that good – a hard pair of things to decide and a decision fraught with the peril of hubris.

    And then, given Man’s fallibility, one would have to assign a value of sorts to intent vs. outcome in order to decide is “love” was present.


  2. jonolan:

    I generally agree with your point. The question of what is “good” is the foundation of all moral and political discussion. I’d be careful about accusations of hubris on the basis that someone makes such judgments, for we all make such judgments.

    I would agree that both intent and outcome matter to determining whether love is present. One can have a genuine commitment to the good of another person but make a mistake in attempting to serve the good of another person. At the same time, I believe it is remarkably common for an abusive spouse/partner to assure the abused partner that the abuser “loves” him/her. While it may be true that the abuser desires the other, or loves the other like the abuser loves his/her possessions, the abuser does not actually love the abused in the true (and more important) sense of the word, at least with respect to the abusive actions.

    Incidentally, this is also a basis for deeming certain types of so-called “love” to be unloving. In an incestuous relationship, each willing partner may claim to “love” the other. But their actions are inconsistent with love. Incest does not serve the good of either person. When either of them sees that incest is immoral (and some of us might argue that they cannot not see it), he/she must also realize that it is not “loving” to carry on the immoral behavior. On that basis, there is nothing inherently wrong with telling someone that his behavior is inconsistent with true love. In fact, that might be the most loving thing you can tell him.


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