Every so often I see a quote thrown around on social media attributed to C.S. Lewis that sounds so unlike him. While I am not a C.S. Lewis scholar and really can’t say I’ve studied or read great quantities of his work, I find it hard to believe it originated by him. Additionally, I can’t actually find where he allegedly said (or wrote) this quote, but it is purported to be his.
We are what we believe we are.
Really? If I just ‘believe’ I am, say an NBA player, then I am one?
I do understand many individuals need encouraged to think beyond their failings and push themselves. Setting a high goal and aspiring (believing if you will) to succeed and overcome setbacks, failures in spite of less than optimum circumstances is a worthy endeavor. I would say it’s quite biblical (Joseph, David, Ruth are just a few examples) for one to look for and be inspired by those stories to improve their attitude about themselves. That improved attitude combined with a dogged determination to follow God wholeheartedly can propel you to higher success.
However Lewis did say in Mere Christianity, Chapter 7 of part 4;
What is the good of pretending to be what you are not? Well, on the human level, you know, there are two kinds of pretending. There is a bad kind where the pretense is there instead of the real thing; as when a man pretends he is going to help you instead of really helping you. But there is also a good kind, where the pretence leads up to the real thing. When you are not feeling particularly friendly but know you ought to be, the best thing you can do, very often, is to put on a friendly manner and behave as if you were a nicer person than you actually are. And in a few minutes, as we have all noticed, you will be really feeling friendlier than you were. Very often the only way to get a quality in reality is to start behaving as if you had it already.
That makes sense… and it’s biblical.
Here is the problem for the first quote. Jesus says something totally different. In John 15:5, He said
Apart from Me, you can do nothing.
That’s a real motivational quote. Jesus is the main ingredient to our success. While well meaning, we do people a great disservice when we don’t put motivational messages on their proper context. Apart from Jesus, there really isn’t much good in me – or you for that matter.
It is He who gives me intelligence, abilities, resources, wisdom. In His sovereignty, I was born in relative wealth (compared to most of the rest of the world). I’ve lived in an area the and a time frame when war didn’t destroy my home and my health has been fine. In fact, when I really think about it, all my success (however that is defined) I can attribute to Him. Sure, I’ve had to work hard, pay attention, persevere, learn new and varying tasks, but in the end, it is because of Him that I have lived. My belief in my own abilities is near abysmal. But I believe in the One who can do anything!
So, if you want to believe you are something you aren’t, that’s your choice. I prefer to rely on Jesus. Since apart from Him, I can do nothing.
Blessings my friend!
(And remember this quote. Not every quote you read on the internet is true. – Abraham Lincoln.)