C.S. Lewis on Doing Right, and Friends


There is always some peace in having submitted to the right. Don’t spoil it by worrying about the results, if you can help it. It is not your business to succeed (no one can be sure of that) but to do right: when you have done so, the rest lies with God.

I don’t think you exaggerate at all in your account of how it feels. After all—though our novels now ignore it—friendship is the greatest of worldly goods. Certainly to me it is the chief happiness of life. If I had to give a piece of advice to a young man about a place to live, I think I should say, “sacrifice almost everything to live where you can be near your friends.”
From The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume II
Compiled in Yours, Jack

This is an excerpt from a letter to Arthur Greeves, who had just ended an unhealthy friendship. Lewis’ insight on making success secondary to the right should be shouted from the housetops, but even then, few would heed his advice. Self-gratification drives us, whether toward success, or sensual satisfaction. The Right, however, doesn’t guarantee either; its reward is far more subtle and enduring.

I had never thought of friendship as one of the “worldly goods,” but it is indeed good, and it is of this world. Unlike most worldly goods, however, you can’t buy it.

Friendship both requires and produces communication, thus Lewis’ desire to live near his friends. It also requires trust, which takes time and steadfastness to build, and once betrayed, can rarely be fully restored. Proverbs 18:24 declares, A man who has friends must himself be friendly, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. For us, that friend is God, in the person of Christ Jesus. Hebrews 13:5-6 give us the awesome promise, 5 Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” 6 So we may boldly say:
“The Lord is my helper;
I will not fear.
What can man do to me?”

My “old guy” perspective on friendship has changed a lot from that of my youth. Friends came and went easily. But now, my definition of friendship has changed, so my list of acquaintances is vast, but my list of friends? Not so much. A friend is one who accepts and loves you as who you are, not as they’d like you to be. I confess that my excentricities limit my friendships, and my “Popeye” attitude doesn’t help much. That’s why I cling to my Big Brother Jesus, and he doesn’t at all mind clinginess. He always has time for me when I need him, which is always.

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