CS Lewis: Behave as if you love someone

“Do not waste time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbour; act as if you did. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him. If you injure someone you dislike, you will find yourself disliking him more. If you do him a good turn, you will find yourself disliking him less. There is, indeed one exception. If you do him a good turn, not to please God and obey the law of charity, but to show him what a fine, forgiving chap you are, and to put him in your debt, and then sit down to wait for his ‘gratitude’, you will probably be disappointed. (People are not fools: they have a very quick eye for showing off, or patronage.) But whenever we do good to another self, just because it is a self, made (like us) by God and desiring its own happiness as we desire ours, we shall have learned to love it a little more, or at least to dislike it less….

Some writers use the word charity to describe not only Christian love between human beings, but also God’s love for man and man’s love for God. About the second of these two, people are often worried. They are told they ought to love God. They cannot find any such feeling in them selves. What are they to do? The answer is the same as before. Act as if you did. Do not sit trying to manufacture feelings. Ask yourself, “If I were sure that I loved God what would I do? When you have found the answer, go and do it.”

C S Lewis

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