Friday, November 4, 2011

The Four Loves by C. S. Lewis

In the introduction to  The Four Loves, C.S. Lewis talks about two kinds of love: Gift-love and Need-love. Gift Love, he says is “the love which moves a man to work and plan and save for the future well-being of his family which he will die without sharing or seeing.”  An example of Need-Love is “that which sends a lonely or frightened child to its mother’s arms.”

" Likings and Loves for the Sub-Human " is the first chapter. The sub-human is anything that may be an object of our love other than the human, angel or God.  This includes nature, inanimate objects, ideas and even our country, with love being expressed in the form of patriotism. 

He further classifies the four major loves as affection, friendship, eros and charity. Each has its own chapter. Rather than to go into detail about each of the four major loves, or even an analysis of this classical book, I will share some of the quotes that I especially loved. Note that the version of the book that I read was part of a larger book containing four of his books in one. I have referenced the particular page numbers from the book that I read. In other editions, the page numbers will be different. 

Quotes From C.S. Lewis:

Gift-Love: “Divine Love is Gift-love. The Father gives all He is and has to the Son. The Son gives Himself back to the Father, and gives Himself to the world, and for the world to the Father, and thus gives the world (in Himself) back to the Father too.” P. 213

Need-Love: “…nothing about us except our neediness is, in this life, permanent.” P.222

The love of nature: “…those who allow no more than this love of nature seem to be those who retain it. This is what one should expect. This love, when it sets up as a religion, is beginning to be a god-therefore to be a demon. And demons never keep their promises. Nature ‘dies’ on those who try to live for a love of nature. Coleridge ended by being insensible to her; Wordsworth, by lamenting that the glory had passed away. Say your prayers in a garden early, ignoring steadfastly the dew, the birds and the flowers, and you will come away overwhelmed by its freshness and joy; go there in order to be overwhelmed and, after a certain age, nine times out of ten nothing will happen to you.” P. 224

Love of one’s home: “ ‘No man’ , said one of the Greeks, ‘loves his city because it is great, but because it is his.’” P. 227

Friendship: “Few value it because few experience it.” P. 244

“Friendship is-in a sense not at all derogatory to it-the least natural of loves; the least instinctive, organic, biological, gregarious and necessary.” P. 244

“Without Eros none of us would have been begotten and without Affection none of us would have been reared; but we can live and breed without Friendship. The species, biologically considered, has not need of it.” P. 244

“…the shared activity and therefore the companionship on which Friendship supervenes will not often be a bodily one like hunting or fighting. It may be a common religion, common studies, a common profession, even a common recreation.  All who share it will be our companions; but one or two or three who share something more will be our friends. In this kind of love, as Emerson said, Do you love me? means Do you see the same truth?-Or at least, ‘Do you care about the same truth?’ The man who agrees with us that some question, little regarded by others, is of real importance can be our Friend. He need not agree with us about the answer.”  P. 248

“Lovers are normally side by side, absorbed in each other; Friends, side by side, absorbed in some common interest.” P. 246

Charity: “…spiteful people will pretend to be loving us with Charity precisely because they know that it will wound us. To say to one who expects a renewal of Affection, Friendship, or Eros, ‘I forgive you as a Christian‘ is merely a way of continuing the quarrel. Those who say it are of course lying. But the thing would not be falsely said in order to wound unless, if it were true, it would be wounding.” P. 284

“All who have good parents, wives, husbands, or children, may be sure that at some times-and perhaps at all times in respect of some one particular trait or habit-they are receiving Charity, are loved not because they are lovable but because Love Himself is in those who love them.”-P. 284

“…I dare not…leave any bereaved and desolate reader confirmed in the widespread illusion that reunion with the loved dead is the goal of the Christian life. The denial of this may sound harsh and unreal in the ears of the broken hearted, but it must be denied.” P. 287

“…there is no good applying to Heaven for earthly comfort. Heaven can give heavenly comfort; no other kind.” P. 287

“Do not let your happiness depend on something you may lose. If love is to be a blessing, not a misery, it must be for the only Beloved who will never pass away.” P. 278

Eros: “Christian writers (notably Milton) have sometimes spoken of the husband’s headship with a complacency to make the blood run cold. We must go back to our Bibles. The husband is the head of the wife just in so far as he is to her what Christ is to the Church. He is to love her as Christ loved the Church -  read on -  and give his life for her. (Eph. V, 25) This headship, then is most fully embodied not in the husband we should all wish to be but in him whose marriage is most like a crucifixion; whose wife receives most and gives least, is most unworthy of him, is - in her own mere nature - least lovable. For the Church has no beauty but what the Bridegroom gives her; he does not find, but makes her, lovely. The chrism of this terrible coronation is to be seen not in the joys of any man’s marriage but in its sorrows, in the sickness and sufferings of a good wife or the faults of a bad one, in his unwearying (never paraded) care or his inexhaustible forgiveness: forgiveness, not acquiescence.” P. 269

“Even when it becomes clear beyond all evasion that marriage with the Beloved cannot possibly lead to happiness - when it cannot even profess to offer any other life than that of tending an incurable invalid, of hopeless poverty, of exile, or of disgrace - Eros never hesitates to say, ‘Better this than parting. Better to be miserable with her than happy without her. Let our hearts break provided they break together’” P. 270

Affection: “…Affection has its own criteria. Its objects have to be familiar. We can sometimes point to the very day and hour when we fell in love or began a new friendship. I doubt if we ever  catch Affection beginning.” P. 231

copyright 2011 by Kathy Robbins


  1. Kathy, thank you for reminding me of the beauty of Lewis' work. I love the part in this post which in the love of nature which says that demons never keep their promises....

  2. Kim, I love C.S. Lewis. Thank you for stopping by....

  3. One of my all-time favorite books!

  4. Nancy, it is a great one, isn't it? Thank you for stopping by!