When My 8-Year-Old Quoted C.S. Lewis...sort of

Originally published Monday, 01 April 2013.


Driving home from church I enjoyed the whispers and giggles coming from the backseat of my van where my daughter and her best friend played. As things turned quiet, I tuned in my mom-ear and began to eavesdrop.

“At school, my teacher has a sign that says something about the less you think about yourself, the less you think of yourself. Isn’t that weird?” 

As I listened, I agreed silently. If that’s what it actually said, it would indeed be weird. She noticed me eyeing her in the rearview mirror and blushed with embarrassment. Then defensively questioned, “What?!” I asked her to repeat what the sign said. She rattled off the same thing and assured me it didn’t make any sense.

I’m assuming the sign displayed by her teacher is actually the convicting C.S. Lewis quote:

Loca Luna / Anna Gay / Love Photos / CC BY-NC-ND

“True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.” Unfortunately the exact words, along with the point of the quote, had been lost on my eight-year-old.

The words weren’t lost on me. As I explained the meaning of the quote to the two carefree girls who’d been giggling over ponies just two minutes before, I realized I was actually teaching myself more than I was teaching them. Convicted, I thanked God for my daughter’s seeming randomness. I don’t know what made her think of these words and bring them up when she did, but they grabbed my attention.

The sentiment behind Lewis’ words was strikingly similar to a blog post I had read earlier that morning by Wendy Alsup. Reading her words, I’d been struck by my own narcissism and how often I spend time thinking of myself: how self-disciplined I’m being, how clean my house is, how my writing is coming, how rich my prayer life is or isn’t, if I’ve been a good mom, if I’ve trusted God or been too anxious. I spend way too much time thinking about how I’m feeling in general. Alsup offers this solution:

“There is an alternative to both positive and negative self absorption. It is self forgetfulness. And there is no better word to associate with Christ-centered self forgetfulness than the word FREEDOM. It is truly freeing. It is disentangling. It relieves us of the restrictions and restraints of bondage to self.”

How I long to be free from the shackles of my own selfishness! To think of myself less, and God more. I long to abandon my meditations on the shameful sins I commit, the guilt that wrecks me, the merits I achieve, or the worthless successes I boast in, Isn’t this what the Gospel frees us from? From obsessive addiction to narcissistic self-examination?

Because of Jesus, my sins and my victories no longer define me. Instead, I am covered by Christ’s righteousness, bought by His blood. No longer must I wring my hands in anxiousness over my insufficiency, but instead I cling to the cross in gratitude. I meditate on the glorious splendors of God’s majesty and His wondrous works (Psalm 145:5).

I’m glad my daughter’s teacher has a C.S. Lewis quote up in her classroom. But I’m going to beg Lewis’ forgiveness and take a bit of liberty with his words, since I seem to be so short-sided and forgetful of the gospel’s grace.

True gospel-awareness isn’t thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.