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CS Lewis: The Four Loves, Chapter 2 Affection

Introduction: What is Affection?

Lewis call Affection is the “humblest” of loves and “seems to differ least with the animals”. It is the love of parents to offspring and of offspring to parents.

1) It exists in people with whom you are thrown together: family, college, military, or church.

2) It is built upon being familiar, and often we won’t realize we have affection for someone until we already have it (unlike beginning a new friendship or falling in love).

“The child will love a crusty old gardener who has hardly ever taken any notice of it and shrink from the visitor who is making every attempt to win its regard. But it must be an old gardener, one who has ‘always’ been there.” 33

3) It is not discriminating.

Like the saying, “he has a face only a mother could love,” Affection’s criteria are unlike other kinds of love. It can exist without one earning it or bringing any quantifiable value to the relationship.

“It is indeed the least discriminating of loves. There are women for whom we can predict few wooers and men who are likely to have few friends. They have nothing to offer. But almost anyone can become an object of Affection; the ugly, the stupid, even the exasperating. There need be no apparent fitness between those whom it unites…It ignores the barriers of age, sex, class, and education. “ 32

 When have you experienced affection the way Lewis describes? 

Because it is not discriminating, it says less about us. We don’t boast about it, like we might boast about other loves.

 “We may say, and not quite untruly, that we have chosen our friends and the woman we love for their various excellences—for beauty, frankness, goodness of heart, wit, intelligence, or what not. But it had to be the particular kind of wit, the particular kind of beauty, the particular kind of goodness that we like, and we have our personal tastes in these matters. That is why friends and lovers feel that they were ‘made for one another.’ The especial glory of Affection is that it can unite those who most emphatically, even comically, are not; people who, if they had not found themselves put down by fate in the same household or community, would have had nothing to do with each other.” 36

 Love doesn’t always grow out of being lumped in with others who are different from us, but when it does it hits what he is calling affection.


What sorts of benefits does this type of affection bring to us (who acts with affection)?

 In what ways is it better than relationships we choose?

 “it is Affection that creates this taste, teaching us first to notice, then to endure, then to smile at, then to enjoy, and finally to appreciate, the people who ‘happen to be there.’…They are themselves, odder than you could have believed and worth far more than we guessed.” 37

What kind of lessons can we learn from this about church life? What can we learn as a community group of Grad/Pro?


What could be the downside of such a love like Affection?

Lewis points out a few dangers by returning to the categories of Need-love and Gift-love.

Dangers with “Need love” Affection: Giving love and looking for it from others, because we crave it from others.

 1) The Problem of Unmerited Affection

“We all know that we must do something, if not to merit, at least to attract, erotic love or friendship. But Affection is often assumed to be provided, ready made, by nature; ‘built-in,’ ‘laid on’, ‘on the house.’ We have a right to expect it. If others do not give it, they are ‘unnatural.’” 39

 How is this a distortion of the truth? How is it a dangerous line of thinking?

 If we are difficult to be around the very conditions in which Affection can grow can make us all the more unlovable. Time won’t make you more appreciated; you will grate on others.

It is tempting then to use Affection to force Affection from others. This type of “need-love” Affection when ravenous can become suffocating.

“If people are already unlovable a continual demand on their part (as of right) to be loved…produce in us a sense of guilt (they are intended to do so) for a fault we could not have avoided and cannot cease to commit.”41

“And of course such people always desire the same proof of our love; we are to join their side, to hear and share their grievance against someone else.” 41

 How does the gospel speak into someone struggling with such a need?

 2) The Problem of Ease and Informality

What are some of the benefits of being familiar enough with friends/family that you can speak your mind?

How can that be abused?

“Affection at its best practices a courtesy which is incomparably more subtle, sensitive, and deep than the public kind. In public a ritual would do. At home you must have the reality which that ritual represented, or else the deafening triumphs of the greatest egoist present. You must really give no kind of preferences to yourself.” 43

How have you seen this abused in your relationships? How would you bring the gospel to bear in this situation?

3) The Problem of Jealousy

Affection can feel threatened when one person develops a new interest that the other cannot share.

“Few things in the ordinary peacetime life of a civilized country are more nearly fiendish than the rancor with which a whole unbelieving family will turn on the one member of it who has become a Christian, or a whole low-brow family on the one who shows signs of becoming an intellectual.” 47

Sometimes a double jealousy: “Supposing there really were anything in literature, or in Christianity?...if so, how unfair! Why him? Why was it never opened to us?” 47

Dangers of Gift-Love Affection: Giving love without expecting it in return, but giving because we use it to be needed.

Mrs. Fidget loves her family deeply.

  • She does all the laundry (though badly, and they begged her not)
  • She always made a hot lunch (though they liked cold lunch, and told her)
  • She always sat up late waiting for you (which meant you couldn’t go out often)
  • She always made your dress (you had to wear unless you were a heartless brute)

This Gift-love type of Affection needs to give; but really needs to be needed.

This type of perversion can be seen not only in mothers but in professors, mentors, or anyone in a “giving” role.

The “proper aim of giving is to put the recipient in a state where he no longer needs our gift…It must work towards its own abdication.” 50

Why do we offer such perversions of Affection? Lewis offers two motives:

1) Lewis contends that she knew it was a burden to others but that she was determined to love this way or be faced with the fact that she was not necessary.

2) To suffer in this service allows her the enjoyment of resentment. Their lack of love in response “enabled her to feel ill-used, therefore, to have a continual grievance, to enjoy the pleasures of resentment. If anyone says he does not know those pleasures, he is a liar or a saint.” 55

How does the gospel address this perversion of Affection?




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