Monday, January 2, 2012

Charity

Short chapter!

"`Charity' now means simply what used to be called `alms'—that is, giving to the poor. Originally it had a much wider meaning. Charity means `Love, in the Christian sense'. But love, in the Christian sense, does not mean an emotion. It is a state not of the feelings but of the will; that state of the will which we have naturally about ourselves, and must learn to have about other people."

So this is what Lewis is talking about in this chapter. Not charity in the sense of giving people money or food or other material items, though those are also very important but Charity in the sense of being charitable. In the sense of treating everyone in a kind and decent manner even if you don't like them personally.

"We `like' or are `fond of' some people, and not of others. It is important to understand that this natural `liking' is neither a sin nor a virtue, any more than your likes and dislikes in food are a sin or a virtue. It is just a fact. But, of course, what we do about it is either sinful or virtuous."

Sort of tangential: Have you ever had someone that you liked on sight or disliked on sight? I have, on both fronts. I wonder why that is. What part of their body language or speech triggers that reaction in us?

It's obviously much easier to be charitable towards people that we like. We're more likely to look with kind eyes on their actions or to forgive them for some mistake or slight. We're more likely to defend them against their detractors and to say things that raise their standing. Because we like them and we want good things for them. But what Lewis is saying is that a Christian should do all of those things even for the people they don't like.

More than that, that they should take care especially to do those things for those that they don't like.

"The rule for all of us is perfectly simple. Do not waste time bothering whether you `love' your neighbour; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. 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."

I think Lewis is saying that we sort of train our emotions in this sense. Spend time acting as though you like someone and eventually you will genuinely like them.

I know for a fact that this is not universally true however. Sure, sometimes you might find yourself seeing the good in that person and growing to like them but you are just as likely to find more and more things that you *don't* like about them and your dislike of them will grow. That being said, in many instances acting as though you like someone and treating them that was will still make your life easier. As long as everyone is acting polite and friendly things tend to run smoother and it makes a better environment. Usually. So I'm all for acting charitably toward *most* people even if you don't like them. I have to add that caveat because, well, I'm not ready to just generalise like that. I'm certainly not capable of pretending to like *everyone* I dislike.

8 comments:

  1. we still have alms houses in the uk. I used to work for a social housing group that had old church alm houses that were rented to low paid/unemployed people

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  2. Thanks for sharing about this. Yes, I wonder why we instantly like or dislike some people. That's a good question and now I'll have to consider it more especially the next time I make those snap judgments.

    Have you ever liked/dislike someone initially, but later changed your mind once you got to better know them? Which way are you more prone to be - like first/dislike second or the reverse?

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  3. Ha Susanne! One of my best friends hated me as she thought I was snooty and stuck up as I dont drink alcohol or swear. 15 years of friendship, very blunt and honest with each other.

    we worked together and then were all suddenly made redundant. And at the leaving do she came over a bit tipsy and said "your alright arent ya, I thought you were a right b!tC5. But you are alright..."

    And since then we have relied on each other, propped each other up. been through some ups and some very down lows of lost babies. We have cried tears of pure joy and shaken with fear together. Sometimes the people you dislike are the very people who challenge you be the best you can be. Your afraid to make them your friend, because some one might tell you the truth about yourself.

    yep shes a good friend.

    excellent post. liked it more the 2nd time reading

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  4. Glad you shared about that, Sol! I loved it! :)

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  5. Sol,

    Neat. We have low rent housing here which is probably similar. People who have low income rent the apartments (I think they're mainly apartments) for a very low rate that is subsidized by the government.

    Your story is too funny!

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  6. Susanne,

    Yes, I've made snap judgment about people in both ways and later changed my mind. You know, I don't know which I'm more prone to. I'll have to think about that one a bit.

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  7. I think it was Franklin who said, that we like people more, whom we are nice to and do favours for. So if you want someone to like you, you should ask them to do a (small) favour for you, because, they will most likely say yes, and they'll justify that in their head by saying, I must do this because I like this person, which will then lead to them actually liking you. (I don't think that would work if they hate you though).

    http://youarenotsosmart.com/2011/10/05/the-benjamin-franklin-effect/

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    Replies
    1. First stacky comment! Yaaaaaaaayyyyyyyyyyyy!

      Huh. I had never heard of that before but it does go with this and it makes sense. As long as, like you said, there's no actual personal hate between the two people. I don't think it would work then. :)

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