The Only Three Kinds of Things Anyone Need Ever Do

“Remember that there are only three kinds of things anyone need ever do. (1.) Things we ought to do (2.) Things we’ve got to do (3.) Things we like doing.”
— C.S. Lewis

It’s C.S. Lewis Week on the blog as we celebrate his 30-volume Logos collection being 30% off, and our team is bringing you a host of our favorite excerpts.

Below is a sweet letter from Lewis to his goddaughter Sarah Neylan, shortly before her confirmation. The letter—which I was sad to trim but had to—reflects on the role of feelings in Christian devotion before ending with a brief word on duty.

I love it for its tenderness and wisdom, as well as the respect for children inherent in Lewis’ words and tone.

Enjoy.

 

3/4/49

My dear Sarah

[…]

I think of myself as having to be two people for you. (1. The real, serious, Christian godfather (2) the fairy godfather. [. . .]

As for No 1, the serious Christian godfather, I feel very unfit for the work—just as you, I dare say, may feel very unfit for being confirmed and for receiving the Holy Communion. But then an angel would not be really fit and we must all do the best we can. So I suppose I must try to give you advice. And the bit of advice that comes into my head is this: don’t expect (I mean, don’t count on and don’t demand) that when you are confirmed, or when you make your first Communion, you will have all the feelings you would like to have. You may, of course: but also you may not. But don’t worry if you don’t get them. They aren’t what matter. The things that are happening to you are quite real things whether you feel as you wd. wish or not, just as a meal will do a hungry person good even if he has a cold in the head which will rather spoil the taste. Our Lord will give us right feelings if He wishes—and then we must say Thank you. If He doesn’t, then we must say to ourselves (and Him) that He knows best.

This, by the way, is one of the very few subjects on which I feel I do know something. For years, after I had become a regular communicant I can’t tell you how dull my feelings were and how my attention wandered at the most important moments. It is only in the last year or two that things have begun to come right—which just shows how important it is to keep on doing what you are told.

Oh—I’d nearly forgotten—I have one other piece of advice. Remember that there are only three kinds of things anyone need ever do. (1.) Things we ought to do (2.) Things we’ve got to do (3.) Things we like doing. I say this because some people seem to spend so much of their time doing things for none of the three reasons, things like reading books they don’t like because other people read them. Things you ought to do are things like doing one’s school work or being nice to people. Things one has got to do are things like dressing and undressing, or household shopping. Things one likes doing—but of course I don’t know what you like. Perhaps you’ll write and tell me one day.

Of course I always mention you in my prayers and will most especially on Saturday. Do the same for me.

Your affectionate godfather,

C.S. Lewis [1]

 

Leave it to Lewis to humbly say, “This, by the way, is one of the very few subjects on which I feel I do know something.”

***

If you, like me, disagree with Lewis and believe he knows a good deal about many things, you might get his 30-volume collection in Logos—30% off now through Monday.

 

For more posts about Lewis, see below:

9 Shareable C.S. Lewis Quotes

Look. Listen. Receive. C.S. Lewis on Reading

C.S. Lewis’ Ingenious Apologetic of Longing

C.S. Lewis: An Appreciation

Men Without Chests: Lewis, Relativism, and the Soul of Christianity

C.S. Lewis: A Lutheran Appreciation

 

1.“To Sarah Neylan,” Lewis, C.S. The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis. Edited by Walter Hooper. Vol. III. New York: HarperCollins e-books; HarperSanFrancisco, 2004–2007, 1586.