Men Without Chests, or, What C. S. Lewis Made Me Think About


“We make men without chests and expect from them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst.” ~ C. S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man

Sometimes you do your best and things don’t go right. That’s parenthood in a nutshell, I suppose, even when it’s done properly. We’re all operating under the cloud of Original Sin, and those kids are going to give us heartache.
Or, as my girlhood friend’s Italian mother would put it when we would get on her bad side, “You’re nothing but an aggravation.”

But it’s a bit worse if we just plain don’t teach our children the right ways in which to go.Lewis, in the quote above, is talking to and about teachers, but hey, let’s go right to the source. When I was reminded of this “laugh at honor/find traitors in our midst” thing, some thoughts that were jangling around in my mind came together, and I realized why it is that I get so impatient with today’s parenting and educational philosophies.

No one will set any standards for children, yet they are shocked, shocked, to find that the subsequent adults (yes, children grow into the adults who run our businesses, hospitals, and political systems) have no morals. People actively advise parents and schools to avoid correcting, disciplining, or admonishing, and then find that society is a rather inhospitable place, suddenly.
Instead of ranting about it, I thought that I would play with Lewis’ quote. Of course, nothing beats his original pithiness, but, here goes.
We want to be entertained, and are shocked that our children can’t study.
We dress our little girls in sexy clothing, and are shocked to find the city streets and suburban malls filled with trashy women.
We allow our boys to lounge around playing video games in baggy pants, and are shocked to find men who won’t work.
We fail to mention that your word is your bond, and are shocked when students cheat.We don’t seek wisdom, and are shocked to find ourselves surrounded by fools.

We don’t practice or teach self-control, and are shocked to find libertines in our midst.

We never ask for a little more of ourselves or our children, and are shocked that they give in to every whim.

We are in love with power, and are shocked that we have manipulators in our midst.

We are afraid of silence, and are shocked to find that our children need constant noise.

We neglect beauty in little things, and are shocked that our children are attracted to ugliness.

We treat our children coldly, and are shocked that they run for affection in others’ arms.

We are afraid of marriage and babies — in that order — and are shocked that the world is unsafe for children.

We laugh at chastity, and are shocked to find promiscuity in our midst.

We laugh at heaven, and are shocked to find hopelessness in our midst.

We laugh at hell, and are shocked to find cruelty in our midst.

We laugh at fidelity, and are shocked to find divorce in our midst.

We laugh at commitment, and are shocked to find we have no grandchildren.

Well, let’s devote ourselves to stopping all this rejection of standards. Let’s find the energy to live, and offer our children the chance to live, a life that struggles towards virtue, for the sake of God’s goodness; just starting today in a small way to work, rest, love, and laugh healthy, not destructive, laughter. We will fall short. Evil will still roam about. That’s not the point. The point is to strive!


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