Friday, June 13, 2008

At the Kilns: The need to be needed

The first of the “four loves” C.S. Lewis writes about in his book The Four Loves is “Affection”. Affection is the broadest and most inclusive of loves, the sort of love between parents and children, teachers and students, masters and pets, so on and so forth. In his discussion of this sort of love, he details the associated pitfalls. And, like all beautiful gifts of God, given to fallen man, there are many pitfalls.

One pitfall in particular struck me. He described the “terrible need to be needed” and he cited, as example, the over-protective mother, who labours to ensure an ever-dependent mindset in her children. Lewis describes the “ravenous need to be needed” that will “gratify itself either by keeping its objects needy or by inventing for them imaginary needs”. This abuse of affection, however, is not limited to mothers. Lewis goes on to cite a literary example from Jane Austen’s Emma. I have not read the book, but I have watched the film version. I recall Emma’s controlling affection for Harriet Smith.

What struck me in all this was not that I am an over-protective mother (or father…) nor am I the sort of sort person who interferes with the happiness of my friends. What struck me was Lewis third example—the teacher. He writes,

My own profession—that of a university teacher—is in this way dangerous. If we are any good we must always be working towards the moment at which our pupils are fit to become our critics and rivals. We should be delighted when it arrives, as a fencing master is delighted when his pupil can pink and disarm him.
I must confess that—at times—I delight too much in the reciprocated affection from my pupils. I must remind myself that educators “must aim” at making ourselves “superfluous…” It is a stern warning for all educators. C.S. Lewis writes, “The hour when we can say, ‘They need me no longer’ should be our reward”. A truly great reward indeed.


Barbara said...

I have something I really need to say here: I just can't get it out. Give me a day or two and I'll try again.

Anonymous said...

I like your posts and wish you would post more often. any chance of that?

Jeremy W. Johnston said...

I feel needed... ;)