By Luke Dalfiume, PhD, Licensed Clinical Psychologist, Co-Owner, John R. Day & Associates, Christian Psychological Associates
About a decade ago, a friend of mine introduced me to C. S. Lewis’ Essay The Inner Ring. This was the Memorial Lecture at King’s College, University of London, in 1944. It was also the foundation for the third book in Lewis’ Space Trilogy, That Hideous Strength. Lewis speaks of the soul-numbing, soul-twisting potential of a quest for the inner ring. The following is the heart of his lecture:
The quest of the Inner Ring will break your hearts unless you break it. But if you break it, a surprising result will follow. If in your working hours you make the work your end, you will presently find yourself all unawares inside the only circle in your profession that really matters. You will be one of the sound craftsmen, and other sound craftsmen will know it. This group of craftsmen will by no means coincide with the Inner Ring or the Important People or the People in the Know. It will not shape that professional policy or work up that professional influence which fights for the profession as a whole against the public: nor will it lead to those periodic scandals and crises which the Inner Ring produces. But it will do those things which that profession exists to do and will in the long run be responsible for all the respect which that profession in fact enjoys and which the speeches and advertisements cannot maintain.
And if in your spare time you consort simply with the people you like, you will again find that you have come unawares to a real inside: that you are indeed snug and safe at the centre of something which, seen from without, would look exactly like an Inner Ring. But the difference is that the secrecy is accidental, and its exclusiveness a by-product, and no one was led thither by the lure of the esoteric: for it is only four or five people who like one another meeting to do things that they like. This is friendship. Aristotle placed it among the virtues. It causes perhaps half of all the happiness in the world, and no Inner Ring can ever have it.
There are many different Inner Rings, all of them characterized by power: social, workplace, financial, church, political. The temptation to sell out our deeper values for this power can be tremendous. We can often find ways to justify our choice to sell out, with a self-statement akin to the following: ‘The end justifies the means’ or ‘My presence in the inner circle means I am more deserving than others are.’
As Lewis suggests, our work and social functioning will be best when we are working for its own sake and spending time with others we like rather than those who represent the inner ring. Another aspect we gain when we are not seeking the inner ring is inner peace. This peace comes about because we are seeking to be who we were created to be, rather than who we think we ought to be, or trying to be who someone else is.
For more information or to book an appointment, contact John R. Day & Associates, Christian Psychological Associates, located at 3716 West Brighton Ave., Peoria or their additional locations in Normal, Canton, Pekin, Princeton, or Eureka. Call us at 309-692-7755 or visit us online at www.christianpsychological.org.
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