Breaking Free of the Inner Ring – by Art Lindsley
Have you ever felt “excluded” or “out of it?”
It’s a miserable feeling. Perhaps you want to be a partner at your law firm, to get a promotion, to be part of the executive team, or simply to be a well-respected name in your network.
In his essay called “The Inner Ring,” C.S. Lewis addresses this desire to be on the inside of whatever group you care about most.
These desires are not necessarily wrong in and of themselves. Someone has to be the leader and have the influence, and it is not wrong to want that. But the desire to be “in” can consume you. As Lewis says,
Unless you take measures to prevent it, this desire is going to be one of the chief motives of your life, from the moment you enter your profession until you are too old to care.
How Will the Inner Ring Shape Your Character?
The desire to be included can prompt you to make poor choices. Perhaps you are meeting with your boss or being vetted for a promotion or being a partner of the firm and something comes up that has a hint of being not quite ethical. Lewis says:
It would be so terrible to see that other man’s face – that genial, confidential, delightfully sophisticated face – turn suddenly cold and contemptuous, to know that you had been tried for the Inner Ring and rejected.
That first act of moral compromise—usually subtle—can lead to further decisions that become a habit that shapes your character and destiny.
The Satisfaction Won’t Last
Moreover, if you get “in,” the initial rush of excitement will not last. Sooner or later you will have to look for a new ring to enter. Lewis says,
As long as you are governed by that desire you will never get what you want. You are trying to peel an onion; if you succeed there will be nothing left. Until you conquer the fear of being an outsider, an outsider you will remain.
Overcoming the Inner Ring
So what should you do? Don’t desire the inner ring, but do good and excellent work that will put you in the circle that really matters. Lewis says,
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 the other sound craftsmen will know it.
It would be good to ponder our own situation:
- What circle do you desire to enter?
- Have the rings you are in compromised your spiritual effectiveness?
- Do you need to pray for deliverance from this temptation to desire acceptance into more inner circles?
Above all, if you focus on doing your work well, the results will take care of themselves. This may not lead to fame, fortune, or influence, but it will lead to respect of those who know the field. This pursuit of good work will often lead you to true friends—people who see the same truths and value the same things.
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Art Lindsley, Ph.D. is vice president of theological initiatives at the Institute for Faith, Work & Economics (www.tifwe.org) and author of C.S. Lewis’s Case for Christ, True Truth, Love: The Ultimate Apologetic, and co-author with R.C. Sproul and John Gerstner of Classical Apologetics.
The Institute for Faith, Work & Economics™ (IFWE) is a non-profit, 501(c)(3) Christian research organization committed to promoting biblical and economic principles that help individuals find fulfillment in their work and contribute to a free and flourishing society.
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