“If you want to identify me, ask me not where I live, or what I like to eat, or how I comb my hair, but ask me what I am living for, in detail, ask me what I think is keeping me from living fully for the thing I want to live for.” ~ Thomas Merton
I discovered the work of Thomas Merton many years ago but only last year I felt ready for it. I guess that’s because his words have the power to go deep within you, and your heart and soul have to be open and ready for such great wisdom… And today I will share with you some of his most powerful and inspiring teachings compiled into 33 life changing lessons.
1. The biggest human temptation is to settle for too little.
“The biggest human temptation is to settle for too little.” ~ Thomas Merton
“A man knows when he has found his vocation when he stops thinking about how to live and begins to live.” ~ Thomas Merton
“Anxiety is the mark of spiritual insecurity.” ~ Thomas Merton
4. The more you try to avoid suffering, the more you suffer.
“The truth that many people never understand, until it is too late, is that the more you try to avoid suffering the more you suffer because smaller and more insignificant things begin to torture you in proportion to your fear of being hurt.” ~ Thomas Merton
“To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything, is to succumb to the violence of our times.” ~ Thomas Merton
“The man who fears to be alone will never be anything but lonely, no matter how much he may surround himself with people. But the man who learns, in solitude and recollection, to be at peace with his own loneliness, and to prefer its reality to the illusion of merely natural companionship, comes to know the invisible companionship of God. Such a one is alone with God in all places, and he alone truly enjoys the companionship of other men, because he loves them in God in Whom their presence is not tiresome, and because of Whom his own love for them can never know satiety.” ~ Thomas Merton
7. A life that is without problems may literally be more hopeless than one that always verges on despair.
“Only the man who has had to face despair is really convinced that he needs mercy. Those who do not want mercy never seek it. It is better to find God on the threshold of despair than to risk our lives in a complacency that has never felt the need of forgiveness. A life that is without problems may literally be more hopeless than one that always verges on despair.” ~ Thomas Merton
8. Concentrate not on the results, but on the value, the rightness and the truth of the work you do.
“Do not depend on the hope of results. You may have to face the fact that your work will be apparently worthless and even achieve no result at all, if not perhaps results opposite to what you expect. As you get used to this idea, you start more and more to concentrate not on the results, but on the value, the rightness, the truth of the work itself. You gradually struggle less and less for an idea and more and more for specific people. In the end, it is the reality of personal relationship that saves everything.” ~ Thomas Merton
“I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.” ~ Thomas Merton
10. If you are not at peace with others it’s because you are not at peace with yourself.
“We are not at peace with others because we are not at peace with ourselves, and we are not at peace with ourselves because we are not at peace with God.” ~ Thomas Merton
11. You are stronger than you think.
“Perhaps I am stronger than I think.” ~ Thomas Merton
12. The most important of all voyages is the voyage within yourself.
“What can we gain by sailing to the moon if we are not able to cross the abyss that separates us from ourselves? This is the most important of all voyages of discovery, and without it, all the rest are not only useless, but disastrous.” ~ Thomas Merton
13. You do not need to know precisely what is happening, or exactly where it is all going.
“You do not need to know precisely what is happening, or exactly where it is all going. What you need is to recognize the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment, and to embrace them with courage, faith and hope.” ~ Thomas Merton
14. What you seek is seeking you.
“We have what we seek, it is there all the time, and if we give it time, it will make itself known to us.” ~ Thomas Merton
15. Life is a mystery.
“My life is a mystery which I do not attempt to really understand, as though I were led by the hand in a night where I see nothing, but can fully depend on the love and protection of Him who guides me.” ~ Thomas Merton
16. To consider events only in the light of their effect upon yourself is to live on the doorstep of hell.
“To consider persons and events and situations only in the light of their effect upon myself is to live on the doorstep of hell.” ~ Thomas Merton
17. You are responsible for living your own life and for ‘finding yourself.’
“The individual person is responsible for living his own life and for ‘finding himself.’ If he persists in shifting his responsibility to somebody else, he fails to find out the meaning of his own existence.” ~ Thomas Merton
“We must make the choices that enable us to fulfill the deepest capacities of our real selves.”
18. You become like that which you desire.
“A life is either all spiritual or not spiritual at all. No man can serve two masters. Your life is shaped by the end you live for. You are made in the image of what you desire.” ~ Thomas Merton
19. We do not exist for ourselves alone.
“Love is our true destiny. We do not find the meaning of life by ourselves alone – we find it with another.” ~ Thomas Merton
“We do not exist for ourselves alone, and it is only when we are fully convinced of this fact that we begin to love ourselves properly and thus also love others.” ~ Thomas Merton
20. You will stumble and fall even when you’ll reach enlightenment.
“We stumble and fall constantly even when we are most enlightened. But when we are in true spiritual darkness, we do not even know that we have fallen.” ~ Thomas Merton
21. Happiness is a matter of balance.
“Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony.” ~ Thomas Merton
22. When ambition ends, happiness begins.
“When ambition ends, happiness begins.” ~ Thomas Merton
“The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them.” ~ Thomas Merton
“Love seeks one thing only: the good of the one loved. It leaves all the other secondary effects to take care of themselves. Love, therefore, is its own reward.”
“Pride makes us artificial and humility makes us real.” ~ Thomas Merton
25. Your job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy.
“Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. That is not our business and, in fact, it is nobody’s business. What we are asked to do is to love, and this love itself will render both ourselves and our neighbors worthy.” ― Thomas Merton
“Finally I am coming to the conclusion that my highest ambition is to be what I already am. That I will never fulfill my obligation to surpass myself unless I first accept myself, and if I accept myself fully in the right way, I will already have surpassed myself.” ~ Thomas Merton
“To be grateful is to recognize the Love of God in everything He has given us – and He has given us everything. Every breath we draw is a gift of His love, every moment of existence is a grace, for it brings with it immense graces from Him. Gratitude therefore takes nothing for granted, is never unresponsive, is constantly awakening to new wonder and to praise of the goodness of God. For the grateful person knows that God is good, not by hearsay but by experience. And that is what makes all the difference.” ~ Thomas Merton
28. You are a Human Being, not a Human Doing.
“We are so obsessed with doing that we have no time and no imagination left for being. As a result, men are valued not for what they are but for what they do or what they have – for their usefulness.” ~ Thomas Merton
29. Art enables you to find yourself and lose yourself at the same time.
“Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.” ~ Thomas Merton
“Souls are like athletes, that need opponents worthy of them, if they are to be tried and extended and pushed to the full use of their powers, and rewarded according to their capacity.” ~ Thomas Merton
31. The first step toward finding God, is to discover the truth about yourself.
“The first step toward finding God, Who is Truth, is to discover the truth about myself: and if I have been in error, this first step to truth is the discovery of my error.” – Thomas Merton
32. If you write for God you will reach many men and bring them joy.
“If you write for God you will reach many men and bring them joy. If you write for men–you may make some money and you may give someone a little joy and you may make a noise in the world, for a little while. If you write for yourself, you can read what you yourself have written and after ten minutes you will be so disgusted that you will wish that you were dead.” ~ Thomas Merton
“Solitude is not something you must hope for in the future. Rather, it is a deepening of the present, and unless you look for it in the present you will never find it.” ~ Thomas Merton
With all my love,
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