Humility Against Despair – 8 quotes from Thomas Merton’s book – New Seeds of Contemplation

by Mark Votava

7275781. If there were no humility in the world

“If there were no humility in the world, everybody would long ago have committed suicide.”   

2. The value of true humility

“It is almost impossible to overestimate the value of true humility and its power in the spiritual life. For the beginning of humility is the beginning of blessedness and the consummation of humility is the perfection of all joy. Humility contains in itself the answer to all the great problems of the life of the soul. It is the only key to faith, with which the spiritual life begins: for faith and humility are inseparable…”

3. The surest sign of strength

“Humility is the surest sign of strength.”

4. Not afraid of failure

“For a humble man is not afraid of failure. In fact, he is not afraid of anything, even of himself, since perfect humility implies perfect confidence in the power of God, before Whom no other power has any meaning and for Whom there is no such thing as an obstacle.”

5. A temptation to despair

“Be careful of every vain hope: it is in reality a temptation to despair. It may seem very real, very substantial. You may come to depend far too much on this apparent solidity of what you think is soon to be yours. You may make your whole spiritual life, your very faith itself, depend on this illusory promise. Then, when it dissolves into air, everything else dissolves along with it. Your whole spiritual life slips away between your fingers and you are left with nothing.”

6. Little do we realize

“Little do we realize the meaning of spiritual poverty, of emptiness, of desolation, of total abandonment in the mystical life. Contemplative experience is not arrived at by the accumulation of grandiose thoughts and visions or by the practice of heroic mortifications. It is not ‘something you can buy’ with any coin, however spiritual it might seem to be. It is a pure Gift of God, and it has to be a gift, for that is part of its very essence. It is a gift of which we can never, by any action of ours, make ourselves fully and strictly worthy. Indeed, contemplation itself is not necessarily a sign of worthiness or sanctity at all. It is a sign of the goodness of God… Do not be surprised if contemplation springs out of pure emptiness, in poverty, dereliction and spiritual night.”

7. Reducing God to the status of an “object” or of a “thing”

“…when you use the expression to ‘desire God’ you implicitly reduce God to the status of an ‘object’ or of a ‘thing’… And though it is true that we are bound to hope for the fulfillment of our deepest needs in the vision of God, yet it is at the same time very dangerous to think of God merely as the satisfaction of all our needs and desires…”

8. Desire of a mystical mirage

“There is no defeat more terrible than the defeat of the human heart driven wild by its desire of a mystical mirage.”

How important do you think humility is in life?

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