Humility and Compassion – 11 quotes from Thomas Merton’s book – No Man Is An Island

by Mark Votava

41tYJhDcp8L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_1. Conscience is the light

“Our free acts must not only have a purpose, they must have the right purpose. And we must have a conscience that teaches us how to choose the right purposes. Conscience is the light by which we interpret the will of God in our own lives.”

2. The purpose of my existence

“If I am to know the will of God, I must have the right attitude toward life. I must first of all know what life is, and to know the purpose of my existence.”

3. Suffering without faith

“Useless and hateful in itself, suffering without faith is a curse.”

4. Peace of soul

“Peace of soul does not, therefore, depend on physical inactivity. On the contrary, there are some people who are perfectly capable of tasting true spiritual peace in an active life but who would go crazy if they had to keep themselves still in absolute solitude and silence for any length of time.”

5. Frustrated need for human affection

“You cannot live alone if you cannot stand loneliness. And you cannot stand loneliness if your desire for ‘solitude’ is built on frustrated need for human affection…”

6. A beginning of love

“The first thing we must do when we recognize the presence of God’s grace in our hearts is to desire more charity. The desire for love is itself a beginning of love, and from the moment we desire more we already have more: and our desire is itself the pledge of even more to come…”

7. Sincerity

“Sincerity in the fullest sense is a divine gift, a clarity of spirit…”

8. Humility and compassion

“Do you want to know God? Then learn to understand the weaknesses and imperfections of other men. But how can you understand the weaknesses of others unless you understand your own?… It is not sufficient to forgive others: we must forgive them with humility and compassion. If we forgive them without humility, our forgiveness is a mockery: it presupposes that we are better than they…”

9. Confines the spirit in a prison

“Recollection without faith confines the spirit in a prison without light or air. Interior asceticism should not end by locking us in such a prison. It would only defeat all the purposes of God’s grace by doing so. Faith establishes us in recollection not by setting limits to the activity of the soul, but by removing all the limitations of our natural intelligence and will…”

10. The very essence of personality

“Secrecy and solitude are values that belong to the very essence of personality.”

11. True solitude

“True solitude separates one man from the rest in order that he may freely develop the good that is his own, and then fulfill his true destiny by putting himself at the service of everyone else. False solitude separates man from his brothers in such a way that he can no longer effectively give them anything or receive anything from them in his own spirit. It establishes him in a state of indigence, misery, blindness, torment, and despair. Maddened by his own insufficiency, the proud man shamelessly seizes upon satisfactions and possessions that are not due to him, that can never satisfy him, and that he will never really need. Because he has never learned to distinguish what is really his, he desperately seeks to possess what can never belong to him.”

Have you been pursuing true solitude with humility?

Purchase No Man Is An Island

My new book The Mystical Imagination: Seeing the Sacredness of All of Life (2015) is finally done! It is available on kindle and paperback!

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My first book The Communal Imagination: Finding a Way to Share Life Together (2014) is available on kindle and paperback also!

“Inside everyone there is a longing for community, to love and be loved. We are made in the image of a communal God. But in our hyper-mobile, individualistic, cluttered world… community is an endangered thing. And community is like working out – it takes work, sweat, discipline…  without that our muscles atrophy. Everybody wants to be fit, but not too many people want to do the work to get there. Mark’s book is sort of a workout manual, helping you rediscover your communal muscles and start building them up slowly. It is an invitation to live deep in a shallow world.”  Shane Claiborne, author and activist