Thomas Merton quotes page 1
1915 - 1968, American Catholic writer, mystic and poet
The truth that many people never understand, until it is too late, is that the more you try
avoid suffering the more you suffer because smaller and more significant things begin to
torture you in proportion to your fear of being hurt.
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.
Pride makes us artificial and humility makes us real.
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.
Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony.
We live in a society whose whole policy is to excite every nerve in the human body and keep
it at the highest pitch of artificial tension, to strain every human desire to the limit and to
create as many new desires and synthetic passions as possible, in order to cater to them
with the products of our factories and printing presses and movie studios and all the rest.
It is both dangerous and easy to hate man as he is because he is not what he ought to be. If
we do not first respect what he is we will never suffer him to become what he ought to be:
In our impatience we do away with him altogether.
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.
Our idea of God tells us more about ourselves than about Him.
Do not be too quick to condemn the man who no longer believes in God: For it is perhaps your
own coldness and avarice and mediocrity and materialism and selfishness that have chilled his
What do I mean by loving ourselves properly? I mean first of all, desiring to live, accepting life
as a very great gift and a great good, not because of what it gives us, but because of what it
enables us to give to others.
The whole idea of compassion is based on a keen awareness of the interdependence of all
these living beings, which are all part of one another, and all involved in one another.
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.
The soul of man, left to its own natural level, is a potentially lucid crystal left in darkness. It
is perfect in its own nature, but it lacks something that it can only receive from outside and
above itself. But when the light shines in it, it becomes in a manner transformed into light and
seems to lose its nature in the splendor of a higher nature, the nature of the light that is in
Do not look for rest in any pleasure, because you were not created for pleasure: You were
created for joy. And if you do not know the difference between pleasure and joy you have not
yet begun to live.
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.
To say that I am made in the image of God is to say that Love is the reason for my
existence, for God is love. Love is my true identity. Selflessness is my true self. Love is my
true character. Love is my name.
The least of learning is done in the classrooms.
How do you expect to arrive at the end of your own journey if you take the road to another
If you want to study the social and political history of modern nations, study hell.
Persons are not known by intellect alone, not by principles alone, but only by love. It is when
we love the other, the enemy, that we obtain from God the key to an understanding of who
he is, and who we are.
Love is our true destiny. We do not find the meaning of life by ourselves alone - we find it
It is a glorious destiny to be a member of the human race, though it is a race dedicated to
many absurdities and one which makes many terrible mistakes.
God Himself begins to live in me not only as my Creator but as my other and true self.
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.
The biggest human temptation is to settle for too little.
One of the first things to learn if you want to be a contemplative is to mind your own
business. Nothing is more suspicious, in a man who seems holy, than an impatient desire to
reform other men.
The solution of the problem of life is life itself. Life is not attained by reason and analysis but
first of all by living.
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.