Merton Quotes on Self Esteem and Forgiveness

Thomas Merton is well known for journaling spiritual meditations that have challenged countless people in bettering their daily lives and relationships with God and man. I enjoyed going through many of his quotes this week and wanted to share with you the ones related to:

  • Self Esteem
  • Forgiving Yourself
  • Balance in Self Sacrifice and
  • Rest

Merton on Self Esteem:

We cannot achieve greatness unless we lose all interest in being great. If we pay too much attention to [our idea of greatness], we will be lured out of the peace and stability…God gave us, and seek to live in a myth we have created for ourselves. We are truly ourselves when we lose the futile self consciousness that keep us constantly comparing ourselves with others in order to see how big we are.

We all seek to imitate one another’s imagined greatness….If I do not know who I am, it is because I think I am the sort of person everyone around me wants me to be. Perhaps I have never asked myself whether I wanted to become what everybody else seems to want to become. Perhaps if I only realized that I do not admire what everyone seem to admire, I would really begin to live after all.

Every man has a vocation to be someone: but he must understand clearly that, in order to fulfill his vocation, he can only be one person: himself…What does this mean? In order to be what we are meant to be, we must know Christ, and love him, and do what he did. Our destiny is in our own hands since God has placed it there, and has given us the grace to do the impossible. It remains for us to take up courageously and without hesitation the work he has given us, which is the task of living our own life as Christ would live it is us.

We can either Love God because we hope for something from Him, or we can hope in Him knowing that he loves us. Sometimes we begin with the first kind of hope and grow into the second.

Merton of Forgiving Yourself

It is true that we make many mistakes. But the biggest of them all is to be surprised at them: as if we had any hope of never making any. Mistakes are part of our life, and not the least important part. It is by making mistakes that we gain experience, not only for ourselves but for others.

My successes are not my own. The way to them was prepared by others. The fruits of my labors are not my own: for I am preparing the way for the achievements of another. Nor are my failures my own. They may spring from the failure of another, but they are also compensated for by another’s achievement. There for the meaning of my life is…only seen in the complete integration of my achievements and failures with the achievements and failures of my own generation.


Merton on Rest

We do not live merely in order to “do something” no matter what…We do not live more fully merely by doing more…On the contrary, some of us need to discover that we will not begin to live more fully until we have the courage to do and see and taste and experience much less…There are times, then, when, in order to keep ourselves in existence at all we simply have to sit back for a while and do nothing. And for a man who has let himself be drawn completely out of himself by his activity, nothing is more difficult than to sit still and rest.

Balance in Self Sacrifice

The saint, therefore, is sanctified not only by fasting when he should fast but also by eating when he should eat. He is not only sanctified by his prayers in the darkness of the night, but by the sleep he takes in obedience to God, who made us what we are. Not only his solitude contributes to his union with God, but also his supernatural love for his friends and his relatives and those with whom he lives and works.

All Quotes are Excerpts from Thomas Merton’s book, No Man Is an Island.

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