Merton On Humility

Posted by David Neff, OblSB on

On Humility - Quotes by Thomas Merton

“The first degree of humility (Rule of Benedict) consists “in fleeing forgetfulness entirely.” We know in theory the great truths of the faith. We know that God is our Creator and that He has created us only for Himself. We know that we are saved by the sufferings and death of Christ and regenerated by Baptism.”

”The second degree of humility is that a person love not his own will nor take pleasure in satisfying his desires, but model his actions on the saying of the Lord, “I have come not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent me” (John 6: 38). It is written also, “Self-will has its punishment, but constraint wins a crown.”

”The third degree of humility is that a person for love of God submit himself to his Superior in all obedience, imitating the Lord, of whom the Apostle says, “He became obedient even unto death” (Philippians 2: 8).”

We know that God watches over us, promises us heaven if we are good, and hell if we are sinful. We know all that—but do we really live by it? St. Benedict wants his disciple not to yield to the lying illusions of the world, but to place himself resolutely in face of the sole reality: God.

Humility is the greatest freedom. As long as you have to defend the imaginary self that you think is important, you lose your piece of heart. As soon as you compare that shadow with the shadows of other people, you lose all joy, because you have begun to trade in unrealities and there is no joy in things that do not exist.

On Pride: This sickness is most dangerous when it succeeds in looking like humility. When a proud man thinks he is humble his case is hopeless.

Pride makes us artificial and humility makes us real.

Humble people can do great things with uncommon perfection because they are no longer concerned about their own interests and their own reputation, and therefore they no longer need to waste their efforts in defending them.

It is not humility to insist on being someone that you are not. It is as much as saying that you know better than God who you are and who you ought to be. How do you expect to arrive at the end of your own journey if you take the road to another man's city? How do you expect to reach your own perfection by leading somebody else's life? His sanctity will never be yours; you must have the humility to work out your own salvation in a darkness where you are absolutely alone.

A humble man is not afraid of failure. In fact, he is not afraid of anything, even himself, since perfect humility implies perfect confidence in the power of God.

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 is the only key to faith, with which the spiritual life begins: for faith and humility are inseparable. In perfect humility all selfishness disappears and your soul no longer lives for itself or in itself for God: and it is lost and submerged in Him and transformed into Him.”

- Thomas Merton -