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Inspirational Thomas Merton Quotes

From a man who was considered somewhat ahead of his time, these Thomas Merton quotes offer profound wisdom about life.

Thomas Merton was a man of much knowledge. He was a monk, priest, theologian, poet, writer, social activist, and more. During his life, he wrote over 50 books sharing insight on the topics that mattered the most to him.

Merton learned about the different religions, studied them, met with religious leaders, and then wrote about the connections that they had with each other.

This was something that wasn’t really done during his lifetime. His unique perspective is shown through these Thomas Merton quotes.

Don’t forget to also check out these Will Rogers quotes for more inspiration.

Thomas Merton quotes about Love

1. “Love is our true destiny. We do not find the meaning of life by ourselves alone – we find it with another.” – Thomas Merton

2. “Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy.”- Thomas Merton

3. “Love seeks one thing only: the good of the one loved. It leaves all the other secondary effects to take care of themselves. Love, therefore, is its own reward.” – Thomas Merton

4. “Prayer and love are really learned in the hour when prayer becomes impossible and your heart turns to stone.” – Thomas Merton

5. “A Christian is committed to the belief that Love and Mercy are the most powerful forces on earth.” – Thomas Merton

6. “For if I am to love truly and freely, I must be able to give something that is truly my own to another. If my heart does not first belong to me, how can I give it to another?” – Thomas Merton

7. “To love our nothingness, we must love everything in us that the proud man loves when he loves himself. But we must love it all for exactly the opposite reason.” – Thomas Merton

8. “The logic of the poet — that is, the logic of language or the experience itself — develops the way a living organism grows: it spreads out towards what it loves, and is heliotropic, like a plant.” – Thomas Merton

9. “Fear narrows the little entrance of our heart. It shrinks up our capacity to love. It freezes up our power to give ourselves.” – Thomas Merton

10. “To love blindly is to love selfishly because the goal of such love is not the real advantage of the beloved but only the exercise of love in our own souls.” – Thomas Merton

11. “The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise, we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them.” – Thomas Merton

Thomas Merton quotes about Life

12. “Life consists in learning to live on one’s own, spontaneous, freewheeling: to do this one must recognize what is one’s own-be familiar and at home with oneself. This means basically learning who one is and learning what one has to offer to the contemporary world, and then learning how to make that offering valid.” – Thomas Merton

13. “By my monastic life and vows I am saying no to all the concentration camps, the aerial bombardments, the staged political trials, the judicial murders, the racial injustices, the economic tyrannies, and the whole socioeconomic apparatus which seems geared for nothing but global destruction in spite of all its fair words in favor of peace.” – Thomas Merton

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14. “A purely mental life may be destructive if it leads us to substitute thought for life and ideas for actions. The activity proper to man is purely mental because man is not just a disembodied mind. Our destiny is to live out what we think because unless we live what we know, we do not even know it. It is only by making our knowledge part of ourselves, through action, that we enter into the reality that is signified by our concepts.” – Thomas Merton

15. “Our whole life is a meditation of our last decision – the only decision that matters.” – Thomas Merton

16. “A man can radically change his life and attain to a deeper meaning, a more perfect integration, a more complete fulfillment, a more total liberty of spirit than are possible in the routines of a purely active existence centered on money-making.” – Thomas Merton

17. “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.” – Thomas Merton

18. “The solution of the problem of life is life itself. Life is not attained by reason and analysis but first of all by living.” – Thomas Merton

19. “Life is this simple: we are living in a world that is absolutely transparent and the divine is shining through it all the time. This is not just a nice story or a fable, it is true.” – Thomas Merton

20. “My life is … a mystery which I do not attempt to really understand, as though I were led by the hand in a night where I see nothing, but can fully depend on the Love and Protection of Him Who guides me.” – Thomas Merton

21. “Your life is shaped by the end you live for. You are made in the image of what you desire.” – Thomas Merton

Inspirational quotes by Thomas Merton

22. “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.” – Thomas Merton

23. “When we are strong, we are always much greater than the things that happen to us.” – Thomas Merton

24. “We stumble and fall constantly even when we are most enlightened. But when we are in true spiritual darkness, we do not even know that we have fallen.” – Thomas Merton

25. “We must make the choices that enable us to fulfill the deepest capacities of our real selves.” – Thomas Merton

26. “What a thing it is to sit absolutely alone, in the forests, at night, cherished by this wonderful, unintelligible, perfectly innocent speech, the most comforting speech in the world, the talk that rain makes by itself all over the bridges, and the talk of the watercourses everywhere in the hollows! Nobody started it, nobody is going to stop it. It will talk as long as it wants, this rain. As long as it talks I am going to listen.” – Thomas Merton

27. “We are already one and we imagine we are not. And what we have to recover is our original unity. Whatever we have to be is what we are.” – Thomas Merton

28. “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.” – Thomas Merton

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29. “The biggest human temptation is to settle for too little.” – Thomas Merton

30. “Perhaps I am stronger than I think.” – Thomas Merton

31. “We have what we seek. We don’t have to rush after it. It was there all the time, and if we give it time it will make itself known to us.” – Thomas Merton

Thomas Merton quotes on peace

32. “There is only one problem on which all my existence, my peace, my happiness depend: to discover myself in discovering God. If I find Him I will find myself and if I find my true self I will find Him.” – Thomas Merton

33. “The peace produced by grace is a spiritual stability too deep for violence — it is unshakeable.” – Thomas Merton

34. “If you yourself are at peace, then there is at least some peace in the world.” – Thomas Merton

35. “Peace is not something you must hope for in the future. Rather, it is a deepening of the present, and unless you look for it in the present you will never find it.” – Thomas Merton

36. “Instead of hating the people you think are war-makers, hate the appetites and disorder in your own soul, which are the causes of war. If you love peace, then hate injustice, hate tyranny, hate greed – but hate these things in yourself, not in another.” – Thomas Merton

37. “We are not at peace with others because we are not at peace with ourselves, and we are not at peace with ourselves because we are not at peace with God.” – Thomas Merton

38. “Peace demands the most heroic labor and the most difficult sacrifice. It demands greater heroism than war. It demands greater fidelity to the truth and a much more perfect purity of conscience.” – Thomas Merton

39. “The world of men has forgotten the joys of silence, the peace of solitude, which is necessary, to some extent, for the fullness of human living. Man cannot be happy for long unless he is in contact with the springs of spiritual life which are hidden in the depths of his own soul. If man is exiled constantly from his own home, locked out of his spiritual solitude, he ceases to be a true person.” – Thomas Merton

40. “The God of peace is never glorified by human violence.” – Thomas Merton

Thomas Merton quotes to inspire and teach

41. “Every moment and every event of every man’s life on earth plants something in his soul.” – Thomas Merton

42. “When ambition ends, happiness begins.” – Thomas Merton

43. “The biggest human temptation is to settle for too little.” – Thomas Merton

44. “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.” – Thomas Merton

45. “We must make the choices that enable us to fulfill the deepest capacities of our real selves.” – Thomas Merton

46. “Do not depend on the hope of results. You may have to face the fact that your work will be apparently worthless and even achieve no result at all, if not perhaps results opposite to what you expect. As you get used to this idea, you start more and more to concentrate not on the results, but on the value, the rightness, the truth of the work itself. You gradually struggle less and less for an idea and more and more for specific people. In the end, it is the reality of personal relationship that saves everything.” – Thomas Merton

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47. “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.” – Thomas Merton

48. “If a man is to live, he must be all alive, body, soul, mind, heart, spirit.” – Thomas Merton

49. “Anxiety is the mark of spiritual insecurity.” – Thomas Merton

50. “But there is greater comfort in the substance of silence than in the answer to a question.” – Thomas Merton

More Thomas Merton quotes

51. “Pride makes us artificial and humility makes us real.” – Thomas Merton

52. “Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.” – Thomas Merton

53. “Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony.” – Thomas Merton

54. “Be good, keep your feet dry, your eyes open, your heart at peace and your soul in the joy of Christ.” – Thomas Merton

55. “A man knows when he has found his vocation when he stops thinking about how to live and begins to live.” ― Thomas Merton

56. “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.” ― Thomas Merton

57. “Souls are like athletes, that need opponents worthy of them, if they are to be tried and extended and pushed to the full use of their powers, and rewarded according to their capacity.” ― Thomas Merton

58. “The logic of worldly success rests on a fallacy: the strange error that our perfection depends on the thoughts and opinions and applause of other men! A weird life it is, indeed, to be living always in somebody else’s imagination, as if that were the only place in which one could at last become real!” ― Thomas Merton

59. “Reason is in fact the path to faith, and faith takes over when reason can say no more.” ― Thomas Merton

60. “The greatest need of our time is to clean out the enormous mass of mental and emotional rubbish that clutters our minds.” ― Thomas Merton

What did you learn from these Thomas Merton quotes?

Whether you consider yourself a religious person or not, there is a lot of wisdom that can be taken away from these quotes. They can help you gain a greater understanding of both yourself and those that are around you.

Some of these quotes are inspirational. Others are more thought-provoking. You may benefit from taking some quiet time to sit and ponder on them.

The love and peace that Merton speaks about is something most people want in their life but feel unable to obtain. He shares some good practices and principles to live by in order to experience these things yourself.

What’s your biggest takeaway from these Thomas Merton quotes and sayings? Do you have any other inspirational quotes to add? Let us know in the comment section below.

Stephanie Kirby
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