Thomas Merton: What Is The Hardest And Most Courageous Act Of All?

Thomas Merton: What Is The Hardest And Most Courageous Act Of All? February 18, 2016


Taking the time to rest.

That’s it.

Our bodies require it. Our minds demand it. Our souls perish without it.

But we are often too plugged-in, too distracted by everyday demands, to even notice that the seeds of our own obliteration have been planted.

And those seeds are watered and nurtured and cultivated with every social media notification, every text message, every shameless excuse we make for our own uncivil, unserious behavior.

Basta! Enough!

Unplug. Unwind. Disengage. Sit back. Chill.

No, not forever. But for this next moment.

We were not created for careless, mindless, ceaseless activity with no purpose, with no end.

Certainly not by a Creator who, as we know so well, Himself rested – and then commanded that we do the same.

These distractions, these incessant noises, deplete us, and render us worse than ineffective on the job, at home, and in our relationships.

We are no longer reliable. We are no longer thriving. We are no longer authentic.

But we hold the power to change all that. And it requires nothing of us.


Here is how Thomas Merton described it:

Our being is not to be enriched merely by activity or experience as such.

Everything depends on the *quality* of our acts and our experiences.

A multitude of badly performed actions and of experiences only half lived exhausts and depletes our being.

By doing things badly we make ourselves less real.

This growing unreality cannot help but make us unhappy and fill us with a sense of guilt.

But the purity of our conscience has a natural proportion with the depth of our being and the quality of our acts:

And when our activity is habitually disordered, our malformed conscience can think of nothing better to tell us than to multiply the *quantity* of our acts, without perfecting their quality.

And so we go from bad to worse, exhaust ourselves, empty our whole life of all content, and fall into despair.

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, doing nothing at all.

The very act of resting is the hardest and most courageous act he can perform: and often it is quite beyond his power.

So take ten minutes sometime today to stop, to breath deeply, to still your mind.

And then do nothing at all.

I’ll leave you with this very short prayer, in the video embedded below:


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