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I Am Not Like Other Men

Thomas Whitley

In New Seeds of Contemplation Thomas Merton has this to say about how we view ourselves:

There is something of this worm in the hearts of all religions [people]. As soon as they have done something which they know to be good in the eyes of God, they tend to take its reality to themselves and to make it their own. They tend to destroy their own virtues by claiming them for themselves and clothing their own private illusion of themselves with values that belong to God. Who can escape the secret desire to breathe a different atmosphere from the rest of [humanity]? Who can do good things without seeking to taste in them some sweet distinction from the common run of sinners in this world?

This sickness is most dangerous when it succeeds in looking like humility. When a proud man thinks he is humble his case is hopeless. . . . The pleasure that is in his heart when he does difficult things and succeeds in doing them well, tells him secretly: "I am a saint." At the same time, others seem to recognize him as different from themselves. They admire him, or perhaps avoid him - a sweet homage of sinners! . . . And the secret voice of pleasure sings in his heart: "Non sum sicut caeteri hominess" (I am not like other men).

Let not these words define you.