From New Seeds of Contemplation (1961)
There is danger that Christians will go to such lengths to be humble, with the humility they learned from a book, that they will make true humility impossible. How can you be humble if you are always paying attention to yourself? True humility excludes self-consciousness, but false humility intensifies our awareness of ourselves to such a degree that we are crippled and can no longer make any movement or perform any action without putting to work a whole complex mechanism of apologies and formulas of self-accusation.
If you were really humble you would not bother about yourself at all. Why should you? You would only be concerned about God and with his will and with the objective order of things and values as they are, and not as your selfishness wants them to be. Consequently, you would have no more illusions to defend. Your movement would be free. You would not need to be hampered with excuses which are only really framed to defend you against accusations of pride – as if your humility depended on what other people thought of you!
A humble man can do great things with an uncommon perfection because he is no longer concerned with incidentals, like his own interests and his own reputation, and therefore he no longer needs to waste his efforts in defending them.
For a humble man is not afraid of failure. In fact, he is not afraid of anything, even of himself, since perfect humility implies perfect confidence in the power of God, before whom no other power has any meaning, and for whom there is no such thing as an obstacle. Humility is the surest sign of strength.
Thomas Merton, OSCO (1915-1968) was a Trappist monk, theologian, and mystic, who wrote over 50 books about the spiritual life, social justice, and interfaith understanding. He is commemorated on December 10 on the liturgical calendar of the Episcopal Church.