Thomas Merton wrote No Man is an Island over forty years ago. His reflections on the human search for meaning, community and relationship with God remains relevant to the 21st century.

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One of the most challenging passages for me came from his discussion about sincerity. Sincerity links to the Gospel, because we are learning to see ourselves through the lens of God’s grace. Merton remarks the following:

The whole question of sincerity, then, is basically a question of love and fear. The man who is selfish, narrow, who loves little and fears much that he will not be loved, can never be deeply sincere, even though he may sometimes have a character that seems to be frank on the surface. In his depths he will always be involved in duplicity. He will deceive himself in his best and most serious intentions. Nothing he says or feels about love, whether human or divine, can safely be believed, until his love be purged at least of its basest and most unreasonable fears.

But the man who is not afraid to admit everything that he sees wrong with himself, and yet recognizes that he may be the object of God’s love precisely because of his shortcomings, can begin to be sincere. His sincerity is based on confidence, not in his illusions about himself, but in the endless, unfailing mercy of God. (pg. 204)

May we learn to see ourselves and others in light of the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ. In this reality we can experience true sincerity in community.

Photo credit to Jessie Schnall, you can see more of her work at Portraits by Jessie.