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Becoming Who You Are: Insights on the True Self from Thomas Merton and Other Saints

4.0 of 5 stars 4.00  ·  rating details  ·  447 ratings  ·  54 reviews
By meditating on personal examples from the author's life, as well as reflecting on the inspirational life and writings of Thomas Merton, stories from the Gospels, as well as the lives of other holy men and women (among them, Henri Nouwen, Therese of Lisieux and Pope John XXIII) the reader will see how becoming who you are, and becoming the person that God created, is a si ...more
Paperback, 98 pages
Published September 1st 2006 by HiddenSpring
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A quick read by Jesuit James Martin (his most recent book is A Jesuit Guide to Almost Everything) is a meditation based on Thomas Merton's idea of the true self that Martin originally wrote for a lecture at Corpus Christi Church in NY, 2005.
ix: "For me to be a saint means to be myself," wrote Thoms Merton in his book New Seeds of Contemplation. "Therefore the problem of sanctity and salvation is in fact the problem of finding out who I am and discovering my true self."
p.49: I don't think th
Since I find both Merton and Nouwen helpful in my spiritual journey, I thought I would read this brief book by James Martin, S. J. to see how they impacted his spiritual journey. In addition to learning more about both men, I found the conversation about the false self and true self from Merton's perspective to be helpful for me. "The false self is the person that we present to the world, the one we think will be pleading to others: attractive, confident, successful. The true self ... Is the per ...more
An amazing book, and very timely for me at the stage of life I am in. Uses the backdrops of the "saints" Thomas Merton, Henri Nouwen, Mother Teresa and others to show how they grew in their understanding of life and become who they were created to be, rather than someone else. The author encourages us to find who God created us to be, rather than try and emulate another's path to holiness. Recognizing that each of us are called to the path of holiness but how that happens is different for each o ...more
Adam Shields
Short Review: A very helpful short book exploring Merton's idea of the True Self and the False self. Martin uses Merton and Nouwen and Jesus (with a few others) to illustrate how others have tried to seek out their true selves. The thesis of the book is that in order to become our best self (the true self) we have to become the particular person that God created us to be. So we need to pay attention to our desires and our particular makeup. We can learn from others but we should not strive to be ...more
A Review by Anthony T. Riggio of the book:
Becoming Who You Are: Insights on the True Self from Thomas Merton and Other Saints by James Martin, SJ

My wife gave me a copy of this book that she had previously purchased and asked me to read it. Since we were in the middle of Lent, I agreed. I am glad I did read this book; it is the second book written by Jesuit James Martin. I find his writing style down to earth and not a writer who is trying to impress the reader with his verbosity and intellectual
Sofie Tyger
I liked this book a lot, less for what it was in and of itself and more for the seeds of ideas it threw at me, some of which stuck. I just requested eight or nine odd books from the library, by and on Thomas Merton and Henri Nouwen, plus a couple random ones mentioned or quoted, like Journey of a Soul by Pope John XXIII.

Side note: I was skeptical about the entire chapter spent freely speculating on Jesus' self-knowledge, and journey of self-discovery. That being said, it hasn't been a topic I've
So this Lent I made the same commitment that I made last Lent - to only read books on religion and spirituality. I actually re-read this book, which is such a lovely gem. I discovered something new the second time around - and I imagine I will likely re-read it again next Lent ;) This book is great because it says that being a Saint means being yourself. And being yourself means being your best self - the way God wants you to be. The book also references a lot of other books - some of which I've ...more
Heather Tomlinson

This is a very short, simple meditation on the lives of a few saints: Thomas Merton, Dorothy Day and Henri Nouwen. It takes a few sentences from their teaching and discusses them, under the loose heading of discovering the true self, that is hidden under sin.

It's a nice book and probably an easy introduction to the people for some. I was put off, though, by some very odd speculations about Jesus, which seemed to be more to do with the author's imagination than any kind of historical record that
I can tell this book is going to take a while to sink in. Fr. Martin gives reflections from Thomas Merton and various saints to help us understand what it means to be holy, and how God calls each of us to our own kind of holiness. Probably only around 90 pages or so, this book is not difficult or long, and best taken in small bits to ponder. "The true the person that we are before God. Sanctity consists in discovering who that person is and striving to become that person." While severe ...more
Jul 25, 2015 K8 rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to K8 by: Aunt Dorothy
It was really encouraging to read a book about sanctity and fulfillment in being one's self. Sometimes in Christianity there is such a focus on "WWJD" and a pressure to be as much like Jesus as possible, when no one is meant to be Jesus other than Jesus. As Oscar Wilde says, "Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken."

For me to be a saint means to be myself. Therefore the problem of sanctity and salvation is in fact the problem of finding out who I am and discovering my true self.

Why do
Excellent short book on discovering the true self. This is a life-long journey for most of us. One of the key points I got here is that we never ask ourselves who we want to be. We ask of ourselves and others what do we want to do but not who do want to BE. The doing should flow from the being and that river only flows one way. If you find yourself doing something that feels soul-sucking, it is likely because you missed the step when you asked yourself what you want to be and the two are not ali ...more
A wonderful meditation on Merton's observation that to be a saint means to be fully who you are. I found this idea so inviting and mysterious and intriguing that I was hooked right from the beginning. Jim Martin provides wonderful introductions to Thomas Merton and Henri Nouwen as well as reflections on his own experience to illuminate this rich theme. I highly recommend it.
Jes Pedroza
Jun 18, 2007 Jes Pedroza rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Thomas Merton and Henri Nouwen Fans
If you've read "My Life with the Saints" (also by Martin) before you read this book, then you'll notice a lot of overlap. But the life of Thomas Merton (which is addressed in "My Life with the Saints") is so interesting that I didn't mind at all.
Martin introduces us to Henri Nouwen as well who was also a man with a fascinating life. Both men wanted so badly to be their "true selves"....., men of love, honesty, compassion etc. They worked their whole lives to obtain this and although they lived
A beautiful little book which is a meditation on Thomas Merton's idea of the true self: "For me to be a saint means to be myself. Therefore the problem of sanctity and salvation is in the fact the problem of finding out who I am and discovering my true self." (from New Seeds of Contemplation)
Jana L.
I was hoping for an exploration of what Merton and Nouwen say constitutes the "true self," so I was a little disappointed that the emphasis of the book was biographical and autobiographical. There were some gems of insight and wisdom, I just think it is not the book advertised.
A short book reviewing the false self and the true self. Introduces Thomas Merton and Henri Nouwen. Also speculates on what Jesus Christ may have experienced of his own self in his earthly life. Very readable, interesting and helpful for one's own life. I highly recommend it.
I liked this book because the topic is so important. Especially when times are tough, it's easy to start to feel kind of useless in the grand scheme of things. The idea of the true self is that we're meant to be unique, and an important part of life's journey is shedding the false selves we build up to pursue unfulfilling goals and embracing who we're really meant to be.

It's a very quick read so it you don't feel bogged down by any one perspective (he offers his own, plus his reading of Merton,
Jamie Whiteley
Only reason I didn't give this a higher rating is because of its brevity. Rev. Martin gets 5 stars for content here. This is a life changing read, but don't just breeze through..Make this one part of your lectio practice for most impact.
fr. martin covers so many of our all-too-human blocks, which are also our very paths, on the spiritual journey. inspiring.
I love Fr. Martin. I liked his ideas on becoming more who we are individually.

A pleasant, short read.
Elaine Adlam
I have spent a lot of time saying "if only I could be more like..." This book has really helped me to see that isn't what God is looking for.... I am free to be me!
Jacob Campbell
Quick review of Merton's concept of the "true self." Helpful in centering for personal renewal.
I really enjoy Thomas Merton, this author does a nice job capturing him.
This is a really cool little book. It's short, sweet, to the point, and packed with a lot of good stuff. I really liked the introductions to Henri Nouwen and Thomas Merton's lives and how they can be models of living out your "true self" and casting off the "false self." My one complaint is that a lot of the content seems to be recycled from Martin's other works. Not that the recycled stuff is bad, probably should hear it again, just that it would be nice to get more original thoughts. Definitel ...more
Emerson John Tiu Ng
...this book is a good guide in finding out our "True Selves"... Discovering who we are... Not our false selves..or the person we try to create to please other.... This book also call us to be saints by being ourselves before God...
Worth checking out
Liz D'Onofrio
This short meditation reminded me of why I love Merton and Nouwen so much, and why their words have stayed with me years after I first read them during my freshman year of college. Jim Martin is always a good read: easy, accessible, practical, and encouraging. I also appreciated his acknowledgement of the late Dan Harrington, SJ - one of my grad school professors, as well as Philip Seymour Hoffman, who he just called "Phil". A nice testament to them both.
I wish this book had been longer, and I wish that Martin had made more of an attempt to apply the concepts to secular life. Most of us are not saints or in religious orders, and many of us don't have the luxury of leaving our jobs if we don't feel they reflect our "true self". He did attempt to address the former, but I wanted more substance than he provided.

I guess I'll just have to dig into his recommended reading list instead!
This book was a Christmas gift to me from one of my grown sons.

The author urges the reader to be himself/herself while staying on the quest for becoming what God intends each of us to be - our best self. We do not need to be a carbon copy of someone else's idea of perfection. Instead we need to be true to our soul while pursuing our unique talents.
Kevin Shoop
I liked this book and found it extremely encouraging and affirming. I only give 3 stars because it has a little bit of what I can only describe as "cheesy sunshiny optimism," and even a little of that makes me want to throw something. Still, it's only a little bit, and ultimately does not spoil the book.
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James J. Martin, born 29 December 1960, is a Jesuit priest, writer and Culture Editor of the Jesuit magazine America.

Education and Career

Martin grew up in Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania, United States, and attended Plymouth-Whitemarsh High School. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business in 1982 and worked in corporate finance at General Electric for six years.
More about James Martin...
My Life With the Saints The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything: A Spirituality for Real Life Jesus: A Pilgrimage Between Heaven and Mirth: Why Joy, Humor, and Laughter Are at the Heart of the Spiritual Life In Good Company: The Fast Track from the Corporate World to Poverty, Chastity, and Obedience

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“The multiplicity of desires leads to a multiplicity of paths to God.” 0 likes
“Everyone’s true self is a unique creation of God’s, and the way to sanctity is to become the unique self that God wishes us to be.” 0 likes
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