The work of purification: Loving others
Very few men are sanctified in isolation. Very few become perfect in absolute solitude. Living with other people and learning to lose ourselves in the understanding of their weakness and deficiencies can help us to become true contemplatives. For there is no better means of getting rid of the rigidity and harshness and coarseness of our ingrained egoism, which is the one insuperable obstacle to the infused light and action of the Spirit of God. Even the courageous acceptance of interior trials in utter solitude cannot altogether compensate for the work of purification accomplished in us by patience and humility in loving other men and sympathizing with their most unreasonable needs and demands. There is always a danger that hermits will only dry up and solidify in their own eccentricity. Living out of touch with other people, they tend to lose that deep sense of spiritual realities, which only pure love can give.
Thomas Merton, OCSO
New Seeds of Contemplation, P. 191