Like the desert mystics whose writings he knew so well, Thomas Merton understood that freedom is the essential ground out of which love may grow.
It is not enough for love to be shared: it must be shared freely. That is to say it must be given, not merely taken. (NMI, 3)
If I love my brother with a perfect love, I will want him to be free from every love but the love of God. Of all loves, charity alone is not possessive, because charity alone does not desire to be possessed. Charity seeks the greatest good of the one loved: and there is no greater good than charity. All other goods are contained in it. Charity is without fear: having given all that it has, it has nothing left to lose. (NMI,165)
The beginning of this love is the will to let those we love be perfectly themselves, the resolution not to twist them to fit our own image. If in loving them we do not love what they are, but only their potential likeness to ourselves, then we do not love them: we only love the reflection of ourselves we find in them. Can this be charity? (NMI, 168)
to love another as a person we must begin by granting him his own autonomy and identity as a person. We have to love him for what he is in himself, and not for what he is to us. We have to love him for his own good, not for the good we get out of him. And this is impossible unless we are capable of a love which ‘transforms’ us, so to speak, into the other person, making us able to see things as he sees them, love what he loves, experience the deeper realities of his own life as if they were our own. Without sacrifice, such a transformation is utterly impossible. But unless we are capable of this kind of transformation ‘into the other’ while remaining ourselves, we are not yet capable of a fully human existence. (Disputed Questions. NY: Harcourt Brace Jovanovic, Publishers, 1953, 104)