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Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life

A review of religious historian Karen Armstrong's step-by-step guide.

Here are Karen Armstrong's "12 Steps to a Compassionate Life":

  1. Learn about compassion: Study the place of compassion in the world's major faiths.
  2. Look at your own world: Start with compassion for your community, and assess the potential for change.
  3. Compassion for yourself: You must love yourself before you can love others.
  4. Empathy: Allow life's suffering to invade your heart and mind so you can feel empathy for others.
  5. Mindfulness: Observe your own behavior and see that the cause of your suffering is not others, but rather your own anger.
  6. Action: Start to act in accordance with the golden rule.
  7. How little we know: Make place for other views and feelings in your mind and heart.
  8. How should we speak to one another? Learn to express a strong conviction with compassion.
  9. Concern for everybody: Contemplate the world's interdependence, and make room for the more distant "other."
  10. Knowledge: Immerse yourself in another culture and learn to appreciate it fully.
  11. Recognition: Examine your world, find a need that only you can fulfill, and start to help.
  12. Love your enemies: The final step signals an end to tribalism and a move to selfless compassion.

 

Joan Mooney is a Washington, D.C.–based writer. Her reviews have appeared in The New York Times Book Review, The Washington Post, The Baltimore Sun and many other publications.

 

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