Twelve Steps to A Compassionate Life

Twelve Steps to A Compassionate Life

Book - 2010
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Random House, Inc.
One of the most original thinkers on the role of religion in the modern world—author of such acclaimed books asA History of God, Islam, and Buddha—now gives us an impassioned and practical book that can help us make the world a more compassionate place.

Karen Armstrong believes that while compassion is intrinsic in all human beings, each of us needs to work diligently to cultivate and expand our capacity for compassion. Here, in this straightforward, thoughtful, and thought-provoking book, she sets out a program that can lead us toward a more compassionate life.

The twelve steps Armstrong suggests begin with “Learn About Compassion” and close with “Love Your Enemies.” In between, she takes up “compassion for yourself,” mindfulness, suffering, sympathetic joy, the limits of our knowledge of others, and “concern for everybody.” She suggests concrete ways of enhancing our compassion and putting it into action in our everyday lives, and provides, as well, a reading list to encourage us to “hear one another’s narratives.” Throughout, Armstrong makes clear that a compassionate life is not a matter of only heart or mind but a deliberate and often life-altering commingling of the two.

Baker & Taylor
Shares practical recommendations for promoting world peace by cultivating one's intrinsic tendencies for compassion, outlining a program for achieving mindfulness and engaging in acts of kindness.

& Taylor

Taking as her starting point the teachings of the great world religions, Karen Armstrong demonstrates in twelve practical steps how we can bring compassion to the forefront of our lives. Armstrong argues that compassion is inseparable from humanity, and by transcending the limitations of selfishness on a daily basis we will not only make a difference in the world but also lead happier, more fulfilled, lives.
The award-winning author of A History of God shares practical recommendations for promoting world peace by cultivating one's intrinsic tendencies for compassion, outlining a program for achieving mindfulness and engaging in acts of kindness.

Publisher: New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 2010
ISBN: 9780307595591
Characteristics: 222 p. ; 20 cm


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Jan 15, 2015

Not what I expected and noticed it is classified as 'religious'. Nevertheless it is a good read and she uses specific historical examples from many religions support her steps to compassion. I am uninformed as to the subtleties of different religions so I found this a learning experience that was simple to understand. It may be my level of English but I found it a little wordy so I had to use a dictionary!

ibrahim795795 Jul 14, 2012

The overall message Armstrong is getting across is quite agreeable. I also like how Armstrong makes links to many different figures of a religious, social and educational perspective. However, I did not agree with the particular order in which she gave her ideas... But this was a small blemish in the grand scheme of the book. Ultimately I think this is an informative read and not too heavy.

Also, I won 2nd place at the national level for a competition which was on this book.

Aug 18, 2011

This book is a companion to the Charter for Compassion initiative, which author Karen Armstrong began after receiving a TED award (see The aim of the initiative and the book is to get everyone to follow the Golden Rule, which is a key doctrine in all major world religions. It can be expressed in two ways: treat others the way you want others to treat you, and don't treat others in a way that you wouldn't want to be treated yourself.

The book lays out twelve progressive reflections or steps on how to become more compassionate. Armstrong admits it's not easy and many of us may never complete all twelve steps. It involves reflection, meditation, and thinking twice before acting. And it requires action, but action that is compassionate and considerate towards others.

Like all Armstrong's work, it is well-written and very thoughtful. It stresses the commonality between belief systems and downplays the differences as insignificant. While I wholeheartedly agree with the basic premise, I'm not sure universal compassion is achievable, given human nature. And the work leaves some rather large unanswered questions. How does compassion factor into such activities as parenting, teaching, competitive sports, court trials, and other activities that, to greater or lesser degrees, involve some form of conflict or contest? To look at it another way, if we were all to become as compassionate as Jesus, or Buddha, or Gandhi, who all lived off the generosity of others, who would grow the food and make the objects that make life possible?

The book is good, but needs to examine more of the implications of living a compassionate life.

Jul 05, 2011

Drawing on multiple religious traditions, Armstrong gives some good practical suggestions for being more compassionate in our daily lives.

deb_winarski Mar 26, 2011

See Armstrong's presentation on this topic at the New York Public Library here:

debwalker Jan 09, 2011

Armstrong's 12 step program to a better world.

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