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Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life by…
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Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life (edition 1969)

by Karen Armstrong

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7891721,115 (3.85)11
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.… (more)
Member:BKEPUB
Title:Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life
Authors:Karen Armstrong
Info:Knopf
Collections:Your library
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Tags:Non-Fiction, Spirituality, Religion, Philosophy, Self Help, Inspirational

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Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life by Karen Armstrong

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One of the most original thinkers on the role of religion in the modern world—author of such acclaimed books as A 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. ( )
  jepeters333 | May 15, 2020 |
Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life by Karen Armstrong is most pertinent for the 21st century. Armstrong uses the Golden Rule as the foundation of her discourse on what it means to live compassionately. She envisions twelve steps, but thought that such an approach to one’s life could take a life time. In the introductory remarks to the text readers are introduced to the major faith traditions and their concepts based on compassion.
Later Armstrong weaves these steps carefully by explaining what people ought to do to benefit from them. At each step readers are presented with a discussion about how to use each proposal. These compassionate goals are carefully calibrated, and based on the teachings of the major religions. Although every goal could stand alone, Armstrong though was able to integrate the goals of each proceeding affirmation with her explanations that followed.
This book as a true gift was able to relate each topic to the contemporary issues of the day. Armstrong recognized all of us have problems with which we are struggling. She explained further how important it was for us to transcend the thinking about ourselves and tribe. She wrote that people should reach out to the good and bad alike. We should treat others the way we would like to be treated. This dictum should also include our enemies who are suffering just like us.
Armstrong’s work was formulated like that of the Twelve Steps Program for Alcohol Anonymous. Her vision of compassion grew out of her TED talk in 2008 on compassion for which she won a $100,000 prize. This achievement led her to focus her thinking as a religious historian and interfaith advocate in the promulgation of the Golden Rule and compassionate living in the world. ( )
  erwinkennythomas | Oct 29, 2019 |
While I finished the text, I have no doubt that I will be re-reading this. None of these ideas are anything I have not heard before, but I really appreciate the way Armstrong presents the language in an ever-expanding circle starting from the self and moving to the world. ( )
1 vote slmr4242 | Oct 16, 2019 |
Ethics > Philanthropy - Humanity > Philosophy and Psychology > Social Ethics
  FHQuakers | Feb 12, 2018 |
I liked this book, but I'd hoped to love it. Perhaps I didn't spend enough time with it...of course, I didn't do the prescribed exercises...does anyone really do them all? Lovely ideas here, but I think I've lived in macho-posturing Texas too long to have any real hope that compassion will take hold of our people. I will press on with the exercises; one must try. ( )
  debnance | Feb 21, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 17 (next | show all)
Armstrong’s 12-step process attempts to peel away the fetters of the ego and enlarge our sympathetic capacity. For her, when we go beyond our likes and dislikes, our sense of self grows and our perspective fans out. Her commitment to this end is so fierce that long-time Armstrong fans may bridle at her direct instruction. But her goal is sure. Compassion for her is not simply warm-heartedness; it is energetic.
 
I would bear all this with a better grace if she were at least a lively writer but, to be brutally frank, her style sets my teeth on edge. Certain favoured sentimental words recur with maddening regularity, and feel like bossy little tugs on the sleeve – “see things this way”: “spiritual”, “deep”, “profound”, “mystery”, “transcendent” – one begins to loathe the sight of them. This is inseparable from her rigorous avoidance of humour, wit or irony, her immovable earnestness, her sincerity. I agree with her that compassion is an important value, but it is not incompatible with lightness of touch.
 
But is she correct in suggesting that, au fond, the essence of the main religions boils down to compassion? It is probably correct where Buddhism is concerned and it is from Buddhism that her best insights and examples come. I think she is on shakier ground when she applies it to Christianity and Islam. Christianity and Islam are redemption religions, not wisdom religions. They exist to secure life in the world to come for their followers and any guidance they offer on living in this world is always with a view to its impact on the next.

This radically compromises the purity of their compassion agenda. Let me offer one example to prove my point. At a meeting of primates of the Anglican communion, I was accused by one archbishop of filling Hell with homosexuals, because I was giving them permission to commit acts that would guarantee them an eternity of punishment, for no sodomite can enter Heaven. My worldly compassion for gay people, my campaign to furnish them with the same sexual rights as straight people, was actually a kind of cruelty. The price of their fleeting pleasures in this world would be an eternity of punishment in the next.
 
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In November 2007, I heard that I had won a prize.  (Preface)
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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.

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