Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life – Reading

The following responsive reading was shared in the service; the remaining texts were largely stories and tales from the world’s religions. For more information about the book the service was based on, check it out here: Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life by Karen Armstrong.

The demands of compassion are daunting – how do we start?

We start step by step.

Step 1, Learn about Compassion. In the words of the Jewish sage Hillel,

What is hateful to yourself, do not to your fellow man. That is the whole of the Torah. The rest is but commentary.

Step 2, Look at your own world. In the words of Confucian philosopher Xun Zi,

Every man or woman in the street can become a force for good.

Step 3, Have compassion for yourself. As the Buddha said,

You can search throughout the universe for someone more deserving of your love than you are yourself, but that person is not to be found anywhere.

Step 4, Have Empathy for Others. As English poet William Blake wrote,

Can I see another’s woe, and not be in my sorrow too? Can I see another’s grief, and not seek for kind relief?

Step 5, Practice Mindfulness. As American author Henry David Thoreau wrote,

It’s not enough to be busy; so are the ants. The question is: what are we busy about?

Step 6, Take Action. In the words of Catholic sister and missionary Mother Theresa,

Love has to be put into action, and that action is service.

Step 7, Recognize and appreciate how little we know. As Zen monk Shunryu Suzuki said,

In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities; in the expert’s mind there are few.

Step 8, Check how we should speak to one another. The Buddha taught,

A person who loves the self should not harm the self of others.

Step 9, Have concern for everybody. As Confucius wrote,

You want to turn your merits to account; then help others turn theirs to account.

Step 10, Acquire Knowledge. As American jurist Oliver Wendell Holmes said,

The mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions.

Step 11, See the Other. As Paul wrote in his letter to the Hebrews,

Let brotherly love continue. Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.

Step 12, Love your enemies. In the words of American president Abraham Lincoln,

Do I not destroy my enemies by turning them into my friends?



(Brunch Book Group members: Irene Stewart, Ginny Cornell, Laurie Rodger, Laurie Ullmann, Liz Morrison, Donya VanBuren, Pastor Kimberley Debus)


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