If you’d like to share a post about what you learned about compassion (The First Step), what you’re seeing in your world (The Second Step), self-compassion (The Third Step), empathy (The Fourth Step), mindfulness (The Fifth Step), action (The Sixth Step), how little we know (The Seventh Step), how to speak to one another (The Eighth Step), or concern for everybody (The Ninth Step) use the link list below. Or join the discussion in the comments or on Facebook.
New month, new chapter. The Ninth Step is “Concern for Everybody.”
Some religious traditions are more pluralistic than others, but all have at least one strand that insists that we cannot confine our compassion to our own group: we must also reach out in some way to the stranger and the foreigner–even to the enemy. p. 143
As I discovered when re-reading the Gospels earlier this year, those strands are broad in the Christian tradition.
If we continue to make our national interest an absolute value, to see our cultural heritage and way of life as supreme, and to regard outsiders and foreigners with suspicion and neglect their interests, the interconnected global society we have created will not be viable. After the world wars, genocide, and terrorism of the twentieth century, the purpose of the tribe or the nation can no longer be to fight, dominate, exploit, conquer, colonize, occupy, kill, convert, or terrorize rival groups. We have a duty to get to know one another, and to cultivate a concern and responsibility for all our neighbors in the global village. p. 144
And, there’s a self-interest underneath all of that — an act against others will come back to haunt us in our inter-connected world.
In the global economy and the electronic age, national boundaries are becoming increasingly irrelevant; we can no longer simply draw a line in the sand between “us” and “them.” War has an adverse effect on the financial markets; hundreds of thousands of civilians are likely to be killed; and the spectacle of their suffering is likely to inspire further terrorist atrocities, so if we harm our neighbors, we also inflict damage on our ourselves. p. 145
Karen Armstrong seems to be arguing that we’re a global species and there’s no turning back now. Compassion is the only way we can operate without bringing the whole system down. Reading this chapter, I’m not so worried about my own ability to learn about and appreciate the foreigner, but how do I convince my fellow country men and women to do the same? And, in a compassionate way? How do I convince people in other countries whose language I don’t speak and traditions I don’t share and who might have good reason to distrust me?
Armstrong points out that our cultures, nations, and religious traditions have changed dramatically over time and, even, in my lifetime. We think more intelligently and creatively when we let go of defensiveness. Gratitude and love increase our horizons and make more things possible. And, I was raised in a religious tradition that believes that “with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26.