Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life by Karen Armstrong

A process for developing personal compassion to engage in compassionate community for a more compassionate world

Welcome to Compassionate Sunday. We’re working through Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life by Karen Armstrong, one step per month.

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), concern for everybody (The Ninth Step), knowledge (The Tenth Step), recognition (The Eleventh Step), or loving your enemies (The Twelfth Step) use the link list below. Or join the discussion in the comments or on Facebook.

The Twelfth Step asks us to take steps to love our enemies.

But what does “love” entail? Now that we have reached the twelfth step, we know that compassion cannot simply be a matter of sentiment or emotional tenderness. p. 183

That’s good, actually, emotional tenderness doesn’t feel achievable. Amstrong describes love that puts our short-term interests behind the greater good for all — “everybody’s voice is heard and everybody’s aspirations are taken seriously.” In the long term, that will be in the best interests of all of us.

She adds another person to the Empathy Meditation, the one where we direct friendship, compassion, joy, and even-mindedness to others. Besides sending those things toward myself, someone I like, and someone I don’t like, now I’m to direct those good things toward…

…an “Enemy” with a  capital E, something or someone that seems to threaten your survival and everything you stand for. p. 184.

The other assignment Armstrong gives in this chapter builds on the Tenth Step: Knowledge. In that chapter, we were asked to study about another country that we found appealing. I chose Britain, natch. Now, she asks us to learn, in the same way, about a person or country or religion that we consider an enemy.

So, that brings me to a question that I didn’t think was going to be so hard to answer. Who is my Enemy with a capital E? The answer is less obvious to me than it was a few months ago and I’m not getting much help from Armstrong, here. So, that’s a question that I’ll muddle through in next week’s post.


Practices for Loving Enemies #CompassionateSunday — 2 Comments

    • Yeah. That’s where I’m struggling. I want to say “Trump supporters” are my enemy. But, when I think it through, I think it’s Trump and the 1% and an oligarchy that’s deliberately pitting Americans against each other. But, a)that feels like conspiracy theory which I’m in the habit of discarding and b)I’m not sure where the compassion opportunity is in that scenario.

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