In her book Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life, Karen Armstrong remembers six kind words that were spoken to her when she was 20 and tells how she frequently has recalled them at particularly bleak moments in her life.
Armstrong and a group of leaders from six faith traditions—Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and Confucianism—have written a Charter for Compassion. The charter declares that “compassion lies at the heart of all religious, ethical and spiritual traditions.” And, it says that we are called “always to treat all others as we wish to be treated ourselves.”
In her book, Armstrong urges us to be kinder and more compassionate.
- First, resolve each day to act once in accordance with the positive version of the Golden Rule: ‘Treat others as you would wish to be treated yourself.” For example, you could call an elderly relative or listen to a colleague who is feeling anxious or depressed.
- Second, resolve each day to fulfill the negative version of the Golden Rule: “Do not do to others what you would not like them to do to you.” Stop yourself before you make that “brilliantly wounding remark.”
- Third, make an effort once a day to change your thought patterns. If you find yourself angry or resentful, “try to channel all that negative energy into a more kindly direction,” Armstrong says.
At the end of the day, if you remember that you have behaved unkindly and inconsiderately, she stresses, “have compassion for yourself, smile wryly at your omission and resolve to do better tomorrow.”
We talked about Armstrong’s suggestion that we all need to be more compassionate toward ourselves in our last blog post. You can find more about the Charter for Compassion at www.charterforcompassion.org.