I don’t promote a book I haven’t read, which means this post is an anomaly because this Ted.com post about Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life by Karen Armstrong may be a book I can say, “My memoir is like… but it’s different because…” which is really important when pitching a book.
I’m fascinated by this quote in the interview:
People are hungry to understand what compassion means and how to go about practicing it. But simply deciding to become compassionate is too daunting. Meanwhile, we’re so uneducated about compassion. It’s often just equated with pity. But the word “compassion” means to feel or experience with the other person – to put yourself consistently in other another’s shoes. We have to feel and take responsibility for the well-being of others, whoever they are.
“We have to feel and take responsibility for the well-being of others, whoever they are.”
And people don’t know this? This awareness was a primary requirement in my childhood and yet today I learned I need to follow a 12 step process. I would have bought the Kindle version of this book if it was available for $2.99 but it is not. So maybe I’ll check it out at the library someday for free.
I’m always interested in how complicated the process can be to fight our way out of a paper bag when all we have is a flashlight and a pair of scissors.
In my childhood, this personal awareness of responsibility for the well being of others was fact but also has another level. Both of my parents were clear (and strong!) in their message: We have to take responsibility for our own well being so what we do for others is a benefit to both of us.
My dad clearly told me one day, when I was a teen, that he has to take care of his health and his personal happiness or he would be of no benefit to my mom. (She was a polio quadriplegic. ) Mom clearly told me one day, when I was a teen, that she had to make sure Dad did not give up those things that made him happy because of her care. The teen years are volatile but I remember being delighted that being the happiest me was the way to be the greatest benefit to others and myself.
“… it’s important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we are talking with each other in a way that heals, not a way that wounds.”
That is a call for us to understand compassion. Until today I hadn’t considered it was a daunting personal project. To me it’s always been a simple choice to be the best I can be so I can be a benefit to myself and others. Yes, it requires a lot of work and dedication and consistent intent. Yes, it is a daily choice. It’s also fascinating and fun.
One truth I’ve learned in 5 decades on this planet is there’s little point in being daunted by a simple choice. Learn to be compassionate.
Is there a reason to choose the alternative? If you’ve got one, please share, I’d love to know.