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Twelve Steps to A Compassionate Life

Armstrong, Karen

Book - 2011
Average Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5.
Twelve Steps to A Compassionate Life
Taking as her starting point the teachings of the great world religions, Karen Armstrong demonstrates in twelve practical steps how we can bring compassion to the forefront of our lives. Armstrong argues that compassion is inseparable from humanity, and by transcending the limitations of selfishness on a daily basis we will not only make a difference in the world but also lead happier, more fulfilled, lives.

Publisher: New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 2011, c2010
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 0307595595
Characteristics: 222 p. ;,20 cm


From Library Staff

Shares practical recommendations for promoting world peace by cultivating one's intrinsic tendencies for compassion, outlining a program for achieving mindfulness and engaging in acts of kindness.

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Jan 15, 2015
  • dustbear rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

Not what I expected and noticed it is classified as 'religious'. Nevertheless it is a good read and she uses specific historical examples from many religions support her steps to compassion. I am uninformed as to the subtleties of different religions so I found this a learning experience that was simple to understand. It may be my level of English but I found it a little wordy so I had to use a dictionary!

Jul 14, 2012

The overall message Armstrong is getting across is quite agreeable. I also like how Armstrong makes links to many different figures of a religious, social and educational perspective. However, I did not agree with the particular order in which she gave her ideas... But this was a small blemish in the grand scheme of the book. Ultimately I think this is an informative read and not too heavy.

Also, I won 2nd place at the national level for a competition which was on this book.

May 02, 2012
  • 4thcorner rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

Excellent background and practical ideas for moving toward living more compassionate lives. Brings together common threads from various major religious traditions, from hindu to islam (excluding agnosticism and atheism, which is a weakness). Armstrong is serious about getting more people to not just talk about compassion, but to become more compassionate. This book is designed for group as well as individual work. Highly recommend.

Aug 18, 2011
  • jmikesmith rated this: 3 stars out of 5.

This book is a companion to the Charter for Compassion initiative, which author Karen Armstrong began after receiving a TED award (see The aim of the initiative and the book is to get everyone to follow the Golden Rule, which is a key doctrine in all major world religions. It can be expressed in two ways: treat others the way you want others to treat you, and don't treat others in a way that you wouldn't want to be treated yourself.

The book lays out twelve progressive reflections or steps on how to become more compassionate. Armstrong admits it's not easy and many of us may never complete all twelve steps. It involves reflection, meditation, and thinking twice before acting. And it requires action, but action that is compassionate and considerate towards others.

Like all Armstrong's work, it is well-written and very thoughtful. It stresses the commonality between belief systems and downplays the differences as insignificant. While I wholeheartedly agree with the basic premise, I'm not sure universal compassion is achievable, given human nature. And the work leaves some rather large unanswered questions. How does compassion factor into such activities as parenting, teaching, competitive sports, court trials, and other activities that, to greater or lesser degrees, involve some form of conflict or contest? To look at it another way, if we were all to become as compassionate as Jesus, or Buddha, or Gandhi, who all lived off the generosity of others, who would grow the food and make the objects that make life possible?

The book is good, but needs to examine more of the implications of living a compassionate life.

Jul 05, 2011
  • GummiGirl rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

Drawing on multiple religious traditions, Armstrong gives some good practical suggestions for being more compassionate in our daily lives.

Mar 26, 2011

See Armstrong's presentation on this topic at the New York Public Library here:

Jan 09, 2011

Armstrong's 12 step program to a better world.


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