Author Karen Armstrong has called on people around the world to collaborate on the writing of a "Charter for Compassion" centered on the Golden Rule. She's hoping the effort will restore compassionate thinking and action in religious, moral and political life.
She's currently working with leaders from the Abrahamic faiths -- Islam, Christianity and Judaism -- to help finalize and propagate the charter.
"If we don't manage to implement the Golden Rule globally, so that we treat all peoples, wherever and whoever they may be, as though they were as important as ourselves, I doubt that we'll have a viable world to hand on to the next generation," Armstrong said during a TED Talk.
Armstrong joins Kerri Miller on The Daily Circuit Tuesday.
Video: Karen Armstrong unveils the Charter for Compassion
Compassion is a muscle; it takes work, but it's worth it.
Have you had an experience lately where you practiced compassion? Experienced compassion from others? What happened as a result of that?
Do we have a lack of compassion in our day to day lives?
Hello, I am the director of the public library library in Elbow Lake, MN ~ we recently were awarded a Building Common Ground grant from the American Library Assocation and the Fetzer Institute.
Our book club has recently read and discussed "Karen Armstrong's book "The Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life." There is a great deal of interest in this book by our community members.
@Gail - Did you hear any great stories from the book club?
I'm from Lake City, MN, where a local police officer was killed in the line of duty and his killer later killed himself.
During that day my husband and children were in lock down. When we were finally all together again and I revealed to my kids what had happened throughout the day , tears were obviously shed
What touched me most was my daughter's (8yrs) reaction to hearing that the killer had committed suicide. She wept heavily for him and his family. We had a really good talk about compassion and forgiveness that night.
It feels like to me, and especially in light of the presidential debates, that religion brings anything but compassion into the process. That saddens me. How do you explain that?
First of all Karen you are such an inspiration to me, thank you so much for being on the show!
I work in a temp position in an office setting as an administrative assistant. I truly do try to practice that compassion you speak of every day. I constantly feel that the environment I'm in is one of disrespect simply because of my age and position.
Do you have any advice for someone who is starting to feel bogged down by it all?
A few months ago, my family was in Chicago. The apartment we had rented was in city and every day we encountered homeless people.
One day, we were stopping off at Dunkin Donuts for a coffee and my kids were wondering why I ordered several breakfast sandwiches. We then proceeded to hand them out to people on the street. I told the man to have a hot breakfast. My kids told me that it was nice and another person walking behind me said it was beautiful to see such a random act of kindness. I bet she paid it forward.
I believe that having compassion goes further than just doing a good deed for someone.
A real measure of compassion for me is when I am able to withhold judgement about someone else's experience or situation but rather acknowledge the struggle in their problems and trying to put myself in their shoes.
In practising compassion I am able to avoid impatience and annoyance with other's shortcomings.
Twice over the last year I was confronted by acquaintances in crisis who needed multi hundred dollar assistance to cover rent/mortgage.
The first in May was a close friend who had bee
n out of work for some months, the second in Sept was a shock in that it was a grandmother aged coworker whose husband had been out of work long term.
I was able to help both out substantially and they are both now able to pay me back in installments w/o interest.
I believe the recent loss of compassion is related to the specific economic downturn and the general era of fiscal uncertainty - when your own future is insecure, you become less willing to assist in the welfare of others for fear that you could need to save that very same welfare for yourself. Compassion is a luxury of sorts, the most worthy one.
After a bad day, I look for people to express compassion to - clerks, cashiers. You'd be amazed at how healing that can be. #dailycircuit
Compassion is hard. This meditation makes it easier for me to have compassion for enemies.
"May I be secure, whole, healed, happy/grateful. After meditating on this for myself I focus on the same-for those who have hurt me and my enemies."
I think we all realized that we have a great deal of work to on practicing compassion. A group of people from with-in the book club has decided to take the journey of doing a 12 month study of book focusing on one step each month.
I found a couple of young people (2 young women and a young man) at my local store with their car broken down. They were 200 miles from home. I tried to get them help for the car.
I knew the store owner and cajoled him into letting them use thephone for free. I grabbed another customer I recognized and asked them to help me help them on the car. But alas, the car failed.
A universal theology is impossible, but a universal experience is not only possible but necessary. - ACIM
There are as many religions as there are people on the planet.
~ The Dalai Lama
My family and I experienced compassion and it wasn't based on need which I thought was extraordinary.
My wife, our two young boys, and I were out for Mother's day breakfast a few years ago. After breakfast the woman waiting next to me in line to pay insisted on buying our breakfast because she said she wanted to. I had my credit card, we had money so it wasn't because we needed it, it was because she said she wanted to to benefit our family on Mother's Day. As much as I insisted that she didn't need to do it, she insisted even stronger that she wanted to. It's an act I won't forget.
I should say that we welcome anyone to join this group who is interested~ we want to be as inclussive as possible.
I send anonymous supportive messages to people on tumblr. Extremely simple, fast and easy, but when I check back the people have almost always posted the message with a comment "Thank you! You made my day!" Sometimes it's the little things.
Please address empathy. Compassion cannot happen without empathy. It saddens meet that the President was vilified for using the term when introducing a supreme court nominee
It is incredibly depressing to me that we have lost all political compassion it seems.
All the Christian Conservatives out there seem more focused on controlling the way in which people act to fit into some imaginary moral society they have created in their minds.
This is depressing to me because the same people that preach the Bible as the word of truth are the ones that are ignoring its message completely in the political sphere.
I would be A-okay with religion in the public and political sphere as long as they follow God's teachings instead of attempting to satisfy their desires instead. This country would look a lot different if our politicians actually followed the scripture they preach so often.
"We are confronted primarily with a moral issue. The heart of the question is whether we are going to treat our fellow Americans as we want to be treated." -- John F. Kennedy
Back to the car story. I drove them home. 200 miles one way. I had to bring my groceies home first, but the poor girl was crying when I got back. They were so stranded. I drove with them for a few hours and learned that one girl was coming home from visiting her child at the neonatal ICU. They were good kids. I remember the date; it was the day the deepwater horizon exploded. It took me a tank of gas and 4 hours, and I doubt I'll ever see them again. But so? I made their life work that day.
In the province of connected minds, what the network believes to be true, either is true or becomes true within certain limits to be found experientially and experimentally. These limits are further beliefs to be transcended. In the network's mind there are no limits. However, that while there are no absolute limits in the province of the mind there are real and definite limits in the province of the body. - Dr. John C. Lilly, M.D.
The moment I heard my first love song I began searching for you, not knowing how blind I was. Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere; they are in each other all along. - Rumi
Be very careful about locating good or God, right or wrong, legal or illegal, at your favorite level of consciousness. - Timothy Leary
I use compassion as a practice in my role as a community organizer working for equality.
It is a challenge to remain compassionate in the face of the venom and hatred we are seeing directed toward LGBT youth and families.
I strive to sit with the emotion that arises in these situations, and to look for the fear and vulnerability behind the bravado of anger.
This is not easy as I have friends who have lost their lives to this type of fear and anger, and I myself have suffered injury. However, this practice helps me to remain connected to the person, sometimes even to hear what they are saying and share in a dialogue. When that's not possible, I am at least able to remain open hearted to the other person as well as to myself.
All life is interrelated. We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied into a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.This is the interrelated structure of reality.
-Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
There is no Devil, just God when He's drunk.
- Tom Waits
"One of the most enigmatic of all transpersonal phenomena is the experience of the Void [...] This absolute emptiness is simultaneously pregnant with all of existence since it contains everything in a potential form."
Stanislav Grof The Holotropic Mind
We have a quote-off going on here...
I work for an agency which provides help to people who are in need. My co-workers and I use compassion every day with our clients. So my question is, how do we continue to use compassion without becoming desensitized to the needs of people? I worry about burn-out on the job.
One of my disappointments about compassion is how often compassion is viewed as "weakness" in the workplace.
When I'm feeling particularly ornery walking through the Skyways and run across someone who's different from me or unattractive to me, I say to myself, "Child of God." Every once in awhile this leads to some small act of compassion.
My family has recently gone through an episode where we were affected by a criminal'sl actions.
At first I was angry, but as I thought about the criminal and the kind of life that might have lead him to commit this crime, I was able to feel compassion for him and to let go of any anger I might have had.
I feel that doing this was essential for healing my own mind.
Lost, cold and nearly broke in Germany. Heading back home. Local police man, Kurt Logvitz, put me up for the night with his family. Fed me and got me on the train to Luxembourg the next day. 1973 Wow
i just want to comment that compassion and empathy are not exclusive to religion or the religious.
They are human emotions and ignoring them or acting on them for most people is a choice. i think it is dangerous to think that any group or religion has more human feelings or emotion than people who do not follow a religion. Also, I think it is interesting to think about when compassion and empathy begins in a person, or when we are aware that what we do affects other people.
A good college friend of mine had a beautiful and innocent idea: "The Guerilla Samaritans" - A small group of friends who would recognize kind acts that took place by anonymously performing kind acts in return (ex. delivering something on their doorstep with a note signed -Guerilla Samaritans)
If you want to see compassion, go to a 12 step meeting. Compassion is at the heart
"What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have not yet been discovered." - Ralph Waldo Emerson
"Compassion is not weakness and concern for the unfortunate is not socialism."
What of self compassion? Oftentimes we can find it easier to have compassion for others than for ourselves.
On the other end of the spectrum, we see the popularity of Ayn Rand, who said "If any civilization is to survive, it is the morality of altruism that men have to reject."
Hi, Love the new Circuit. I would like to hear a program about Freedom FROM religion.
May we awaken within this dream and grasp the fact that we are dreaming so that all dreamlike beings may likewise awaken from the nightmare of illusory suffering and confusion.
(a Tibetan Dream Yoga Prayer)
Ditto to Carolyn - that would be a fascinating discussion.
@Drew An outstanding idea. Even if unsigned, though there is the satisfaction to be had from having done something as part of a movement for the good.
Self compassion is the start, we need to know how we really feel/think in our Heartmind. Mindfulness and loving-kindness meditation is a daily key.
I love this topic. We do not need religion to develop more compassion.
Superfluous wealth can buy superfluities only. Money is not required to buy one necessary of the soul.
I loved Karen's comment that we are addicted to our likes and dislikes.
Facebook (and its oversimplified realm of likes and dislikes) aside, I've always felt driven by what I call "goads"--those people who exemplify everything I hope not to be in certain areas of my life. This is clearly an unhealthy stance, but it has spurred me to work harder to maintain a world of standards I can admire and respect.
I wish the Daily Circuit would take this as a jumping off point and try to have some conversations that get past the argumentative "dialogue" she referenced at the beginning of the conversation-- find people of opposing viewpoints who are actually willing to LISTEN to one another and find common ground -- don't just replicate the national conversation -- CHANGE IT!
"compassion is out of kilter with our world." Karen Armstrong on #dailycircuit
Never, in the whole history of the human condition, has so much time, money and effort been spent on improving the lives of the least fortunate amongst us. Thank you, Capitalism.
As a yoga therapist in Atlanta, GA, I experience a form of focused act of listening and bearing witness to clients allows me to see how my own stuff shows up. It is a daily practice to show up and be willling to notice how conflicts within each of us blocks our ability to give and receive compassion!
I so enjoyed listening to your program on compassion as I was out running a noon-time errand today.
I have experienced compassion many times in my life. One instance that stands out occurred a few years ago, when my husband and I and our two young children moved abroad. We had only lived in the Netherlands for a couple of weeks and I was literally navigating my way through their culture and streets.
On this day, my toddler in a stroller and I had picked the least-direct form of public transporation to pick up my four year old son from school. I had left the house in a hurry, without sufficient snacks, milk or books for the trip.
The trip involved both a bus and a tram. The trip involved extreme changes in weather that day, from incredible heat to a cold wind.
My children were complaining or crying and I felt like a miserable example of a mother. I was also obviously a foreigner, speaking to my children in English. The only thing I seemed to share in common with many of the elderly Dutch women on the bus was a dependence on public transportation.
As I struggled with my stroller, exiting the tram, my son tripped and fell on the platform. He was crying, my daughter was crying. My son's jacket fell to the ground and he was cold and hungry. I was nearly in tears myself, as we still had to wait for another tram! Suddenly, we were surrounded by a group of the white-haired Dutch ladies. Without a word, they picked up my son, helped him with his jacket, then reached into their shopping bags and handed my children krentenbollen, Dutch raisin buns, which they eagerly gobbled down.
I did my best to express my gratitude in the little Dutch that I knew at that time. It was a humbling experience. I think of those women every time I see any parent struggling with their children, but especially when I see immigrant parents, trying to navigate their way in a foreign culture. I know what it is to feel lost and helpless and to receive the compassion of strangers.
I'll never forget those women and I hope that I've managed to repay their kindness and will continue to try to do so.
Karen Armstrong speaks of compassion in terms of the Twelve Steps, but Alcoholics Anonymous teaches us to not stand between the alcoholic and the consequences of his or her actions.
If we intercede to "help", we rob them of the opportunity to learn from their mistakes. Sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind; that's old wisdom too. Sometimes food aid goes to prop up dictatorial regimes, or suppresses the local farmers ability to make a living. Yes, this line of thinking can be used as an excuse to not get involved, but compassion, like any other human drive, can be dangerous unless it is balanced with reason.
Is there an archive of this program?? There was a great quote that Karen quoted that I was hoping to write down?
Ed note: Yep. Listen here.