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35 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bringing Compassion back to the heart of life for a better world, 11 Jan. 2011
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This review is from: Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life (Paperback)
Never before has compassion in religion been so sorely needed, we are reminded by this one time Roman Catholic nun, best selling religious historian and passionate campaigner for religious liberty. It would be difficult to disagree with this statement. But this is a book not just for the faithful religious. As she quotes the Dalai Lama as saying in his Ethics for the New Millennium (New York, 1999), p. 19: "whether a person is a religious believer does not matter much. Far more important is that they be a good human being."
And this book sets out to help us all be just that.
The book starts with a promotion of the Charter for Compassion, the brainchild of Armstrong, created and launched by her in 2009 with the help of TED (Technology Entertainment and Design known for its "Ideas Worth Spreading" conferences - and if you are not familiar with TED you should rectify that straightaway!). The Charter's aim is to bring compassion back to the heart of moral and religious life, and in involving the major faiths in its creation the Charter demonstrates that despite their differences the religions can work together for justice and peace. The Charter thus counters the voices of extremism, intolerance and hatred.
We are all invited to sign up to this Charter, to pledge our selves to a compassionate way of life, (although again this does not insist on us being religious, just compassionate) and this book is here to help us achieve this, to help us to translate the Charter into practical and realistic action across the globe.
The book is a self-help book that is very far from the self-interest genre that justifiably comes in for some criticism. This is a book to help save the world by healing our own behaviour, an idea very close to my own heart, as expressed in my own book, Healing This Wounded Earth: with Compassion, Spirit and the Power of Hope. As Armstrong points out, and as I have done before her, responsibility for this broken world has to start with the individual. We cannot expect our leaders to adopt humane and compassionate policies unless we change ourselves.
As given away in the title, this book is written along the lines of the Alcoholics Anonymous 12 point plan, and if we follow the steps carefully and diligently we will surely be able to modify our behaviour and the world will become a better more compassionate place. And we will certainly be happier. Armstrong has no illusions that this will be easy - it will be a lifelong process for us, as we will have to struggle all the way against self hatred and discouragement. But the steps are well explained, and supported with plenty of background information and encouragement at each stage. I was not absolutely sure about her explanations in the Preface of the evolution of the human brain - they may be viewed by the scientifically inclined as perhaps being a little too simplistic, but I do not think this matters to the overall theme. Suffice to say that it seems we may be hard wired for compassion as well as for cruelty and that is encouraging!
I heartily recommend the twelve-step process she outlines - to aspire to become truly compassionate persons. It is not, she assures us, beyond our capacity, but our vital work is indeed just beginning when we get to the last page of the book.
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Location: London UK

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