top of page

Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life by Karen Armstrong

2010, Alfred A. Knopf

Karen Armstrong, scholar and former nun, established an international Charter for Compassion with prize money she won from a TED event. Crafted in collaboration with leading Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist thinkers, and the public, the charter begins:

The principle of compassion lies at the heart of all religious, ethical and spiritual traditions, calling us always to treat all others as we wish to be treated ourselves.

Read the full text here.

Here are Armstrong's 12 steps to a compassionate life, summed up in few words.

1 Learn about compassion

2 Look at your own world

3 Have compassion for yourself

4 Have empathy

5 Be mindful

6 Take action

7 Realise how little you know

8 Be aware of how you speak and listen to others

9 Be concerned for everybody

10 Gain knowledge

11 Recognise yourself in others

12 Love your enemies



The basic message of the Qur'an is that it is wrong to build a private fortune but good to share your wealth fairly to create a just and decent society where poor vulnerable people are treated with respect. "Not one of you can be a believer, unless he desires for his neighbour what he desires for himself." -Muhammad (p 59)


"Every fundamentalist movement that I have studied in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam is rooted in a profound fear of annihilation; and each one began with what was perceived to be an assault by the liberal or secular establishment...Instead of ridiculing fundamentalist mythology, we should reflect seriously on the fact that it often expresses anxieties that no society can safely ignore." (p 137)

Be concerned for everybody

"If a stranger lives with you in your land do not molest him. You must count him as one of your own countrymen and love him as yourself - for you were once strangers yourselves in Egypt."

- from the biblical book of Leviticus, early law code (p 147)

Buddhist poem (Sutta Nipata 1.8)

May all beings be happy!

Whatever living creatures there are with not a one left out—frail or firm, long or large, medium, small, tiny or round, visible or invisible, living far or near, those born or to be born—may all beings be happy!

Let none turn from another, nor look down on anyone anywhere. Though provoked or aggrieved, let them not wish pain on each other.

Even as a mother would protect with her life her child, her only child, so too for all creatures unfold a boundless heart.

With love for the whole world, unfold a boundless heart: above, below, all round, unconstricted, without enemy or foe.

When standing, walking, sitting, or lying down while yet unweary, keep this ever in mind; for this is the noblest way of life.

(p. 163) and here.

Love your enemies

"We have to try to look carefully and deeply into our own hearts and thus learn to see the sorrow of our enemy. The Greeks were a warlike people, but they understood this." (p 188 )


The Persians, Aeschylus.

19 views2 comments

Recent Posts

See All

2 Kommentare

18. Jan. 2023

I’ve always believed that at the core, all religions are so much more similar than they are different. How wonderful would it be if more people were able to recognize that reality and truly respect people of a different faith.

Gefällt mir

15. Dez. 2022

I love this post.

Gefällt mir
bottom of page