Leading an Ethical Life Chapter

Leading an Ethical Life Grassroots Wisdom Book by Charter for Compassion
Index for Leading an Ethical Life

Page 1 - GoldenRuleism

Page 2 - Fiction as a Tool for Empathy

Page 3 - Seeing Others Fully

Page 4 - Beyond the Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life


Through the generosity of Craig Cline, a friend of CfC, we offer the world an updated version of the Golden Rule called GoldenRuleism. It reads:

“Do for all others, both directly and indirectly, what you would want done for you. Don’t do to any others, either directly or indirectly, what you wouldn’t want done to you.” 

Most versions of the Golden Rule are easy to remember and to repeat but they are often harder to practice. Yet that's what it takes - daily practice. Imagine for a minute how different our world would be if everyone practiced GoldenRuleism. 

GoldenRuleism rises from the expanded application of the moral and ethical precepts that are both religious and secular. Although the Golden Rule is found in most of the world’s major religions, it predates all sacred texts. Anyone can choose to live by it. Our Number One Rule has universal applicability. Simply said, when we choose to live our lives in accord with the intent of the Golden Rule, we adopt sets of morals and ethics to guide us. 


  • Pledge to live by and practice the Golden Rule / GoldenRuleism 
  • Make time each day to brighten someone's day or to lighten their load in some way
  • Notice and acknowledge when someone else is being kind, helpful, generous, and caring
  • When needed, call out the harmful actions of others
  • Download a PDF of the GoldenRuleism booklet here! 

 Fiction as a Tool for Empathy

It's heart-warming when stories surface from talks and readings with book clubs.  In his book,  Stolen Focus: Why You Can't Pay Attention--and How to Think Deeply Again, author Johann Hari talks about a professor of psychology at the University of Toronto, Raymond Mar, who studies the impact reading has on our consciousness. With his mentor, he did a three-state process to measure how good readers were at capturing the subtle signals that reveal another person's emotional state and the ability to read social cues. When they got their results, it was clear: the more novels you read, the better you are at reading other people's emotions. Reading non-fiction books, by contrast, had no effect on your empathy.

Now consider this: between 2008 and 2016, the market for novels fell by 40 percent.  In one year, 2011 paperback fiction sales collapsed by 26 percent.

There are very few books on interracial friendship, but all kinds of non-fiction books about anti-racism to engage our intellect. What then happens to our hearts?

I humbly invite you to read my work. Perhaps it might spark some interesting dialogue in your own community. In this era of Zoom, I can easily join you anywhere around the country/world to talk about its themes which include:

  • What it means to honor—and find reciprocity—in a relationship with someone whose ancestors and family live with historical trauma and marginalization
  • The day-to-day things that allow women to deepen their friendship, born on a Twin Cities college campus
  • How our historical blindness to suffering still impacts and hurts both descendants of people who were enslaved and whites today
  • The challenges current teachers-in-training face as they piece together our authentic cultural history
  • How this blindness leads to the sanctioned incarceration of innocent and caring people
  • What it means to have a friendship before cell phones and racial justice terminology such as white privilege


It would bring me joy to help surface these dialogues in your own community.

This contribution was written by Kate Towle, author of Sweet Burden of Crossing. The article first appeared in Community Weavers, an organization who believes deep relationships can transform communities, our lives, and our world.

Sweet Burden of Crossing

Seeing Others Fully


What does it mean to know someone? To truly see someone beneath the surface and know them fully? 

David Brooks, founder of the Weavers recently spoke at the Aspen Ideas Festival on how to build trust in this age of distrust. He explored what it takes to see someone fully and offered three qualities we can cultivate to help us get to know others deeply:

  1. Illuminationism — This is the quality of beaming full and loving attention to someone. If we consider everyone we meet as a soul with infinite value and dignity, we move from egotistical attention, thinking mainly of ourselves, to offering someone attention that’s full of care and respect.
  2. Accompaniment — This is about how we walk with others through life. Like with accompanying someone in music, our aim should be how we can make the singer sound more beautiful.
  3. Conversation — Research shows trying to know someone by “walking a mile in their shoes” doesn’t work. We must ask open-ended questions, listen with full attention, engage, and offer affirmation.

Watch this 10 minute video clip
as David explains how to cultivate these qualities.



Beyond the Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life

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It takes courage for a religious historian and writer of Armstrong’s stature to step out from behind the scrim of scholarship and analysis to offer guidelines for a spiritual practice designed to make humanity a kinder and saner species. With the boon of the prestigious TED Prize, Armstrong (The Case for God, 2009) worked with “leading thinkers from a variety of major faiths” to compose a Charter for Compassion, which calls for the restoration of “compassion to the heart of religious and moral life” in a “dangerously polarized” world.

Not content with merely stating lofty goals, however, Armstrong, a revered genius of elucidation and synthesis, now tells the full and profound story of altruism throughout human history. She turns to neuroscience and tracks the evolution of our brains and our natural capacity for empathy and performs her signature mode of beautifully clarifying interpretation in a mind-expanding discussion of the history of the Golden Rule (“Always treat others as you would wish to be treated yourself”), the essence of compassion and the kernel of every religious tradition.

Exquisite and affecting explications of Buddhist, Confucian, Judaic, Christian and Islamic commentary prepare the ground for meditation exercises meant to engender “open-mindedness” and the cultivation of compassion, making for the most sagacious and far-reaching 12-step program ever.

Use this Study Guide to the Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life as a book club discussion guide or as a road map for becoming a compassionate human being in a lifelong project and a journey filled with rewards.


  • The First Step: Learn About Compassion 
  • The Second Step: Look at Your Own World
  • The Third Step: Compassion for Yourself
  • The Fourth Step: Empathy
  • The Fifth Step: Mindfulness
  • The Sixth Step: Action
  • The Seventh Step: How Little We Know
  • The Eighth Step: How Should We Speak to One Another?
  • The Ninth Step: Concern for Everybody
  • The Tenth Step: Knowledge
  • The Eleventh Step: Recognition
  • The Twelfth Step: Love Your Enemies


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