Step 10, Part 2~ by Sara Neall
The book The Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life, is an active guide to develop compassion towards self and towards others. Each step requires us to dig deep into our own hearts and minds in order to build the world in which we want to live. Step 10, knowledge, challenges us to examine our own prejudices in order to learn about the world and each other with heartfelt curiosity.
In this step, Armstrong asks each of us to, “overcome the limitations of the unexamined life and the dangers of habitual tribal thinking”(p.162) in order to, “develop a wider, more panoptic knowledge and understanding of our neighbors.”(p.156) When she wrote this step, it was with the intention that ‘our neighbors’ were countries away. She held a global view. I write this with a national view. It seems timely and necessary.
In these last few weeks before the election we are all too familiar with what “habitual tribal thinking” feels like and sounds like. We share our opinions on politics to our like minded friends and shutter in disbelief at those who don’t agree. As things get louder and more confusing we naturally get more entrenched in our own views. The more frightened we get, the more we seek comfort and safety from our tribe.
However, deep compassion requires knowledge of the ’other’. It takes a courageous look at our own entrenched beliefs. It “presupposes an awareness of [our own] preconceptions, attachments and blind spots that can cloud our understanding.” (p.158) It seeks an “objective overview that sees the situation as a whole.” (p.158)
In this contentious election cycle, I know from the yard signs along my street that my next door neighbors and I hold opposing political views. In moments of fear and of righteousness, I have been tempted to dismiss them as ‘other.’ And then …they email to ask about my dog, they wave as they head off to work, they take time to chat as I take the garbage out. I am continually reminded that they care about our community just as much as I do.
The knowledge that builds deep compassion, asks questions and listens deeply. It reaches out and it remembers that we are more alike than we are different. Deep compassion challenges us, as Sister Henrita wrote in Step 10 – Part 1, “to realize and continue on a way of love and join others on the journey of love.”