00000-arc-of-history5In his 1859 classic, A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens compared life in Paris and London before and during the French Revolution when he wrote “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”  And if you look at the history of humankind at any time – particularly when we’ve made tectonic global transitions: the Agrarian Age, the Industrial Revolution, and now the Digital Revolution – you also see the best and worst simultaneously.

There always have been opposing forces: “dark” (e.g.: nationalism, tribalism, fear and hatred of “the other”) vs. “light” (e.g.: empathy, bridge-building, inclusiveness and striving for freedom and human dignity of all human beings). It’s no different now: we live in a time of miraculous technological strides alongside appalling human savagery and unprecedented environmental damage.  It can seem our dark side is stronger and overwhelming.

Just look at the plight of Syrian and other refugees. Some European countries offered sanctuary in relatively small or larger numbers. Germany was proactive and compassionate taking in over one million.  Yet, other countries not only rejected them, but are considering building walls to ensure they stay out. We witnessed similarly opposing trends in the debate for the American presidency.

Wouldn’t life be grand if every individual, government, business and organisation lived by the classic Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”? Wouldn’t it be fabulous if everyone and everything were guided by compassion for everyone and everything else?  But isn’t that a ridiculously naive notion, like The Beatles singing All You Need is Love?

Actually, no – providing you think of achieving such a world as an endeavor over time. As a “baby boomer” I started working on behalf of civil, human, and women’s rights when I was quite young.  At the time, I thought we were going to do it all right away: I saw it as a sprint and I had to run flat out.  Then, as I grew older I began to see it as a marathon: I had to pace myself for the long run. Then, as I grew even older, I realized it was a relay race.

I may not see in my lifetime the fruition of all the social progress I care about but I have a sacred responsibility to do all I can to move it forward and pass the torch to the next generation just as it was passed to me.  I can and am playing a meaningful part in the process: the forces of light moving forward as a bulwark against the forces of dark.

As a professional facilitator and a citizen activist, I’ve worked with thousands of people around the world – in business, civil society, communities and governments – to foster cooperative action among adversaries to help them recognize the value of working collectively to resolve issues for their respective and mutual benefit. While cooperation is not synonymous with compassion, it is an integral element of advancing compassion because it requires meaningful, lengthy communication among people who might otherwise never interact.

Much of my belief that humankind can eventually achieve active, effective compassion comes from my “compassion standard-bearer” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  I could have written this article just with quotations from his many speeches and books.  I offer a few:

  • “Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle.”
  • “An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.”
  • “The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people.”
  • “Capitalism forgets that life is social. And the kingdom of brotherhood is found neither in the thesis of communism nor the antithesis of capitalism, but in a higher synthesis.”

The first affirms the concept of relay versus sprint in effecting social change; the second asserts the importance of individual effort – one person can make a difference; the third is a sobering reminder that when we’re not working for the light, we’re allowing the dark; and the fourth brings me to Compassionate Capitalism, also known as Conscious Capitalism.

Fostering conscious, compassionate capitalism has been a substantial part of my work in the business arena through my company, beCause Global Consulting.  I admire several pioneers, among them:

  • Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield – who founded the internationally beloved Ben & Jerry’s ice cream in 1978, socially-minded from the start.  Jostein Solheim, their CEO, stays true to their principles as he says, “The world needs dramatic change to address the social and environmental challenges we are facing.  Values-led businesses can play a critical role in driving that positive change.”
  • Gary Hirshberg – who founded the organic yogurt company Stonyfield Farm and was dedicated at the onset to run a socially-minded business concerned with the needs and rights of his workers as well as the health of the public and the environment.  His book Stirring it Up: How to Make Money and Save the World shows the value of his business model.
  • Roberta Laing, General Counsel of Whole Foods Markets and trustee of Conscious Capitalism, Inc., a company that promotes and facilitates Conscious Leadership in business and other areas based on having full integration of a higher purpose, compassionate culture, and conscious leadership.  The most important element of their creed is the Golden Rule.

Increasingly, companies worldwide are changing the way they value and manage their key stakeholders, broadening who they include in that spectrum (e.g.: employees, customers, their entire supply chain, even “watchdog” advocates who monitor their practices, etc.), as well as profit for their shareholders, by implementing more inclusive and compassionate policies, practices and environments.

“Triple Bottom Line” the 3P of people, planet, profit has become a mantra, albeit, for many corporations it’s still only that: words.  Yet, just the fact that it’s entered the mainstream lexicon means there is growing recognition of the need to measure not just the financial, but also the social and environmental performance of corporations.  I believe with the enhanced attention of social media combined with millennials entering the workforce and consumer base, we are approaching a tipping point of 3P becoming more of a guiding force.

I also draw your attention to three civil society organisations, among countless others, working on this:

  • Skoll World Forum – a highly respected think-tank devoted to “Bringing together creative and ambitious leaders, thinkers, artists and innovators to inspire and challenge each other in entrepreneurial approaches to global challenges.”  Their April 2016 forum in Oxford was themed “Fierce Compassion”.  What a wonderful term – like “tough love”!
  • Natural Capitalism Solutions – its founder and co-creator of “Natural Capitalism” concept, Hunter Lovins was called a “green business icon” by Newsweek and a millennium “Hero of the Planet” by Time Magazine for her decades framing the sustainability movement, making the business case for energy efficiency, renewable energy, resource productivity and climate protection.  I feature her in my TEDx “Adversaries to Allies”.
  • Wittenberg Center for Global Ethics – dedicated to projects and publications that promote responsible leadership in business.  “Our goal is to sustainably promote peace, justice and prosperity in the emerging world society.  Globalization, world economy and competitive markets need to be utilized for the common good and the sustainable benefit of all people.”

A global movement of individuals and groups is working creatively and diligently to foster compassion in every area of human life and endeavor.  For example, Dr. James Doty, a widely noted clinical professor of neurosurgery and founding director of Stanford University Medical School’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education (CCARE).

CCARE’s research on the positive qualities of the human mind including compassion, altruism and empathy, shows that in relation to health and longevity, learning to be “compassionate with intent” has more benefit than being at one’s ideal weight, stopping smoking or routine physical exercise.

Doty says, “Compassion is what defines us as human beings and will define our survival as a species.”  That’s why CCARE conducts extensive Compassion Cultivation Training courses and works with a broad spectrum of other groups to conduct socially productive programs.

There are myriad companies, organisations and individuals who have embraced the idea that compassion is the key to peace, freedom, justice, health and well-being in a world that often seems to have gone mad.  I can’t name them all; I don’t even know them all.  What I do know is that the relay race is well on its way!

Creating a compassionate world begins with believing it’s possible. Step two is learning to have more empathy and be more compassionate with your family, friends, and colleagues.  Step three is to promote creating a more caring world through concrete actions.  Which “Tale of Two Cities” (“Worlds”) will we tell: the choice is up to you; will you join the relay? Do unto the world as you would do unto yourself and remember it’s a relay race and results take time.

This post by Nadine B Hack, CEO beCause Global Consulting, is the foundation for what will be a chapter in Volume II of the Compassionate Manifesto: Imaginal Cells, Visions for Transformation soon to be published.

{ 28 comments… add one }

  • Andrea Learned November 30, 2016, 4:53 pm

    Yes, Nadine – we have to believe it is possible! For those of us in the U.S., this is a tough period to keep that thinking. Your point to see any contribution we each and collectively can make as contributing to the longer vision – a relay race, not a sprint, is so well taken. We are each “grains of sand” but really important grains that CAN make a difference for the world in the much longer term. That has to be motivation and inspiration enough.

    • Nadine B. Hack November 30, 2016, 5:02 pm

      Andrea – I so fully agree that now more than ever we must highlight the voices of those promoting inclusion and diversity to counter those who are seeking to divide people playing on their feelings of disenfranchisement.

  • Steve Klein November 30, 2016, 5:31 pm

    Excellent article. It is important to highlight the vanguard moral leaders of the private sector and their policies, and to challenge other business leaders to begin thinking creatively in this direction. To encourage this, it is also important to grow a worldwide consumer movement, which engages in stockholders’ and selective patronage campaigns. The moral power of such a consumer movement can be transformative. It can accomplish great things, and never depends on the integrity or competence of politicians.

    • Nadine B. Hack November 30, 2016, 5:35 pm

      Steve – you’re absolutely right: we must mobilize people from all sectors as no one can do this alone; but we all can play our part.

  • Cortney December 1, 2016, 10:46 am

    Thank you for these timely and moving reminders, Nadine.

    Indeed, changing the world starts with changing YOUR world. And, yes, this means 1) believing it’s possible; 2) starting at “home” (“you can’t complain about the snow on your neighbor’s roof when your own doorstep is unclean”); and 3) taking action! In other words: Be the Change. Take your power back. :)

    …which brings me to the magic of applying the Golden Rule…

    Taking that rule one step further, I was asked a question recently that jolted me: “What was/is the US election distracting us from?” While there are many concrete answers to that question (e.g. the bombing in Yemen), there’s also a subtler, deeper distraction at play: distraction from unity consciousness (or whatever you want to call that feeling of looking into a stranger’s eyes and seeing yourself there, like what I felt when I met you).

    I would argue that the notion of separation itself perpetuates division. Good, bad; right, wrong; justice, injustice… all attempts at dividing what is indivisible, forgetting the nature and vastness of our Being, reinforcing the illusion of fragmentation… And the more we divvy up, the further we stray from what we know to be true.

    What if instead of “treat others as you would wish to be treated,” we reframed to: “Take care of yourself, because IT’S ALL YOU.”?

    The word naive comes from the Latin “nativus” — native, natural. Maybe it’s time for us to return to that state: simple, childlike, sincere. All we need is love, yes. :)


    • Nadine B. Hack December 1, 2016, 11:26 am

      Cortney – I especially appreciate your words: “I would argue that the notion of separation itself perpetuates division. What if instead of “treat others as you would wish to be treated,” we reframed to: ‘Take care of yourself, because IT’S ALL YOU.’?” And I love your new website!

  • Ravi Chaudhry December 1, 2016, 11:49 am

    E.O.Wilson reminded us that “We exist in a bizarre combination of Stone Age emotions, medieval beliefs, and god-like technology.” That, in a nutshell, is how we have lurched into the early twenty-first century. Nadine reminds us that this need not be so – provided we bring compassion in to everything we think, say or do.

    As one of the most compassionate business leaders today, Nadine’s call for compassion as a relay race makes each of us feel the importance of individual contributions. She echoes, with numerous examples from all over the world, the essence of Mother Teresa’s philosophy, “Few of us can do great things, but all of us can do small things with great love”

    Thank you Nadine, for your precious nuggets. We all love you.

    • Nadine B. Hack December 1, 2016, 11:54 am

      Ravi – thank you for reminding me of Mother Theresa’s words, “Few of us can do great things, but all of us can do small things with great love” that echo Margaret Mead’s, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

      • Ravi Chaudhry December 1, 2016, 12:02 pm

        In the same context, you also bring to life, by personal example, Dear Nadine, another of Mother Teresa’s calls for action: “Sometimes we feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop”.
        Love and Peace

  • David Hain December 1, 2016, 12:47 pm

    Hi Nadine

    What a wise and generous piece of work! I love the concept of the relay race, and the older I get the more I realise that legacy is more important than achievement. There are many dark forces at work these days, although the good news is that there is an increasing mobilised group of forces for light who are increasingly being moved to action. Your links and references are very helpful, because connecting people and ideas is surely the way that the world will change.

    I think your comment about treating others the way you would like to be treated – the Golden Rule – is often the way we can make change through example, fostering trust and therefore experimental behaviour. Part of the Golden Rule needs to be about find out what it’s like to be them, why they hold the views they do, why some of the ‘dark forces’ are attractive to them. I suppose it’s your empathy point, really, or Cortney’s point about separation and division.We need more effective inquiry and dialogue in the world as well as advocacy for what we believe to be right. As if I need to tell you that…

    Pleased and proud to be on your extended relay team and look forward to passing the baton in a small way by making sure lots of people see your article and, eventually, book.

    Warm festive wishes to you and all relay team members! David

    • Nadine B. Hack December 1, 2016, 1:53 pm

      David – We absolutely, “need more effective inquiry and dialogue in the world as well as advocacy for what we believe to be right.” For four decades our family has sponsored Global Citizens Circle, with exactly that purpose. We are revitalizing it with new “digital wings” for a new generation to increase civil discourse seeking to effect constructive change globally. I believe you’ll find it interesting. See http://gcccomingsoon.org/

      • David Hain December 1, 2016, 2:13 pm

        Count me in, Nadine – have signed up for progress information. Many thanks for the referral! David

  • Amanda December 1, 2016, 5:36 pm

    Thank you for such a wonderful reminder of who we really are, Nadine.

    “…when we’re not working for the light, we’re allowing the dark”

    Before the hearing the results of the election one of my worries was that if Hillary was elected then we remain complacent and life–at least socially–would largely be the same. That we as a society would remain unaware of our innate ability to affect change.

    Well…we certainly got a reminder, didn’t we?

    While the results of this election have been less than favorable they serve as a powerful reminder of our ability to choose how we want to show up in the world, who we really want to be, and what we want to create. Because as you said, “when are not working for the light,” or when we don’t even show up in the first place, we are making a choice even if it doesn’t seem like one. A truth too many have forgotten.

    I also really enjoyed the research from this section:

    CCARE’s research on the positive qualities of the human mind including compassion, altruism and empathy, shows that in relation to health and longevity, learning to be “compassionate with intent” has more benefit than being at one’s ideal weight, stopping smoking or routine physical exercise.

    Doty says, “Compassion is what defines us as human beings and will define our survival as a species.”

    Research like this is critical to our evolution as it gives us a solid starting point to get back to what really matters in a world with so many distractions.

    • Nadine B. Hack December 1, 2016, 5:49 pm

      Amanda – I’m glad you found as meaningful as I did the words of Dr. James Doty, clinical professor of neurosurgery and founding director of Stanford University Medical School’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education, “Compassion is what defines us as human beings and will define our survival as a species.”

  • Sherry Roth December 1, 2016, 6:35 pm

    This is great! The Golden Rule is indeed a starting point for us and I have embraced the relay race metaphor as I have aged as well. Love what Courtney said: “What if instead of “treat others as you would wish to be treated,” we reframed to: “Take care of yourself, because IT’S ALL YOU.”?
    Looking forward to your book’s publication.

    • Nadine B. Hack December 13, 2016, 4:00 pm

      Sherry – the “Golden Rule” is at the heart of all the great faith-based traditions and even secular humanism. It is the call to our “better selves” that I hope we can see more fully embodied especially now when some call out to our more base instincts.

  • Seamas Heaney December 1, 2016, 9:02 pm

    Thanks Nadine for reminding us that we are in this for ‘the long haul ‘ – there are no quick fixes or easy solutions to the evolution of a more compassionate humanity. I think even the seemingly dark shifts to the right evidenced by brexit & trump (lets not dwell there too long) are not ‘bad’ in themselves but evidence of a kickback from people who feel powerless & disenfranchised and looking for a ‘Saviour’ it doesn’t necessarily mean a rise in fascism or even a lack of compassion amongst hard-pressed people. maybe just a wake up call by the dispossessed – maybe…

    • Nadine B. Hack December 2, 2016, 9:36 am

      Seamus – as evidenced in recent elections throughout the world, many people feel disenfranchised for different reasons and we do, indeed, need to listen to and understand their concerns. Yet, when they express themselves in hateful ways towards others we must also stand firm for everyone’s dignity.

  • Stephanie Moles-Rota December 3, 2016, 10:51 pm

    As always Nadine, inspirational words of wisdom… I love the analogy with “the racing world”. You can count me in to carry the torch further. As Martin Luther King Jr wrote,
    “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
    It is not different in business life, leadership requires empathy and extra dimension to inspire teams. The X generation aspires to a greater good for the community and is very critical of fake values.
    Looking forward to reading the book!

    • Nadine B. Hack December 4, 2016, 5:44 am

      Stephanie – like you, I have great hope for the Millennial generation living their values. And, I agree that empathy improves everything in all aspects of life – personal and professional.

  • Peter Cook December 4, 2016, 4:06 pm

    Your example of dark and light is a good one. I am regularly exposed to public opinion in the UK that suggests we should “build a wall” to keep people out in the worst kind of tribal behaviour that we’ve seen since the 1930’s. I am ashamed to admit that I had to ask my brother in law to leave my house after he refused to discuss a statement he made where he said we must stop immigration as “there were 2 million rapists waiting to come to the UK from Germany”. Our politicians must take some responsibility for this, but also our press and, ultimately all of us. I fear it may have to get darker before the lights go on. I hope I am wrong.

    • Nadine B. Hack December 4, 2016, 5:48 pm

      Peter – remember, it’s always darkest before the dawn! And we must keep hope alive, even if it will get darker before we see some light…

  • Peter Cook December 4, 2016, 7:23 pm

    Well, Austria saw some sense today … :-)

    • Nadine B. Hack December 5, 2016, 5:49 am

      Yes, Peter, not only didn’t they elect first far-right President in Europe since WWII, but instead first Green President in Europe (or anywhere)! You see, there always IS hope!

  • Jennifer Sertl December 5, 2016, 3:38 pm

    Thank you, Nadine. Your words always cause reflection and an impulse to act.

    I’d like to contribute to this conversation by adding two quesitons I ask myself on a regular basis:

    Am I becoming more aware of the long term tradeoffs I am making for short term decisions?

    Am I increasing my awareness of how my community (family, environment, ecosystem) impacts your decision making?

    Many people are not very good at suspending immediate gratification for a longer term view.

    Many people are unaware of how their immediate community of friends, family, co-workers impact their own thresholds. I am not going to address raising these thresholds here. I just want you to be more aware that they exist.

    Our need to belong is much more fundamental and primal than our need for excellence. There are subtle ways in which we sabotage our own success for fear of envy and/or our fear of being alone. Every community has thresholds for truth, intelligence, success. It is vital that you pay more attention to who your colleagues are, what they beliefs are and their decision-making criteria. You are impacted in subtle and explicit ways.

    For a deeper dive into this landscape there are two resources that take a deeper dive:

    Sam Sommers @samsommers has done some really important research on how our environment impacts our decision-making in his book Situations Matter http://www.samsommers.com/Situations_Matter/Home.html

    Elizabeth Doty @elizado has spent her professional quest exploring why smart people put themselves in compromising situations http://www.worklore.com/The-Compromise-Trap/elizabeth-doty-bio.html
    Here is a sample chapter of her book The Compromise Trap from a favorite publishing company Berrett-Koehler Publishers @bkpub http://www.bkconnection.com/static/The_Compromise_Trap_EXCERPT.pdf

    Social anthropologist Eric Hoffer says, “It would be difficult to exaggerate the degree to which we are influenced by those we influence.”

    Cheers to our self awareness and positive impact.

    • Nadine B. Hack December 5, 2016, 7:36 pm

      Jennifer – thanks for the great resources in your links and your reflections. And, yes “Cheers to our self awareness and positive impact.”

  • JoJo Patience December 21, 2016, 11:51 am

    When Ghandi said ‘Be the change you wish to see in the world’, I don’t think he quite realised how bloomin’ hard it is for so many people yet how fundamental it is to be able to share love and compassion with others. So many people are stuckfast in their ego at all levels of society and don’t love themselves enough unconditionally; therefore they cannot be the change or start the ripple effect of compassion.
    Yet there is a growing number of conscious individuals who can see through the wood to the trees, who are not blinkered by ego or conformity or rules and are not self saboteurs, and who ‘get’ that there is a way to be compassionate. Be compassionate with oneself first, be open to loving oneself as the beautiful and unique miracle we each are and then pass the baton on to another, who in turn runs like the wind touching others, building momentum, spreading love connection and compassion. For it is action through belief that we change the world!

    Great article Nadine, keep on passing the baton, you’re out in front!

    • Nadine B. Hack December 21, 2016, 12:17 pm

      JoJo – you are a great “conscious individual” who I’m grateful to have at my side in this relay race to overcome ego and be compassionate to all!


Leave a Comment