Taking it personally (?)
Just as a spoiler: this post might be a little more personal than some of my previous entries. I do, however, stand by everything I’ve written thus far on this blog, and I’m more than satisfied if even one person is moved towards a compassionate lifestyle from reading my posts that leaned more towards informational and instructive. That being said, I’ve been feeling the need to express myself from a more personal standpoint, while still (hopefully) providing any readers with any kind of support/encouragement/hope that they might be needing.
I wouldn’t be going out on a limb here to say that all those who advocate for a compassionate lifestyle occasionally (some more than others) feel discouraged, occasionally depressed, and perhaps burnt out in some way (the phrase I often hear is “compassion fatigue”). We need to begin by restating what should be obvious, but too often isn’t: this is COMPLETELY normal. There is absolutely no shame in feeling a bit let down or bummed out when your friends, family, and co-workers seem to remain deeply entrenched in their views. Remember: if you’re vegan, you are making a choice that saves lives (both human and animal), improves your health, and helps to create a healthier planet. That’s incredible! What a spectacular gift you give not only to the animals and the earth, but you’re casting a vote in favor of a healthier, more compassionate, more peaceful existence for future generations. That’s one of a most powerful choices you could ever make in your entire life. I mean it.
If you’re an advocate for a more compassionate lifestyle, living that out practically as a vegan, you may be surprised to find that those close to you will often not feel the same way. Which you will find deeply unsettling and quite often very frustrating. In a perfect world, everyone would have the same experiences that we did: “Oh my word. They do WHAT to those animals? It does WHAT to the earth? It does WHAT to my personal health and overall well being and longevity? I had no idea! That’s absurd/horrific/cruel/disgusting. Bring on the tempeh and kale! I’m obviously never putting decomposing animal body parts or their breast milk into my body again”. This, of course, represents an example of a seamless transition. Some of us had one just like this (I did.) And some of us did not. In light of that, we can often become frustrated when our friends/siblings/uncles/coworkers don’t have the same reaction, and naturally be very confusing for us. There are, of course, a number of reasons why this is the case. Don’t allow yourself to be bogged down in the details. And do not, under any circumstances, allow yourself to become obsessively fixated on one single person who you REALLY want to see go vegan, if that person is genuinely repulsed by the notion of comprehensive compassion. It will do you more harm that good, and will cause a seemingly endless amount of frustration. Let it go. Breathe. And breathe some more. Your advocacy efforts need not be focused on those who could care less about the suffering of other sentient beings. Your efforts should instead be focused on those who might be a bit curious about the ethics of compassion and the notions of being kind to all animals, and might be willing to have some conversations about these issues facing our world.
Always, always, always remember: What you are doing as a vegan is unbelievably powerful. And even if you might feel alone at times, you are simply one of the millions across the planet who are working to create a more just, merciful, kind, healthy planet. The numbers grow every single day, as people everywhere begin to recognize that they possessed this compassion inside of themselves all along, and consequently begin to make choices that reflect, in the words of Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, their deepest, truest values.
A critical point to remember in closing: in all that you do within your creative, non-violent vegan education, remember to be compassionate towards all, even with those who are opposed to your message of mercy. If we are merely kind to those who are easy to love, or simply compassionate towards one species, we have made a grave error. There is no such thing as a wasted kindness, even towards someone who may not wish to receive it. In doing so, we free our minds, hearts, and spirits to keep doing the work that so desperately needs to be done by those who have an abundance of love and compassion in their hearts, in order to create a gentler, more loving world for all beings who share it.