We all want to make big changes in the world.
Vegans are acutely aware of the injustices and damages caused by food and lifestyle choices. Not only do we choose not to participate in a system that causes incalculable suffering to food animals, environmental destruction and chronic illness, we seek to expose these injustices to others.
In a perfect world, others would immediately respond to our message. How can being made aware of the destruction raising animals for food and entertainment causes not spark everyone to change? Yet countless years of food and lifestyle habits and cultural norms are not easily modified.
Its natural to be frustrated when it seems like our message isn’t being heard. This often leads to less than diplomatic advocacy. I have seen vegans tear down vegetarians for consuming eggs and dairy. I have seen “Meatless Mondays” criticised for their soft approach.
We are products of an instant culture. Not only do we want the world to change, we think it should change now! But is it wise to scoff at small progress? There is a saying that big doors swing on small hinges. Ideas and attitudes may take time to change, but often small steps create leverage that can amount to a massive movement.
True diplomatic advocacy requires patience and time. There is absolutely nothing wrong with taking baby steps towards veganism. One Meatless Monday can create space around old, immovable attitudes. Perhaps a flexitarian is slowly opening to the possibility of a life where animal exploitation is no longer necessary. There is nothing wrong with these steps as waypoints to greater truth.
Rather than chiding others for moving too slowly or not going far enough, let’s acknowledge what they are doing right. When you acknowledge the goodness in others, their goodness grows. Think about your own vegan journey and the people who helped you along the way. For most of us, it didn’t happen overnight or without the support of others.
Here are five ways you can provide support to people on their path to a more compassionate lifestyle:
- Encourage small steps! Congratulate people for choosing a vegan menu item or eliminating another animal product from their lives, rather than focussing on how much further they have to go. Make them feel good about making a good choice. If you want to make a fire, fan the spark!
- Forgive mistakes! The reason many people fail in changing their habits is that they are afraid to fail. When missteps are made, often the whole project is abandoned. But the reality is that most people falter on the path of change. This is where you need to show your compassion, not your rage. Show your lovingkindness. Help people get back on their path without judgement.
- Be a happy, healthy vegan! Placards and message gear aside, sometimes YOU are your message. Take care of yourself. Eat well. Get lots of exercise, water, fresh air and sleep. You could be a junk food vegan, but why not reap the documented health benefits of a whole foods plant-based diet? Showing others how great you can feel on this lifestyle will inspire others to listen to your message.
- Invite someone over for a meal. Invite a friend over for a healthy, tasty vegan dinner. Leave your expectations aside. Maybe this person has never thought about veganism and maybe they won’t after your meal, but this simple act of kindness can plant a seed. If your seed takes root, then you can go about kindly watering it.
- Be laid back. No one likes an angry vegan. Be a light shining through the darkness. Positivity is infectious. Tirelessly put your best self and your good out there into the world, whatever that looks like. Above all, feel good about the decisions you, yourself have made. We can’t change the world in a day, but we can make our little corner of the world a little happier and friendly.
The main reason we created PlantKind was to create a supportive community to help others who want to go, and stay, vegan. I think one way to do this is to find ways to be a contribution in the lives of others rather than simply holding them up to your standards. By being a contribution, you nurture the foundations of friendship and community. It is my strong belief that this is how veganism will ultimately take root in society.