Vegan Friend or Foe: You Decide

vegan vs meat eaters

Photo credit: Get vegucated

By April Lang, LCSW, www.aprillang.com

Most days, a vegan’s senses and sensibilities are challenged by a barrage of disturbing sights, smells, and sounds, from a world which has yet to open its mind to the value of living a vegan lifestyle. The women walking down the avenue in their winter furs, the hunters careening down the highway in their pickup truck, donning their camouflage, or the intrusive smell of your neighbor’s roasting lamb, can all be provocative. While we may choose to disregard these assaults to our morals from relative strangers, ignoring is harder to do when the affront comes from our families, friends, and colleagues. After all, these are the very people who are supposed to “get” us, accept us, be like us.

People have a deep need to connect to others, to attach, to belong. We seek out these connections and often feel more secure, more resilient, and even happier, when who we are and what we believe, is validated by those closest to us. If we’re lucky, most of the people we’re close to offer us this acceptance. But more often, we find ourselves having to defend our decisions to the very people we thought were in our corner or we’re constantly struggling to tolerate lifestyle choices that are antithetical to our own. Not surprisingly, feelings such as anger, sadness, loneliness, or bitterness will likely be elicited.

Ham at the family dinner table, your sister’s new leather couch, the fishing expedition your dad and brothers want to take, with you in tow, the annual office party at a steakhouse, the wool sweater your friend bought you for your birthday – these are all potentially triggering scenarios. Consequently, we may find ourselves feeling disconnected from these relationships, choosing to pull back or even, pull out. After all, these are the people who should know better, who we expect more from. And therein lies the problem. We expect those nearest and dearest to think and behave differently from everyone else. That is not likely to happen unless and until they open their hearts and minds to what we’re espousing. Their intentions may be honorable, but like the rest of the world, they will likely fall short of both our hopes and expectations.

The reality is, if we don’t want to exclude these “imperfect” people from our lives, then we’ll need to find some common ground on which to bond. And in the process, we’ll need to shift our focus from their “misdeeds”, to what is positive in the relationship. Perhaps you and your best friend share a love of traveling. Remember the time your folks drove cross-country with you searching for colleges. You and your siblings share the same sense of humor and can’t be in a room together without cracking each other up. Conjuring up these memories and good feelings are necessary if we’re to stay connected with our loved ones.

Also vital for sustaining the connection in your closest relationships is recognizing and appreciating the small changes that may occur. Sometimes we have to settle for less than we’d hoped for. Your brother may not have adopted a vegan diet, but due to your influence, has promised to stop eating cows and pigs. A new vegan may not have been born, but you did make a difference for cows and pigs! At work, if the weekly staff meeting is a luncheon with cold cuts galore, how about enjoying the monthly vegan fare that your office has agreed to? You may not get the entire office to become vegan, but you’d be exposing your colleagues to a way of eating they might never have considered. And when your running partner proudly shows off a new pair of vegan sneakers, acknowledge this first “step” towards a raised consciousness.

Each day we have ample opportunities to affect change in the world. Maybe your family, friends, and co-workers aren’t currently receptive to your ideas, but there are plenty of others out there, who are. You just need to find that tiny opening with someone whose consciousness is not closed off and begin from there. And when you do find that person, allow yourself to revel in your new connection. Relish your persuasive powers. And on those days where you don’t find anybody amenable to your influence, or you’re in a situation where you’re being marginalized or attacked for your convictions, seek out your vegan activist cohorts who will all happily remind you that you’re a valuable part of a large and constantly expanding vegan family.

April Lang, LCSW, is a vegan psychotherapist and writer in private practice in New York City. Please visit her website at www.aprillang.com for further information.

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