As a vegan, it is my policy to tread gently with others. I have been where they are – for most of my life. I understand that the concept can feel weird, uncomfortable, and threatening.
At the same time, I feel no reason at all to be apologetic for my own perfectly valid, considered, non-harmful lifestyle choices.
So, recently, when the topic of bacon came up during a casual conversation with a friend, it took an interesting turn.
Now, I understand how deeply committed to bacon many folks are. I get that this is a love affair.
Thus, when the topic was introduced by my friend, I innocently and with a chuckle observed that all that bacon eating might not be such a healthy thing. I did not launch into an impassioned vegan rant, I was just making conversation.
Nevertheless, one thing led to another with an increasing level of challenge and defensiveness on my friend’s part – despite the fact I was not challenging them for their choices.
To my dismay, in the space of about ten sentences – it was a brief discussion – my friend managed to become all upset and wanted to know why I would choose to distress them.
And then I was distressed. I had no intention to distress my friend, nor was I judging them. Neither did I feel good about being challenged and judged for own my personal, reasoned choices.
Inasmuch as someone else can unabashedly proclaim their love of bacon, how can it be somehow inappropriate for another to gently demonstrate their thoughtful abstinence of it?
And how in the world is it that those who choose to quietly act on compassion for animals should be ridiculed or judged negatively for that?
But I have observed this phenomenon before.
It comes from a gut knowing that causes an uncomfortable dissonance in a person. They don’t like to confront the conflict – the conflict within themselves. It is inherent compassion coming up against known cruelty – and not being able to reconcile that.
Most of the time it’s not a problem, because we simply keep it hidden from ourselves.
There is no blame in this. Our culture demands this dissonance of us. It tamps it down by normalizing everything and hiding the evidence.
Every now and then, though, it can rise to the surface and we see it for what it is. And that doesn’t feel so good.
Those are the moments that offer possibilities, though – ones that ask us to look at the world with a broader perspective – opening our eyes not only to difficult practices in our culture and our world, but to the beautiful depths of our own compassion. The implications go way beyond food.
I am grateful to my friend for reminding me of all this, for reminding me of my why, for helping me to keep my eyes open and to look at the bigger picture. Maybe my friend is seeing it, too.