Social Situations

Once you decide to live vegan you’ll find new favorite foods.  You’ll find out what you like and don’t like to eat.  You’ll find great new food options on menus and in your grocery store.  The food part gets easier and easier.  And you’ll find that navigating health concerns wasn’t such a big deal after all.  That’s easy too. 

But then there may be the sideways glances, rolling eyes, and the questions-questions-questions asked by family, friends, and coworkers.  Some people ask with excitement, wonder, or genuine concern.  Others ask to challenge your commitment to compassion and justice.  It’s not always easy. 

Let’s make it easier.  Social Settings offers some interesting insights we’ve discovered along the way, a few easy tips for your social tool belt, and a helpful reminder to stay true to yourself and kind to others. 

Social Pressures

+ Living Your Values. Staying True to YOU.

Going vegan may seem like one of the biggest changes of your life.  Interestingly, going vegan isn’t about changing who you are – it’s about becoming who you truly are.  You’re not leaving your values behind. If anything, by living vegan you are a shining example of living your values.  Most people want to be kind to animals, they want to protect our environment, they care about other people and about future generations.  We share values of justice, kindness, and compassion.  Living vegan puts your values into everyday action.

+ Living in Community and Staying Connected. Why Does It Matter?

Most people live and thrive in community.  We have families and friends.  We join clubs and teams.  We attend concerts and sporting events.  We meet on playgrounds and community centers, places of worship, bars and clubs.  We eat, play, love, laugh, and cry in groups – from two people to uncountable crowds.  

The good news is that this inclination to gravitate toward groups helps maintain social structures.  This is also the bad news.  Even if there is a better way to live, even a way that protects and advances the community, the community tends to avoid change, question outsiders, and categorize people as being “in” or “out” of a particular group.  Are you part of the “in crowd” or are you an “outsider?”  Being an “insider” usually feels better and safer, while being an “outsider” may feel uncomfortable and even scary.

You might have been resistant to fully living vegan because you were concerned about becoming an “outsider” when those you love and those who love you are not yet on the vegan path.  Living vegan in a group that is not vegan can lead to hard feelings, questions, and even hostility toward your vegan choices.  The group may feel protective of the patterns to which they have grown accustomed.  It really has nothing to do with you or your choices.

The good news is that there is no reason you have to leave your beloved family, friends, or community.  Be patient, live by example, stay positive, answer questions, and share delicious vegan food.  You’ll grow more comfortable with time and you may just inspire others to live vegan. 

And remember, for those of you looking for community, there is a large and growing vegan community ready to welcome everyone with open arms, hearts, and minds.

Specific Social Settings

> FAMILY AND FRIENDS

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If you’re the only one in your family or group of friends who is vegan, you may feel social pressures to conform (see Social Pressures). 

These pressures are especially strong in small groups like family and friends where the group, consciously or unconsciously, attempts to protect the intimate social fabric of the group.  New ideas and new behaviors can feel threatening to a small group because there is a fear that the group will dismantle.  The unspoken fear is that the culture of the group will change or end, traditions may change or end, belief systems will be challenged, and even social structures might change.  None of these things need interrupt happy families or end friendships.

+ Finding Community

Most people live and thrive in community. We love our families and friends. We join clubs and teams. We attend concerts and sporting events. We meet on playgrounds and community centers, at the movies, places of worship, bars and clubs. We eat, play, love, laugh, and cry in groups – from two people to uncountable crowds.

A fun way to explore plant-based living is to find a community of like-minded, caring people. And a quick way to do that is through Meetup.com

There are vegan Meetup groups sprouting up all over the world. They vary from neighborhood potlucks, to movie nights and family get-togethers, to advocacy events. Not everyone in these groups is vegan – many are just starting out, are looking for support or answers, or are looking for friends with whom to share the bounty of the latest Meatout Mondays recipe.

+ You’re SO Excited About Living Vegan… But Nobody Wants to Hear It.

Wanting to share the joy and excitement you feel about living vegan with your friends and loved ones can feel all-consuming.  Having opened your heart and mind to a whole new way of living, thinking, and being, you might feel like you want to tell the world!  Who wouldn’t?  What a miraculous thing you’ve discovered -- if only everyone knew, then everyone would join you on the vegan path, right?  Well…

If you hit that wall, don’t let it knock the wind out of you.  Your journey is unique to you.  While you may have seen, read, experienced, and discovered things that now make perfect sense to you and make living vegan the obvious solution, your friends and family members might not quite see it your way… yet. 

As your family and friends discover that you've become vegan, some will be genuinely interested in what it means to live vegan; others may be concerned for your health; and some may feel a little uncomfortable because they don’t know what vegan means, or they’re not sure that you are still you.  See other sections of Social Situations for tips.

You know your friends and family better than anyone.  But here’s some advice from some of us who’ve been there: Live by example.  Your friends and family want to know you still care about them and that you’re not rejecting them.  You’re not rejecting them, you’re rejecting the use of animals, you’re rejecting violence, and you’re rejecting waste.  You don’t have to preach and hand out literature or try to get your friends to watch undercover animal slaughter footage or read the books you’ve read.  Be patient.  Live by example.  Plant seeds and they will grow.

+ Trying to Get Your Family to Live Vegan.

If you want to introduce your family to living vegan, good for you!  Trying to get family members to live vegan can be especially frustrating.  New information, however helpful, is often hardest to hear from those who are close to us. 

Happily, living vegan is becoming part of our cultural awareness in the U.S. – from headline news to talk show hosts and sports heroes, from former U.S. presidents to the folks next door, living vegan isn’t so foreign anymore.

If your family is resistant to your ideas, don’t despair.  Be true to yourself and your principles.  Live by example.  When others see you happy, healthy, and living a life that is focused, dedicated, and wholly connected to your principles, you may be surprised how far your message can go. 

Some of us who struggled trying to convince our family and friends to join us on the vegan path found that it helped to focus our advocacy outside our immediate circle.  The time and energy you spend trying to convince a person who resistant to living vegan might be better spent helping those who are open and eager to the idea.  Help thousands of people and save countless animals by helping us Spread the Word.

+ You’re Not the Boss of Me! The Power Dynamics of New Ideas.

As with any established group or culture, change does not come easily.  New ideas are often unwelcome and those who bring the new ideas are often seen as aggressors, even when those ideas are offered with love or in the spirit of helping the group.  So, even the most loving, thoughtful, well-mannered person making their vegan lifestyle known to a non-vegan family or group of friends may be met with hostility. 

Try not to take resistance as a personal attack.  It might help family members and friends who read this to know that just because a loved one has decided to live vegan, this does not mean they don't want to be close to those they love.  It simply means they’ve found something very important to them; to live their lives fully, they feel they must be true to this awakening – and they might want to share that excitement with you.

+ Tips for Vegan Parents.

30dayveganchallenge
From Colleen Patrick-Goudreau’s The 30-Day Vegan Challenge (2011, page 263):

“I believe we come into this world fully compassionate, and the best gift we can give our children is to honor the compassion they have for animals by encouraging them to make choices that are aligned with these values.  After all, we try to keep images of animal cruelty and suffering from children for a reason, so why would we go behind their backs and support the very thing they would (and we do) find anathema?...

Don’t underestimate the compassion in your children.  When they begin to understand that their new way of eating means animals will be helped, they get it.  The actual transition process may be bumpy at first as they learn how to navigate in this new world, but as they internalize the lessons you’re teaching them, it will become easier, and it will become their own.”

Has someone accused you of pushing your vegan principles upon your children?  Colleen says, “Balderdash!  Parents impose their values on their children all the time.  It’s called parenting… Be confident in your decision.  There’s nothing wrong with raising your children in such a way that reflects the values you’ve most likely taught them: compassion, kindness, empathy, and wellness.”

+ Tips for Vegan Youth.

30dayveganchallenge
From Colleen Patrick-Goudreau’s The 30-Day Vegan Challenge (2011, page 261-2):

“Frankly, no matter what your age, parents need time to adjust to your new lifestyle.  Like all of us, they’re creatures of habit and most likely have been cooking the same thing for you day after day, year after year.  They’ve gone through your picky phases, they’ve cut the crusts off your bread, they’ve made special meals to accommodate your preferences…

On the one hand, they’re probably freaking out because they have no idea what to feed you.  If they’ve been making your favorite meals for years, they’re not exactly going to be enthusiastic about changing the repertoire.

On the other hand, though, I think one of the reasons parents take it so personally is because they’ve used food from the day we were born as a way to express their love for us, to nurture us, and to be close to us.  When we reject the food they’ve chosen to feed us, it may feel like we’re rejecting them and their affections…” 

Beyond food, your parents might be sincerely concerned about your health.  If your health is a genuine concern of your family members, put their minds at ease -- take time to explain to them what you’ve found.  It might help to go through the Healthy Eating section of this website together.

+ Tips for Vegan Spouses.

Becoming vegan with a non-vegan spouse or intimate partner can be especially challenging.  As you’ve moved along the vegan path, your ideals of nonviolence, compassion, and justice are probably in the forefront.  Feeling as if your partner doesn’t share the same values you hold so dearly can lead to pain and alienation – on both sides.  Be patient, but be strong.  Remember you were once where they are.  Take time to answer questions and calm fears.  Live by example.  Living joyfully and wholly connected to your values, you will reach and inspire those around you – especially your loved ones. Some further helpful advice from VegFamily.com.

+ Tips for the Vegan Cook in the House.

30dayveganchallenge
From Colleen Patrick-Goudreau’s The 30-Day Vegan Challenge (2011, page 265):
“… If you’re the cook in the family and the expectation has always been that the rest of the family eats what you create, then that applies in this situation, too.  If your family members feel they need to eat meat at every meal, then they can cook it themselves.  If they eat outside the home for lunch, then they can get whatever they want at that time.  But at dinner, if you’re in charge of the meals, then you decide what’s on the menu, and this also includes vegan variations of their favorite meals… After all, the surest way to inspire people to eat delicious plant-based food is to make delicious plant-based food… If people eat food they find satisfying filling, familiar, and tasty, they won’t care if it has no animals in it.”

Find lots of specific product suggestions in Make the Switch.  Learn more about making your favorite recipes vegan by switching a few ingredients in All About Food > Veganize.  And find countless recipes and more in our resources and links.

> DINING OUT

 social-dining-out

If you’re out on the town discovering vegan food on your own or with your vegan friends, there’s no need to over-prepare.  But if you’re going out with friends or family who are not vegan or you’re having a planned business lunch, it makes sense to explore your vegan options before you go out to eat.  There are several websites offering reviews of thousands of restaurants -- even fast-food chains. Explore Helpful Resources for more links or get started at HappyCow.net and National Chain Vegan Guide.

Here are some tips to make dining out enjoyable for everyone involved:

+ Not On the Menu or Can’t Tell If It’s Vegan? Ask!

“Vegan” is being spoken in a growing number of eating establishments.  If your server doesn’t know what “vegan” means (don’t assume), clarify by stating you want to be sure the food contains no animal products – animal meat, dairy, or eggs.  The server may know or they can make a quick trip to the kitchen to ask the chef. The growing number of people choosing vegan foods along with a growing number of allergies to dairy and eggs are making it so that servers regularly get these kinds of questions.  Be cheerful and be helpful if the staff seems confused.

If you weren’t prepared and find a menu lacking vegan options, consider asking nicely if there is anything on the menu that can be made vegan or if the chef wouldn’t mind creating something for you.  Chefs may be busy (so it helps to be prepared), but ordering something not on the menu may be a fun challenge for chefs who are often forced to restrain their creativity. 

Be gracious and thankful for the added service.  If the staff goes beyond the call of duty, consider being extra generous with your tips!  It not only expresses your gratitude, but you’ll pave the way for the next vegan question or request.

+ Eating With Those Who Aren’t Yet Vegan.

Eating in restaurants that serve animal flesh and animal products can be hard for some vegans – even if it’s at the next table, but especially when it’s on the same table and difficult to ignore.  This is a comfort level you’ll have to determine for yourself.  Some vegans want to eat with others who are not vegan so they can live by example.  Others want to avoid the pain or frustration and eat only with vegans or with those open to giving it a try.  One vegan friend decided to handle dining out with people who are not vegan this way: “I offer to pick up the tab if everyone eats vegan food.  I don’t have a lot of money, but I think it’s a nice way to introduce others to great vegan food.  I don’t put myself in situations where I have to sit at a table with dead animals – it’s just too much for me.”

This reaction may seem strange to those who are not yet vegan who may think "it’s just a food choice, after all.  What’s the big deal?"  But as one moves along the vegan path, they often become more connected to their consumer choices.  They begin to learn where their food comes from, who suffered and who benefited.  To some, eating “chicken” might not seem like a big deal.  It’s just a meal and they like the taste.  But to those further along the vegan path, "chicken" becomes “a chicken.”  “Meat” is seen for what it is -- the actual flesh of someone once living, once happy, then terrified, then killed.  Milk comes from a grieving mother.  Cows' and goats' cheese oozes pain and death. 

The fear of some vegans is that they’re going to have to endure the pain and bite their tongue at the dinner table.  The fear of those not yet vegan is that vegans are going to make them feel guilty about what they want to eat.  Meals might be the perfect time to do discuss your lifestyle with those who are close to you, but the conversation may also be better left for another time.

Often, the best thing to do is to wait for people to ask. It is almost guaranteed that someone will ask why you are not eating animal products. You know your friends and family best, so answer in the way that makes the most sense for that group at that moment. If the group is open to hearing what you have to say, great! But sometimes, it might be best to suggest talking one-on-one another time.

We're not suggesting that you hold your tongue, but rather that you might want to pick the most effective opportunity. While you may feel like it goes against your ethics to refrain from answering questions immediately and in graphic detail, rest assured, your actions will speak even louder than words. Your message will be more powerful and better received by those who are open to hearing it. Live by example, plant seeds of compassion, and be ready to open your heart to those wanting to learn more.

+ Gross-out Factor and Imperfections.

Will your veggie burger be on the same grill with animal parts?  Maybe (unless you’re in a vegan restaurant).  How you feel about that might be based on being “grossed out” by the contact with animal products, or perhaps you desire to be a “pure vegan.”  What we advocate is not being a part of the suffering and death of animals – not paying for it, not asking others to do it for you, not purposefully consuming it.  If your vegan burger was on a grill that also cooked animals, that does not involve directly supporting, paying for, or purposefully consuming animal products. 

That’s what the vegan journey is all about – doing the best we can to stop the suffering and destruction.  Will any of us ever be “pure”?  Probably not, but doing our best to only support vegan products actively dismantles a system of exploitation and replaces it with one of kindness, justice, and compassion.

+ Alcohol

Some beers and wines are refined using a gelatin-like product called isinglass made from fish air bladders.  Some contain bone-char refined sugar.  Hard liquor may be filtered with bone char. Even if vegan, rarely will an alcoholic beverage be labeled “vegan.”  Liquors don’t include ingredients labels – even if they did, the refining agents wouldn’t be considered ingredients and probably wouldn’t be included.

So, how do you know which alcoholic beverages are vegan?  Luckily, for those interested in this issue, there are some resourceful vegans out there doing the research for you.  Explore sites like Barnivore.com.

> PARTIES

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+ Tips for Party Planners.

If you’re throwing a party, no need to skimp on the fancy cakes and mounds of ice cream – just veganize it! Check out our recipes and links for ideas for appetizers, entrees, and snacks.  Check out our baking tips for replacing eggs and dairy when baking and for ideas on making your own vegan cakes – even vegan ice cream cakes.

+ Tips for Party Goers.

If you’re going to a casual non-vegan party, staying vegan may be as simple as snacking before you go, or keeping your eyes open for animal-free snacks at the party (like chips, nuts, veggie dips, etc.).

If you’re going to a sit-down dinner party that you know won’t be vegan, consider this advice from our holidays section: “If you're going to be a guest at the table, let you hosts know you don’t consume animal products.  Ask them ahead of time what you can bring and how you can help. If you're handy in the kitchen or even if you simply buy prepared plant-based food from a local store, bring your favorite dish or two (or more!).  That way you’ll be sure to enjoy your meal and have enough to introduce others to some of your favorites.

You may want to suggest to your hosts that you can bring a main dish to share or offer to help the cook(s) veganize the side dishes to make them cruelty-free, healthier, and delicious. Get more ideas for vegan recipes here.

If your hosts feel frustrated by your requests, explain that you want to do whatever is least burdensome for the group while not compromising your values. People will almost always understand and find a way to ensure that you have plenty to eat. They may even be excited to learn and try something new.  Be willing to roll up your sleeves and help. The stress your hosts might feel cooking new recipes or adding to their menu may be eased by your willingness to lend a hand.”

+ Birthday party tips.

Don’t forget the vegan ice cream!  It’s great for summertime parties, birthdays, or just celebrating your favorite show in front of the TV :)  There are dozens of flavors made from a variety of dairy-free milks including almond, soy, coconut, hemp, oat milk and more.  Check out Make the Switch for suggestions and brands.  Most large supermarkets and health food stores now carry a variety of vegan ice creams.  If you don’t see them in your local store, ask your store manager to start carrying your favorite brands.  Vegan ice cream is not only for ethical vegans, but for the people who are lactose intolerant, health conscious, kosher, or for those who just like really yummy treats.

> SCHOOL

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Talk about pressure to conform! School can be one long social challenge. From kindergarten to graduate studies, school is fraught with demands to perform in certain ways at certain times with certain people. As much as school is a place for learning, it's also a place for socialization – that is, school plays a large role in teaching us how to be part of society.

Living vegan is not (yet) the norm. It is counter-culture. That is, it runs counter to current agreed-upon norms of society -- specifically that using and eating animals and animal products is socially acceptable. Going against current norms can be seen as a rebellious act. And rebellion is frowned upon in most schools where conformity is not only easier, it is taught.

It’s interesting that some people see living vegan as a rebellious act -- as if being vegan is against society. The truth is that living vegan goes against convention, but it serves to better our world community. It works FOR society, not against it. Vegan living invites society to explore a more just, compassionate, and sustainable way of being. It creates a world where everyone cares about animals, about other people, and about the planet we all share.

Staying emotionally strong in school can sometimes take courage and dedication to one’s principles. Read more in this section for insights into social pressures, transforming anger, and more.

+ Overcoming School Bureaucracy.

School policy decision makers are becoming more aware of vegan students and the importance of offering plant-based foods.  They are starting to make plant-based options available, but vegan students are leading the way.  If you’re up for advocating for more vegan options in your school and educating the educators, by all means do it!  Just be aware that there are bureaucracies that may take time to overcome.  If we can be of any help or offer any advice, please contact us.     

Many schools, especially public schools, are at the mercy of federal funding.  This currently means a heavy subsidization and promotion of animal products:
·         More poor children and a disproportionate number of children of color depend on the National School Lunch Program.  But the program is built using biased guidelines that benefit wealthy animal agribusiness over children’s health. Ninety percent of the money in the $3-4 billion program is used to buy cholesterol and fat-laden pork, beef, milk, cheese, and eggs.
·         While cows’ milk continues to be subsidized and pushed on U.S. school children, 25% of the white population, 70% of African Americans, 90% of Asian Americans, 53% of Hispanic Americans, and 74% of Native Americans are lactose intolerant. Lactose intolerance is also prevalent in those whose ancestry is Arab, Jewish, Italian, or Greek.

+ Staying Fed in School.

One of the best ways to spread the word and stay strong in school is to keep yourself or your kids well-fed at school.  No one wants to hang out with a cranky hungry person, let alone be one :)  And what better way to quiet a naysayer than splitting that scrumptious vegan cupcake with them?

So while fighting the good fight, keep yourself well-fed!  If your school doesn’t currently offer healthy vegan options, be prepared by bringing your own vegan food.
 
 Along with great snack ideas and helpful vegan recipes, in The 30-Day Vegan Challenge Colleen Patrick-Goudreau offers some helpful advice especially for parents of vegan kids:

“I know some brilliant vegan parents who prepare at the beginning of the school year, first by making sure the teacher knows their children are vegan, and next by packing a bag of nonperishable treats that are kept in the classroom, replenishing the supply as needed.  Whenever another student brings in non-vegan cupcakes or treats, the teacher gifts my friends’ children with their own special treats form their vegan goodie bag.  These kids have yet to feel awkward or left out when these sorts of celebrations happen at school.

The other option – depending on how much time you want to invest – is to [buy or] whip up a batch of vegan cupcakes to have your child bring to the school when you know there is a birthday being celebrated.  [It’s a great way to introduce your child’s classmates to tasty vegan food at the same time as making your youngster feel they are part of the celebration.]

Though it may seem daunting at first, I assure you that in time it gets easier.  Family and friends ultimately want to make sure your children are included in celebrations and will often make sure there is something vegan for them to eat.  Just give them time to come around, while being clear and consistent about your family’s dietary choices” (2011, page 266).

+ Live Vegan in College.

Living vegan is taking off on college campuses around the U.S.  College administrators are trying to keep up with the demand.  They are, after all, there to serve the students.  If you’re on campus, make your voice heard.  Join with other vegans.  Make suggestions to food service and to restaurants on campus.  Ask how you can help.  See Spread the Word! > College Campuses for more outreach and organizational suggestions. 

If you’re a “starving college student” just waiting for the next free vegan food handout, or a college student who just doesn’t wanna cook, check out our recipes (even no-cook “recipes”) for cheap and easy ways to stay well-fed.

> WORKPLACE

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If you’re vegan, you know how tempting it can be to fill people in on the joys of living vegan whenever you get the chance.  Having your little brother refuse to talk to you for a month because you told him what actually goes into a hotdog is painful, but he’ll get over it.  Having the same discomfort at work, in close-quartered cubicles can make work start to feel even more long and oppressive than it already is. 

So what’s a consistent and dedicated vegan to do?  We highly suggest living by example.  If someone asks you a question, by all means share your answer.  But when in doubt, offer up vegan cupcakes instead of opinions.  Coworkers might get annoyed being offered the latest graphic YouTube video documenting the truth about animal agribusiness -- but nobody gets perturbed by being offered a yummy vegan treat. 

If somebody is stinking up the joint warming up a fish fillet in the microwave, you could have a word, but chances are you’ll get further by warming up your delicious lunch, fanning it down the hallways, and waiting for the inquiries.  For many of your coworkers, your vegan food might be their only regular exposure to the vegan message.  Overcoming the question “what do vegans eat?” is a major success.  If a picture is worth a thousand words, great vegan food is worth ten thousand.

Of course, this is a kind of “outreach” and you’ll have to be comfortable sharing recipes or answering questions like “where’d you get that?” and, “can I read the ingredients label?”  If you get stuck on bigger questions, send them on over to LiveVegan.org and we’d be happy to take it from there!

If you’re looking to just keep your head down and survive work, remember to pack a great lunch and some tasty vegan snacks.  For those expected and unexpected work lunches or after work parties, check out Dining Out for specific ideas.

> TRAVEL

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If you’re traveling to a vegan friendly city, you’re in for a wonderful adventure.  One of the fun things about living vegan is discovering new and amazing plant-based foods – stacked-high Rueben sandwiches, vegan “buffalo wings,” vegan cheese cake and cheese steak, vegan malts and melts, and pizza thick and thin – there are surprises at every turn. 

Some fun-loving and food-loving vegans take photos of their delectable discoveries and write reviews of their favorite finds, post them online, or send them to friends to spread the word that there’s great vegan food out there waiting to be discovered.

See Dining Out and Helpful Resources for links and resources for finding vegan restaurants, shops, grocery stores, and more. 

But not all travels wind through vegan meccas.  Sometimes we’re in vegan deserts.  Traveling on the road or through airports we may find ourselves in areas where “vegan” doesn’t even seem to be on the radar.  While restaurants and gas stations may not purposefully offer vegan foods, chances are there will be options that are “vegan by accident.”  Read a few labels and you might be surprised what you find.

Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) took the time to rank U.S. airports for convenience and availability of vegan food options.  Find the 2010 review here: http://www.pcrm.org/health/reports/2010-airport-food-review

Be prepared!  The best thing to do is to pack along some of your favorite vegan snacks – energy bars, granola or trail mix, seeds and nuts, sandwiches, fruits and veggies.  You’ll thank yourself later (and the animals will thank you) for thinking ahead to stay well-fed and joyfully vegan.

Some more vegan traveling tips from “Around the World Vegan” blog: http://roundtheworldvegan.wordpress.com/2011/11/29/how-to-stay-vegan-when-you-travel/

Enjoy Compassionate Holidays

Sharing vegan food with family and friends is a fun way to introduce the people you love to a compassionate, healthy way of eating. But introducing new ideas and new foods into gatherings steeped in tradition can also be stressful.

People new to the vegan lifestyle may find it challenging to explain their new thoughts and feelings about their choices, while families and friends might feel pressured to adjust their annual dinners.

Those who eat animal products may become defensive about their choices, while vegans may feel alienated. And the same can be true in reverse, when people who eat animal products are guests at vegan holiday dinners.

But holiday mealtimes don't have to be uncomfortable - they can be an enjoyable and positive experience for everyone. Sharing food with family and friends can be a perfect opportunity to share our values and start new compassionate and healthy traditions.

COMMON QUESTIONS ABOUT HOLIDAY MEALS

FOR NEW AND ASPIRING VEGANS

+ What will I eat at a traditional animal-based holiday meal?

Many side dishes may already be vegan. Potatoes, cranberries, vegetables, breads, stuffing, salads, and so much more can easily be made vegan if they are not already. For a main dish consider stuffed squash, pot pie, or even a vegan "turkey" roast. And don't forget dessert. From egg-free pumpkin pie with dairy-free whipped cream, to hot chocolate with vegan marshmallows, or holiday cookies with a warm cup of dairy-free nog, there's a cornucopia of goodies to satisfy your sweet tooth.

+ How do I bring up my lifestyle with my family or friends and ensure there is food for me to eat?

If you're going to be a guest at the table, let your hosts know that you don’t consume animal products.  Ask them ahead of time what you can bring and how you can help. If you're handy in the kitchen or even if you simply buy prepared vegan food from a local store, bring your favorite dish or two (or more!).  That way you’ll be sure to enjoy your meal and have enough to introduce others to some of your favorites.

You may want to suggest to your hosts that you can bring a main dish to share or offer to help the cook(s) veganize the side dishes to make them cruelty-free, healthier, and delicious. Find great ideas for vegan holiday recipes here.

If your hosts feel frustrated by your requests, explain that you want to do whatever is least burdensome for the group while not compromising your deeply held values. People will almost always understand and find a way to ensure that you have plenty to eat. They may even be excited to learn and try something new.

Be willing to roll up your sleeves and help. The stress your hosts may feel cooking new recipes or adding to their menu may be eased by your willingness to lend a hand.

+ Is it appropriate to bring up the reasons for my vegan choices during dinner?

Holiday dinners bring together family and friends. They can be the perfect time to do discuss your lifestyle with those who are close to you, but the conversation may also be better left for another time.

Holidays are notoriously stressful; adding another stressor about food choices and ethics while competing with generations of tradition can be a recipe for frustration.

Often, the best thing to do is to wait for people to ask. It is almost guaranteed that someone will ask why you are not eating animal products. You know your friends and family best, so answer in the way that makes the most sense for that group at that moment. If the group is open to hearing what you have to say, great! But sometimes, it might be best to suggest talking one-on-one after dinner.

You might not remember or have time to say everything you want to say. It may be helpful to have informative handouts with you, so you can direct curious friends and family toward our website.

We're not suggesting that you hold your tongue, but rather that you might want to pick the most effective opportunity. While you may feel like it goes against your ethics to refrain from answering questions immediately and in graphic detail, rest assured, your actions will speak even louder than words. Your message will be more powerful and better received by those who are open to hearing it. Live by example, plant seeds of compassion, and be ready to open your heart to those wanting to learn more.

+ If I am hosting a holiday dinner, must I cook animal products for non-vegans?

No. You have no obligation to go against your ethics in order to carry on animal-based traditions. Straying from tradition can be intimidating for some people -- traditions are easy, traditions are comforting. But NEW traditions are ready to be made – traditions dedicated to health, justice, and compassion.

If potential guests complain ahead of time that they won't know if they will get their fill or what they are going to eat, share the mouthwatering menu with them. Chances are they'll be pleasantly surprised when they see the exciting array of delicious foods. Nothing speaks more clearly to the joy of eating vegan than delicious, bountiful food. The worries of your non-vegan family and friends will melt away when their mouths and tummies are full and satisfied.

> FOR FAMILY OF VEGANS AND ASPIRING VEGANS

+ How should I deal with a vegan during the holidays?

The same way you would deal with anyone making ethical food choices or avoiding certain food products for health reasons: by being understanding, by being open to learning, and by being accommodating.

Choosing not to eat animal products is not a “phase” and it is not a choice meant to cause family strife. For most vegans, it is a serious and important ethical choice. Just as no one would expect someone whose religion requires them to avoid a certain food to eat it anyway, it is unfair and unkind to expect a vegetarian or vegan to make exceptions to their ethics around the holidays.

+ Since I accommodate vegans at my dinner, am I entitled to bring meat or other animal products to theirs?

No. Eating animal products and providing animal products for others to eat goes against the moral beliefs of ethical vegans, but abstaining from animal products for a meal does not go against one's moral beliefs.  And if you embrace the vegan meal, you may find you truly enjoy the new foods you try.

Attending a vegan holiday celebration can be a life-affirming and positive experience for everyone, regardless of their daily dietary choices.

> SPECIFIC HOLIDAYS

+ Valentine’s Day

Mention Valentine’s Day and the first thing that comes to mind is chocolate. OK, maybe, love -- but then chocolate :)

Happily, chocolate in its natural state is vegan. Adding dairy to chocolate (“milk chocolate”) is a more recent invention. To avoid animal products and to avoid supporting the industries that hurt animals, simply look for chocolate that isn’t “milk chocolate.” Some dark chocolate, semi-sweet chocolate chips, etc. are already vegan. For other chocolate ideas, consider browsing your local chocolatier or an online vegan shop. See our links and resources.

+ Easter

Just as for Halloween, Christmas, and every other holiday, there are a wide variety of vegan candies, chocolates, and other goodies available to celebrate current traditions while introducing compassionate new traditions. You can even find vegan marshmallow and chocolate bunnies, vegan caramel eggs, and much more. Read labels at a local store or browse online vegan stores. See our links and resources.

From Colleen Patrick-Goudreau’s The 30-Day Vegan Challenge (2011, pages 244-245):

“Although Easter is a holy Christian holiday, it falls in the spring, a time of rejuvenation and renewal, with many symbols dominating the celebration, particularly the eggs of birds.

Growing up, I relished our family’s annual egg-decorating ritual and the egg hunts that followed, but my fond memories have less to do with the eggs themselves and more to do with the fact that the whole family was together, we children were given license to be creative, and we participated in an exciting quest with all the neighborhood kids.

There are so many ways to celebrate the true meaning of this holiday – birth, renewal rejuvenation – while creating a familiar, festive ritual without the chickens' eggs, which are themselves just symbols.
  • Paint wooden eggs or leaves with a hole in the top to enable you to enjoy the artwork all year round or during the winter holidays, when they can be hung on a tree.
  • Host an egg hunt using plastic eggs filled with goodies and wooden eggs your children decorated.
  • Create a special Easter basket filled with daffodils, Easter lily bulbs, egg- or bunny-shaped cookies, carrot cake, chocolate bunnies and eggs, books and coloring books, stickers, and a stuffed [toy] animal.
  • Plant an herb or vegetable garden. What better way to celebrate the cycles of life and rebirth?

+ Passover

From Colleen Patrick-Goudreau’s The 30-Day Vegan Challenge (2011, pages 245-246):

“A Jewish holiday observed by most Jews, Passover (Pesach) commemorates their exodus out of Egypt, from slavery to freedom. A vegan Seder is not only traditional in its own right, but it more accurately reflects the principles of freedom and mercy that signify this holiday.

Matzoh. The most significant observance involves the removal of leavened foods and the serving of matzo commemorates the fact that the Jews leaving Egypt did not have time to let their bread rise. Matzoh, unleavened bread made from flour and water, can be used as flour (for cookies and cakes), meal (for bread crumbs), farfel (a noodle or bread cube substitute), and full-sized matzohs (as bread). Matzoh is eaten three times during the Seder.

Seder Plate. The Seder plate is a special plate containing six symbolic foods used to retell the story of the exodus:
  • Charoset, a mixture of fruit and ground nuts soaked in wine, represents the mortar used to cement bricks when the Jews were slaves in Egypt.
  • Parsley, celery, or other green herbs dipped in salt water symbolize spring and new life, as well as the tears of the Jewish slaves.
  • Freshly grated horseradish, sometimes mixed with cooked beets and sugar, symbolizes the harshness of slavery.
  • Bitter herbs, such as the bitter-tasting roots of romaine lettuce, are also used to signify the bitterness of slavery.
  • Jewish vegans replace the egg, symbol of fertility and new creation, with a flower or roasted nuts. Some even use a miniature white egg-sized eggplant whose stem has been removed.
  • Jewish vegans replace the shank bone, meant to symbolize the sacrificial lamb, and point out that even the Talmud explicitly allows for roasted beets to be used in its stead.”
(Not in Colleen’s book, but a helpful resource for Jewish vegans: http://shalomveg.com/).

+ Halloween

Some helpful advice from Colleen Patrick-Goudreau’s The 30-Day Vegan Challenge (2011, page 244):

“… Like Thanksgiving, Halloween is a food-centered holiday, though in this case the food is junk. Many parents, having transitioned to or contemplated veganism, worry about how their children will participate in the most popular of Halloween rituals: trick-or-treating. Fear not. It turns out that a lot of the candy given out during Halloween is vegan. It’s junk, but it’s vegan junk…

So don’t worry. Your kid can be a normal kid, just like everyone else, and get to eat junk, including Blow Pops, Cracker Jack, Dots, Skittles, Airheads, Hubba Bubba, Jolly Ranchers, jujubes, Mary Janes, Pez, Now and Later, Sour Patch Kids, Swedish Fish, SweeTarts, and Twizzlers, plus non-sugary treats such as corn chips, potato chips, nuts, pretzels, and crackers…

Halloween might seem like it’s about the candy, but it’s also about the quest – the excitement of going from house to house and collecting the booty! It’s about dressing up in exotic or scary costumes, and it’s about being with friends and having fun. Try to put an emphasis on these things more than on the candy. Besides, these days Halloween parties seem to have replaced trick-or-treating anyway, so you can also throw a fabulous costume party and serve up lots of vegan treats.”

+ Thanksgiving

See Enjoy Compassionate Holidays and visit our special winter holidays site CompassionateHolidays.org.

+ The Winter Holidays: Hanukkah, Christmas, and Kwanzaa

See Enjoy Compassionate Holidays and visit our special winter holidays site CompassionateHolidays.org.

 

Overcoming Challenges

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+ Why is Living Vegan Such a Sensitive Subject? The Power of Food!

In The 30-Day Vegan Challenge, Colleen Patrick-Goudreau pointed out, “Though transitioning from an animal-based diet to a plant-based one seems like it’s just about choosing broccoli over beef, it’s so much more profound than that. It’s about questioning assumptions, reexamining our values, aligning our behavior with our principles, and shifting the paradigms with which we grew up. This can be a little unnerving to those who are closest to us…” (240).

In almost every modern culture, food is much more than merely fuel for our bodies. Food carries with it emotions, memories, and tradition. We often offer food to those we love. We comfort ourselves with food. We celebrate with food. We even have meetings over food. Food bonds us to one another, to our communities. And, in all of these ways, food is a large part of our very own sense of who we are.

So, when someone innocently asks, “Hey, have you considered living vegan?” some might hear it as, “Everything you’ve been told about food is a lie – your mom lied to you, your teachers lied to you, the government is lying to you. You should give up your family and friends. And you’ll never be invited to or welcome at another party or family function. Go vegan… and be lonely.” Yikes! No wonder it’s a sensitive subject.

Of course living vegan doesn’t mean you have to leave your friends and family behind. And you can still be the life of the party. Living vegan just means you’ve found a more conscious and compassionate way of living and eating. Share it with those you love and care about in a way that makes it clear that you still love and care about them.

Start new traditions with vegan foods. Vegan foods are abundant and delicious. Virtually every animal-based food has a vegan alternative. Birthdays don’t have to be without cake and ice cream – just make or pick up scrumptious cake and vegan ice cream made without animal products. Want to fire up the grill with brats and burgers with your buddies? Veggie burgers and veggie meats, desserts, entrees, and appetizers – the vegan choices are endless (see Make the Switch for specific product ideas). Eat up! Holidays, celebrations, every day can be vegan, fun, and wonderful.

+ There Are No Neutral Food Choices. Deciding Not to Decide.

It’s easy to think that living vegan is a choice while eating animal products is “just the way it is.” But none of our food decisions are neutral. Eating animal products is an active choice with real consequences. Eating animal products is as much a decision as choosing to live vegan. It’s just that some of us have gotten used to certain choices. And while some people might just keep eating animal products “without making a decision” – they have made a decision. The decision to consume animal products actively supports the breeding, keeping, and killing of animals.

There has been a widespread awakening in food consciousness to the point that anyone who reads this now has a decision to make. No longer can one be “unaware” of the many reasons to make vegan choices (to be kind and just to animals, to save the planet, to support human rights reasons). Now EVERY food choice is a conscious choice to either be part of the problem or part of the solution. Be part of the solution – live vegan.

+ Judging and Feeling Judged.

Try this little experiment: think of something about which you feel 100% morally confident. Maybe it’s your decision to recycle. Maybe it’s your religion. Maybe it’s about your stance on not killing animals or about being vegan. Now think about someone challenging you on this subject. When you feel 100% confident about your position, when your own actions are 100% connected to your values, chances are you won’t feel judged. You’ll feel grounded and whole.

But what if you don’t feel quite so confident? What if your actions aren’t 100% aligned with your values? The feeling can be much different. We can suddenly feel defensive of our position, maybe even a little angry. We might feel ungrounded and disconnected. We can feel “judged.”

The feeling of being judged comes from within us, not from outside. In other words, no one can judge us; they may offer information, they may raise issues, they might even question our position, but the *feeling* of “being judged” comes from within when we are not 100% confident. We instinctively work (mentally) to end this dissonance, this ill feeling. But sometimes, rather than looking within to find the source of this feeling, we often blame the messenger. Not only is that easier, it seems to make the most sense – we may think something like, “I didn’t feel judged and upset before this person came along; this feeling must be because of them.”

Maybe you’re not yet vegan and you’ve felt judged reading parts of this website. You might even feel judged by seeing the word “vegan.” Explore that feeling. Are your actions connected to your values of kindness, justice, and compassion? We’re not telling you what you should eat; we’re telling you who you’re eating and the consequences of your choices. If those consequences matter to you, and we believe they probably do, then we hope introducing you to how you can live vegan will be helpful in aligning your own choices to your own values.

If you’re advocating veganism, you may one day be confronted by someone who says, “Don’t judge me!” Understanding that the feeling of being judged comes from within doesn’t mean we should poke people till they feel judged and get angry because “it’s not our fault they feel judged.” Instead, be kind. When feelings of judgment or anger arise, know that person is likely feeling the painful dissonance of having their own actions disconnected from their values.

You may consider moving your focus from “why vegan” to HOW they too can live vegan. They are upset not because they don’t care; they are upset because they DO care! Each of us can help reconnect others by offering them the tools to live vegan.

If you’re trying to be less judgmental, remember we’re all in this together. Most vegans were not always vegan. Most of us learned and opened our hearts because people helped us and showed us the way, not because people scolded us. We each may remember a time when we were not who we are now. If you sat down and had a conversation with your “past self” about issues now important to you, you might not even like that person. If that person was in front of you today, you might even see that person as an opponent. But what if you hate or dismiss or even hurt that person? Will that person have the opportunity to reach their potential? How might you help? Think of how much more powerful it is to recognize the potential for good in people, to foster that potential, and to offer a hand in their reaching that potential.

+ You’ll Be Asked Questions.

You just want to be left in peace to eat your scrumptious triple-decker veggie sandwich or your stack of vegan cookies with a tall cold glass of almond milk. Why are people suddenly hitting you with questions? You know the questions – “Where do you get your protein?” “Don’t plants feel pain? “Are your shoes leather?” And the objections not even disguised as questions or concerns like, “We’re meant to eat meat!” “Animals were put here for us to use!” “I could never give up ‘my’ steak, milk, cheese… (fill in the blank)!”

Answering all the questions can feel overwhelming to some. Colleen Patrick-Goudreau in The 30-Day Vegan Challenge puts it this way, “To be honest, I think this pressure takes its toll on new vegans – especially if they are naturally shy or reticent about their opinions – and I believe it’s why many people just give up and revert back to eating meat dairy, and eggs. I think it’s why many wind up feeling isolated and shy away from coming out of the “vegan closet,” if you will. I think it’s why many people resist becoming vegan in the first place…” (236).

It might help you to know more about why the questions are being asked of you and how to stay focused on the easiest answer of all – your reasons for living vegan. See An Easy Answer to Questions (below).

+ Sincere Questions vs. Excuses or Challenges.

Questions arise in others because you are living an examined, purposeful, ethical life. It is interesting to some and scary to others.

The questions you may face when people find out you’re vegan fall into two categories:

1) Sincere questions: When you choose vegan, you are leading a life others tend to respect (even if they don’t act like it). It’s been our experience that even those who say they are not supportive of veganism will at the same time say positive things about the vegan lifestyle. You may hear the same things we do: “I really respect what you’re doing,” and “I don’t eat much meat anymore.”

You may also get sincere questions (especially from family members who care about you) about whether or not living vegan is healthy. After all, almost all of us have been taught from an early age that we need to consume animal products to grow up to be big and strong. Health is a complicated issue, but the bottom line is every single nutrient you need for a healthy body can be found in vegan, plant-based sources. There are no health reasons for consuming animal products (but LOTS of health reasons for NOT consuming animal products).

If your health is a genuine concern of your family members, take time to explain to them what you’ve found. It might help to go through the Healthy Eating section of this website together.

If you can help answer questions, great! But don’t worry about having all the answers. See An Easy Answer to All the Questions (below).

2) Excuses: If you’ve been vegan for a while, you might have experienced the rapid-fire question session – before you get your answer out, you’re hit with the next question (or, more accurately, the next excuse). The “questions” are really not questions, but excuses disguised as questions meant to find fault with your reasons for living vegan. Some vegans jokingly refer to these quips as coming from “excuse-atarians” – those who give excuse after excuse for not living vegan even though every question has been asked and answered.

Try not to take personally the excuses/challenges presented in this way. The rapid-fire excuses are thrown at you in a desperate attempt (consciously or unconsciously) to find something, anything that will justify their continuing to consume animal products.

+ An Easy Answer to All the Questions.

OK, deep breath. You don’t have to have all the answers. If you’re going to have an answer to every question you might get about living vegan, you’ll not only need an encyclopedic memory, you’ll probably need advanced degrees in nutrition, physiology, biology, philosophy and theology, ethics, agronomy, animal husbandry, commodity chains… yikes.

Thinking you have to have all the answers to all the questions can be intimidating. But really, the only answer you might want to have ready for anyone who asks questions is why YOU personally choose to live vegan. You don’t have to have statistics or long answers and you certainly don’t have to have every answer. One long-time vegan and vegan advocate who gave up trying to answer every question put it this way, “I used to think I had to know how much water was wasted for animal products, the land, energy, grain and then I’d get questions about the Bible… and then about philosophy… and then health… it was just too much. I just want there to be less suffering in the world. If people want to ask me about statistics and theology, I’ll always bring it back to my reason for being vegan – I just want there to be less suffering in the world, and being vegan is the most far-reaching way to help that happen.”

+ Dealing With Difficult People.

From Matt Bear, Vegan Projects Director at FARM:

After speaking with a college class about the power of vegan choices (for human rights, animal protection, and environmental protection), I was approached by a new friend (and a vegan advocate).

“How could you keep your cool with that guy in the back row?” he asked… “His heckling was driving me nuts.”  The guy in the back row had been interrupting me to “ask” the usual excuseatarian questions and added things like, “No way, I’d never go vegan," and "I like my steak bloody.”

My response to my new friend was easy, “That was *me* in the back row.”  I used to say those things. I used to think I was acting tough. I used to think that if it didn’t bother me, I was somehow stronger than the person presenting the information.  I used to think I knew the answers. And I was wrong. Wow, how I was wrong.  And I changed. Or rather, I think I finally became the person I always was.  I thought I cared about animals, I said I did, and finally I put my thoughts into action by going vegan.

Don’t be disheartened by the vocal opposition in the room – in fact, be encouraged by it.  Sometimes the most vocal people are the ones who are so close to “getting it” that they feel the heat of their own consumer dissonance.  That discomfort drives them to speak up – perhaps to try to convince themselves that what they're saying is true and what they are doing is OK more than to convince anyone else.  Let them get it out; it's an important part of the process of change.

See the potential in everyone and not just their current venomous demeanor -- the potential self, not the current actor.  Keep the door open, open it a little further, and realize that you’re connected to other vegan advocates who will eventually take the door off its hinges and open that person’s heart and mind for good.”

Also see this short blog entry from NonviolenceUnited.org about seeing the potential in everyone.

 

The Joyful Vegan

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For many, there is something almost magical about living vegan. There is happiness and sense of completeness that comes with living our lives aligned with our values.

Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do  are in harmony.

– Mohandas Gandhi

People from all walks of life and with vastly different life stories are choosing to live vegan. And while we are all individuals and each of our paths are unique, there are a few common and recurring issues with which new and even experienced vegans sometimes struggle: feeling angry about things we discover about animal agribusiness, staying happy and joyful for ourselves and with our friends, and overcoming compassion overload (feeling like you just can’t give any more).

Let’s explore each of these:

+ Transforming Anger.

As the old adage goes, “If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.” You’ve discovered the horrors animals have forced upon them for no other reason than habit and profit. You’ve learned of the environmental degradation and threats to human existence put upon all of us by animal agribusiness. Living vegan involves becoming more aware. And being aware is often painful. But that doesn’t mean that being vegan should be painful.

The word “compassion” means literally “to suffer with.” We feel pain because we are compassionate, because we care, because we can feel the pain of others. We often react in anger because of that pain.  When we do react this way, others may only see our anger; they don’t know that it’s coming from a place of compassion.

We’re not suggesting that you not be angry. But you can transform your anger into motivation, into resolve, and into action. Compassion does not betray your anger; it translates your anger into a language others can understand.

+ Living Joyfully.

By living vegan, you’ve already transformed your anger into compassion and put justice into action. It’s a daily exercise in gratitude and positive direction. If you’re like many of us who have decided to live vegan, the ways in which you now see the interconnected world is probably more clear and profound. While being vegan often starts as a reaction to the horrors around us and a declaration to no longer be a part of the violence inflicted on others; many vegans come to truly live joyfully.

Colleen Patrick-Goudreau in The 30-Day Vegan Challenge puts it this way, “… At its core, being vegan is about saying yes. It’s about saying yes to our values; after all, what’s the use in having values if they don’t manifest themselves in our behavior? It’s nice to say that we’re against violence and cruelty. Most of us are. But how many of us actually take these abstract values and put them in to concrete action? For me, being vegan… I’m saying yes to my values of justice and service to others; I’m saying yes to my values of accountability, responsibility, and commitment to truth and knowledge; I’m saying yes to may values of peace, kindness, compassion health, and simplicity” (9).

+ Compassion Overload: Avoiding Burnout.

While this may be specific to activists, it addresses a lot of the issues of transforming anger, obtaining and maintaining joy, and overcoming or avoiding burn-out or “compassion overload.” We’re reprinting this with permission from NonviolenceUnited.org. We hope you also find it helpful:

The Troubles We’ve Seen: Keeping Your Heart Whole In Heartbreaking Times.

I often talk with social justice activists who feel overwhelmed. They try to feel excited by the possibilities, but find themselves crumbling to a halt, depressed, restless and at times feeling hopeless.

Some of us feel on edge, overly anxious and quick to anger. Our eating habits might be irregular — eating too little or too much. We can’t sleep or we can’t stop sleeping. What’s going on?

We may be suffering from a form of Post Traumatic Stress Reaction also known as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Many social justice activists have seen things a person should never have to see. We may experience firsthand or through videos and extensive reading the images of war, famine, violent attacks, death and atrocities to people, to the planet and to helpless animals.

These images become burned into our minds and can haunt us in our nightmares and in daytime flashbacks.

Some sufferers of PTSD overcome their symptoms/reactions within months of experiencing the trauma. But what about those of us who by the very nature of our work continue to put ourselves in the middle of the horror? What will happen to us when we continue to see and deal with these horrors day in and day out for years?

These very real and lucid memories can be emotionally crippling and can result in a host of reactions in our attempt to manage the pain. We can be blind-sided by depression, anxiety, anger, sleeplessness, nightmares, memory loss, restlessness, jumpiness, fear and amplified emotions. And some of us may try to cope in unhealthy ways.

One of the more disturbing and harmful coping mechanisms can be a form of avoidance. The intrusive thoughts and resulting depression, anxiety and/or anger become so distressing that we try to avoid contact with everything and everyone who might trigger the ill feeling. We may withdraw from our activist friends, we may get less involved, we may threaten and destroy relationships all in an unconscious and sometimes conscious attempt to end the pain.

What can we do?

  • First, recognize the symptoms in yourself and in your friends and fellow social justice activists. Be supportive of yourself and of each other.
  • Know that you don’t have to wear your anger like a badge of honor. Of course you’re angry; who wouldn’t be? But we can transform our anger into motivation, resolve, and action (doing something to help stop the suffering and destruction).
  • Know that your reactions are not at all abnormal. Caring people have open hearts and open minds — those open hearts and open minds can be easily hurt. The very definition of compassion means “to suffer with.”
  • Seek the help of a counselor, a healthcare professional, a spiritual advisor, a mentor, a family member, a close friend and/or a support group of your fellow activists.
  • Take time to look at the sky, to meditate, to breathe, to laugh, to find the joy in life.
  • Turn off your television and tune out the violence. Much of the media is designed to keep the public hyper-aroused, anxious, and consuming. Tune out the violence and make room for Nonviolence.
  • “Shut off” with your friends. You may have friends that deal with the same tough issues. When you’re together recognize that together you already “get it.” You don’t have to convince each other of anything. Help each other find the positive, look for the good, get creative and build on the joy of having a friend who understands. Take time together to focus away from your activism… even if for just a short while.
  • Read a good book. Listen to music. Take a walk.
  • And, maybe most importantly, recognize that you have awakened. You are doing your best to no longer be a part of the cycle of pain. You are part of what is right in this world. Join with others in that joyful awakening and invite others to join us not in painful awareness, but in joyful activism — knowing that from this day forward we are going to make the world a better place for all.

 

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