Some people have differing opinions to ours. That is their entitlement – we all may agree or disagree with each other, have different viewpoints and perspectives. Only we can see the world through our own eyes, layered with our own experiences, trials and tribulations. Only we know our own story fully and completely. No other can know us the way we know ourselves, the reasons for our actions and the choices we make.
Everyone is on their own path, fighting their own battles, making their own decisions according to the principles that they live by, the culture and society they grew up in, and their own soul’s calling. We should never berate another for following their own path. We can certainly disagree, and stand up for what we believe in, whether that is against a political party, a company, an abusive relationship – but we must always remember that belittling someone is never the right thing to do. People will make bad choices, people will not care about the same things that we do. However, making fun of them does not solve anything. Looking down on someone means that you have placed yourself in a position of authority or power over them – an illusory pedestal.
The photo here is an example of a meat company who are putting down vegans in order to gain more people to their “side”, using “humour” as a unifier against some perceived threat to their way of life. What we have to realise is that there are no sides in life – only differing choices and opinions. There is no Us and Them – there is only the human experience. The entire Us and Them mentality has led to the most atrocious human behaviour possible – war and genocide, murder and rape, crime and racism, just to name a few.
Those who choose to become vegan or vegetarian have their own reasons – health, weight loss, environmentalism, religion. It is wrong to belittle someone for any of these reasons. In fact, it is wrong to belittle anyone – end of story. I disagree with people all the time, and I know I’m not perfect, but when I catch myself belittling someone I do my best to stop it, to realise that they are on their own journey, and to have compassion for them. I do not want to be like the person who wrote this sign. I choose to behave differently.
I chose to become vegetarian twenty years ago, and am currently in the switch to vegan. This is my personal choice, based on research and religious reasons that ring true to my own soul. This may not be the same choice for other people, and I understand that. However, I do tire of people making fun of my choice – I have had to endure that for over twenty years. It is inevitable at dinner parties where someone who doesn’t know you very well, and who is a self-confessed “meat lover”, will question your choice at the dinner table, confronting you on your life path when all you want to do is eat with a good conscience and enjoy your meal with your friends or family, in harmony. The ubiquitous “screaming vegetables” always comes up, and I must explain my reasons for becoming vegetarian or remain silent. Sometimes I choose to, other times I simply let it be. For the sake of peace, I make a decision based on compassion for all those who are sharing the meal with me. I only wish certain others could do the same.
Would it be correct to challenge someone on their religion at the dinner table? I don’t think so. What about their decision to join Amnesty International, or Greenpeace? Would it be right to poke fun at someone because they looked different? We must appreciate each other’s diversity, and in that appreciation realise that we are all human beings on our own journeys- that unifying factor within the diversity is what compassion is all about.
That is why in response to the photo above, I am posting this other photo. It reflects and is only my opinion, but it matters to me in my spiritual journey. Zen Buddhism tells us to hold to our opinions lightly, and indeed I see the wisdom in this. Our opinions are always changing – we are always learning and growing. However, we must do so with compassion and awareness of the journey of others as well, even those who challenge us and our opinions. I must have compassion for the people who own that meat company, realising that they have their own reasons for writing this sign, however much I disagree with them. I can voice my own opinion against it with this blog, with my words, with respect and as much understanding as my situation allows. I don’t have to think it is right. I don’t have to agree with them. But I shall not belittle them for their opinion.
Watching Parliament in full swing makes me cringe – I remember the first time I saw a “discussion” which never let the other side finish what they were saying, instead making so much noise as to drown out the current speaker’s voice in a wall of derision. This was how our country was and is being governed. It saddened and enraged me – this so-called civilised way of government. How much better could it be if we just took the time to listen to each other without judgement, allowing the other person their say, and respectfully choosing to disagree if it does not ring true to our souls? If the government cannot govern their behaviour in Parliament, why should the people? I found it so saddening, and still do…
Never be afraid to speak out against what you think is wrong, or for what you believe in. However, do so with compassion, with respect. Otherwise, you are simply acting and reacting to the bad behaviour of others. Remember also that acting with compassion does not necessarily elevate you above these others – you are not “good” for acting compassionately. You are simply acting compassionately – that is all.
Live with honour and dignity. Act with love and compassion. It’s not that hard. Blessings on your journey. X