E6: Water the Right Seeds – Compassionate Communication (Melanie Joy)


There’s a wonderful
Buddhist saying that goes: “We all have within us
the seeds of greed, hatred, and desire, and the seeds of love,
compassion, and empathy. Our job is just to water the right seeds.” What this means is that
what we focus on will grow. So, for example,
if we focus on others’ compassion, we’ll encourage them
to be more compassionate, and if we focus on their apathy,
we’ll encourage them to be more apathetic and probably even defensive
since they can feel judged by us. If we want to help nonvegans
connect with their natural compassion and other core moral values, we need to view and communicate with them
in a way that helps them do this. For example, when you meet someone
who tells you they used to be vegan but aren’t anymore, instead of asking them
why they stopped being vegan, try asking them why they became
vegan in the first place. Or, when a nonvegan
tells you they love animals, instead of thinking
of them as a hypocrite, many people genuinely
feel love for animals and simply haven’t made the connection between caring about them
and not eating them. Ask them to tell you more
about their experience. What kinds of animals do they love? Have they always loved animals? Do they have any companion
animals in their life? And then, if the situation is appropriate,
you can also share your experience, saying something like, “I care about animals, too, which is why when I found out what happens
to them in order to become our food, I decided I couldn’t eat them anymore.” Imagine you have a vegetable garden
you used to feed your family. If you always water the weeds
instead of the vegetables, you’ll end up starving. But if you’re careful
to nurture the vegetables, you can eat abundantly. If we want to create a world
based on compassion, justice, and other important values, we need to water these seeds
as much as possible, in others and also in ourselves. In this way, we help grow
a better world for everyone, humans and nonhumans alike.

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