Let’s rewind to one of my favorite lessons of childhood, shall we? It’s something we all learned during that stage of life when our verbal filters were not so…filtery yet. When we didn’t think twice about loudly exclaiming that someone is overweight, that Sally’s lunch is stinky, or Bobby’s shoes are ugly. When it was second nature to call our brother “butthead” for no good reason (or in some cases, like mine, for very valid reasons), or tell our sister that her finger-painting looks like poop. When my brother and I were in these filter-formative years, my mother engrained in us the phrase most mothers attempt to engrain in their children:
If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.
As children, the not-so-friendly remarks that slid off our tongues usually (unless you were a real bully) fell between the lines of offensive at worst and laughably innocent at best. As adults we are much smarter. We have broader vocabularies. We know what it feels like to be put down. We know what’s nice and what’s not nice to say to another person, which words will sting and scar, which words will embarrass and demean. That’s why it’s so awful when adults act like children. We are not children. We should know when to keep our negative remarks to ourselves.
At what point in our lives do we begin to forget (or neglect) what our mothers taught us? That if we don’t have much good to say, then it’s best to say nothing? This is one of the most valuable and underrated lessons we learn in our entire lives. Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me. I call BS on that one. Hateful words do hurt, and they hurt badly. You know what they don’t do? Absolutely anything positive. They are completely unnecessary, which is why speaking no words at all is better than spewing hate.
If you follow me on Instagram, you know I post a ton of food photos. What you may or may not know is that for a time, I was fully vegan. I gained a lot of vegan followers during that time. Since starting this new blog, I changed my old Instagram name and deleted all my past photos. They promoted my old blog, and I want everything to now promote Of Mouth and Mind. I am no longer vegan, and though I have huge respect for the vegan community, I am not ashamed to no longer be vegan. It’s my personal decision and I stand by it.
Yesterday I posted a photo of a meal I made with organic grass-fed ground beef. I soon received this comment from a vegan: #meatisnothealthy. I went through a few emotions (and a few potential responses) before writing back to him, then ultimately decided to take the high road and respond respectfully. He came back with a long comment about how my health issues are not an excuse to not be vegan, how veganism is the only hope for the planet, and how I should not tag my pictures with the hashtag healthy if they have meat in them. He later deleted this little Insta-essay, but even so, this man is the perfect example of why we should not speak unless we have something kind or constructive to say.
Did his comments turn me vegan again? Of course they didn’t. Did he think they would? I highly doubt it. His words did nothing but hurt me. Do not get me wrong; I love the vegan community. I highly respect their passion, their commitment to their passion, and their good intent. With that said, it’s vegans like this that give the whole lot of them a bad name. It’s remarks like his that drive omnivores further away from veganism, rather than draw them toward it. By advocating veganism in such a negative manner, it works directly against the vegan movement. If a person has nothing nice to say, he or she should do us all a favor and not say anything at all.
Jordan Younger of The Balanced Blonde relates all too well to what I’m talking about here, and so does Carrie Forrest of Carrie on Living. When they recently came out as no longer being vegan, they received a slew of hateful comments. I read some of these comments when they were still fresh, and since I had recently made the same decision that Jordan and Carrie had made, I could easily feel their pain. What makes it all the more saddening is that with a little more compassion from others, their pain could have been made so much less. The hurtful comments they received served no purpose other than to make them feel badly about their choices. Vegans should promote their beliefs in a positive light on their own pages instead of negatively promote them on other people’s pages. All that does is spread hate, and veganism is supposed to be about compassion. (Side note: What I’m saying in this post goes for anyone with an opinion, not merely vegans. I’m specifically talking about veganism because of its relevance to my life.)
There are reasons why people such as Gena Hamshaw of Choosing Raw, and Angela Liddon of Oh She Glows, are selling cookbooks to both vegans and non-vegans across America, why their blogs have followers of all dietary preferences. I may not be vegan, but I can’t wait to make some of the recipes in Gena’s book! (And Angela’s book, once I purchase it!) Would I have bought it if the pages were filled with anti-omnivore commentary? Definitely not. By being such an openhearted and accepting person, Gena is opening the gates for a multitude of omnivores to connect with veganism. Gena and Angela are no less passionate than any other vegan, but these women don’t shame others for their personal choices. They promote their beliefs without putting the rest of us down. If all vegans were this way, there wouldn’t be nearly as wide of a gap between omnivores and herbivores. Wouldn’t that be wonderful?
I don’t believe the man who commented on my photo is a bad person. I believe he’s a passionate person. I just wish he had the sense to use that passion in veganism’s favor, to not attack when unprovoked, to keep quiet when he has nothing nice to say. I know Carrie felt my pain when she saw the rude comment on my Instagram photo. The sweet comment she left me afterward filled my heart with so much warmth. Little remarks of kindness can have just as big of an impact as little remarks of hate, but the impact is one of positivity.
There are plenty of plant-based foodies who still follow me on Instagram even though I’m no longer vegan, such as Terri Green of The Banana Chronicles, Karissa Bowers of Vegan A La Mode, Andrew Olson of One Ingredient Chef, and the previously mentioned Gena Hamshaw of Choosing Raw. Our diets are no longer aligned, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t any overlap. That doesn’t mean we can’t respect one another for living our lives the way we each see fit. That doesn’t mean we can’t still get along, or remain dear friends. It’s vegans like these extraordinary, inspiring, and overwhelmingly compassionate individuals who keep me connected to the vegan world, a world that has such incredible potential to spread love.
Let us not perpetuate a war that need not exist at all, and let us all remember (and I mean all of us–vegan or not) what our mothers taught us as children: If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.