Giving yourself permission

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Hello and welcome back! I hope you had a great weekend and you’re charged up and ready to go for the week ahead!

We got to spend the weekend up at a cottage with Angela’s family – it’ll probably be the last time we make a decent-sized trip before the baby comes, so I’m amazingly happy about the weather we got – it felt like summer, as long as we didn’t try to go swimming!

I also had a chance to get some Big Thinking done, which tends to happen when I unplug a bit. Nothing to announce this week, but next week? Oh yeah…

Giving yourself permission

This week I want to talk about permission. This might be something you can use yourself, but it’ll also help you understand and work with the meat eaters in your life.

I’ve said this many times in the past, but it’s worth repeating: we don’t live in a world where information is hidden, especially in this century. There are secrets out there, sure, but the stuff that matters to your everyday life is usually available with a quick Google search or visit to your local library.

Here’s the first of two personal anecdotes, and I’m sure it’s not unique: when I came back from school, my eyes were wide open. I’d spent four years in a much bigger city, and had accessed books and magazines that I’d never even dreamt of while I was growing up. Wow, how sheltered my life had been, but now I was an Educated Man!


When I later visited my old hometown bookstore, you know, for nostalgia’s sake, because I knew where to get the “good stuff” now, guess what I found? Yep, all those books and magazines that I thought were being hidden from me.

They hadn’t upgraded their inventory since I left; I just chose not to see those things before. More specifically, I didn’t let myself see them.

Anecdote number two: when I first went vegan, it was totally for health reasons. Maybe a few political reasons too, and the environment? OK, if it happens to help out, then great, but the change was all about me, me, me.

It was at least a year before I’d even acknowledge the impact of diet on the lives of animals. I wasn’t doing this to save the pretty little bunny wunnies, no way, nosir. That was, well, unmanly is probably the only way to explain my thinking at the time.

Of course, now I understand that health is a big complicated thing, and there are people who are generally quite healthy eating all kinds of diets, but a plant-based one is the one that helps the most animals, among other benefits. My motivations have done almost a complete 180 degree shift over time.

What changed? I gave myself permission to care about animals.

I think Clay Shirky put it this way: we don’t have an information problem. We have a filtering problem. We choose what to pick out of the massive stream of information out there, and some of the decisions on what to notice and acknowledge are based on what we’re ready to receive.

Some of you on this list aren’t vegan (yet!), and some of you are probably in the same boat I was, where animal suffering was out of my field of vision. Conversely, some of you are probably in the opposite camp, where you’re all about the animals, but can’t let yourself think about health because you feel that it’d be selfish on some level.

The first step to accepting new information is simply to give yourself permission to find it.

On a broader scale, when working with others, you need to give them permission to accept these things too – in some cases you need to give them permission to even give themselves permission.

Recognize that there are things that some meat eaters in your lives (as well as you yourself, possibly,) just aren’t ready to know about. The resistance you get to veganism might simply be a reflection of the fact that people can’t bring themselves to know these things, because among other reasons, it’d be like saying that everything they’ve been doing for their whole lives is wrong.

I think this’ll vary from person to person, so I don’t have a blanket “do this to grant permission” step, but try this: make one thing OK for the person you’re talking with. Make it OK to eat tofu. Make it OK to eat a meal with nothing but vegetables in it. Make it OK to feel compassion for an animal. Create a safe area around one thing, and see if things improve from there.

If we’re going to change, we have to give ourselves permission to do so, and if others are going to change, they have to let themselves do it too. As I showed with my past experiences, all the information in the world won’t make any difference if you aren’t ready to receive it.

What about you? Was there something in your past that you had to let yourself open up to, with respect to veganism? How did you give youeself permission? Rather than share them with me via email (though you’re welcome to,) I’m going to open up comments on the web version of this newsletter, so please comment there or on our Facebook page!


Thanks again for being a subscriber, and for all your inspiratonal feedback, comments, and questions! I learn as much if not more from writing these as you do from reading it, so thanks for all you do to help us learn together, even if you’re a reader who’s never emailed or commented a single thing: just having you out there means a lot!

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

tomb7890 April 6, 2010 at 2:01 pm

Jason, it sounds like I’m following in your footsteps. However,
having just read her book, I’m tempted somewhat to view this
thru the lens of Melanie Joy, author of “Why We Love Dogs, Eat
Pigs, and Wear Cows.”

Keep the health argument in your back pocket, for the the
important reason that many people (eg yours truly) just won’t be
open to animal ethics until after they’ve lost the animal
food. After which the elaborate “mental gymanastics” (as Joy puts
it) needed to rationalize will fall away like the shedding of

The health argument can be made if you don’t make unwarranted
claims. Non-veg authorities may carry more weight than vegan
ones. For example, Duke University recently profiled
vegetarian (and vegan) diets in their January health
letter. Their bottom line: “vegetarian diets confer myriad
benefits to the consumer.”

Jason April 6, 2010 at 4:42 pm

Thanks – I’ve put a hold on that book (and after Animal Factory, I’m really happy to see it’s a relatively sane page count!)

Carol April 7, 2010 at 8:57 am

“Recognize that there are things that some meat eaters in your lives … just aren’t ready to know about. The resistance you get to veganism might simply be a reflection of the fact that people can’t bring themselves to know these things, because among other reasons, it’d be like saying that everything they’ve been doing for their whole lives is wrong.”

This is so true, Jason. Great podcast/newsletter!

Carol xx

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