Monday, October 12, 2015

Morality vs Personal Comfort

In my first year of college, my roommate - a vegetarian - pointed out that what I was choosing to eat was immoral. He noted that meat was part of an individual who wouldn’t have suffered and died if I had made different choices.

I didn’t want to hear this. I wanted the world match up with my choices, and I wanted to consider myself a good, moral person.

Eventually, my discomfort prompted me to start altering my food choices. I didn’t just stop eating animal flesh, but realized I had to continue to evolve so that my choices would cause the least amount of suffering.

Not surprisingly, when I started as an advocate, I wanted everything to be “vegan” - the name, the title, the message. I created long and loud arguments to rationalize a pure message. Again, though, I was uncomfortable when I started to realize a vegan message was ineffectual. Person after person would say, “Oh, I could never be vegan,” and that would be the end of any discussion or consideration.

Again, I wanted to be a moral person, and I desperately desired the world to match up with my advocacy choices. But clearly, by failing to engage people with a constructive message that reached them where they were at the moment, I was failing to lead to the least amount of suffering. Just like my non-vegan food choices were immoral, once I knew it wasn’t optimally effective, my pure vegan advocacy was immoral as well.

This was a very uncomfortable realization. Like everyone, I wanted to consider myself a good person, and I yearned to justify my choices. I am fortunate that my friends and colleagues helped me get over my ego and insecurities, and return the focus to helping the most animals possible.

Of course, this isn’t to say we should base our advocacy and discussions on calling people “immoral.” Rather, we should keep in mind that when we know better, we need to do better. It is possible to make a huge difference in the world; we just need to step outside our comfort zone.


Christine said...

I just wanted to say a thank you for sharing your experiences with us in your honest & humble way, Matt. It can take a lot of courage to be able to reflect and then be honest with ourselves, let alone put that honesty out there for the whole world to see.
You are helping others to get to that point of "when we know better", as well as providing guidance for the next step of "we need to do better".
Thank you for sharing your journey and wisdom with us. :)

Matt Ball said...

Thanks so much for your kind words.

Christine said...

Well, you are most definitely deserving of those kind words.

Joseph T. Espinosa said...

Animals are hostages in modern society. A hostage negotiator who gets on the line to communicate with hostage takers and is guided explicitly by their own moral baseline rather than finding out where the hostage takers are at and seeing what can be done to meet their wants and needs with minimal damage to the hostages held creates a lot of unnecessary victims.