Conscious Rejection

June 3rd, 2014 by Steve Pavlina

Over the past few days, I’ve made a lot of progress in resolving some of the ethical dilemmas I’ve been sharing recently. I’ve felt some significant shifts happening in how I choose to relate to people who support animal cruelty, such as modern factory farming.

Tolerance

In the past, my main way of dealing with such people was to tolerate them as best I could. This included entertaining their desire to debate the topic with me. Engaging in such debates often nauseates me, however. I dislike it when people try to justify cruelty and expect me to treat this as a worthy topic of discussion.

Having been eating a vegan diet for 17+ years, I’ve heard all the pro-cruelty arguments before. I haven’t encountered any genuinely new ones in many years. I’ve seen no valid defenses for the indefensible position of preying on the weak. I can debate these topics endlessly, but I see no point in doing so. Getting sucked into debates on these topics puts me back in the past and slows me down from taking the next steps on my own journey.

I realize that my main issue has been my willingness to tolerate the attitudes of staunchly pro-entitlement people in my life, especially people who feel they’re entitled to participate in forcibly impregnating, torturing, and slaughtering animals for their gustatory amusement.

Trust

I’ve been tolerating such people in my life, but I don’t trust them. I can understand how they think because I used to harbor similar attitudes myself, but I left behind that way of being so long ago that I cannot muster any shred of respect for such attitudes anymore.

Consequently, there’s no real potential to have deep, authentic, and purposeful relationships with such people. I always keep them at arm’s length. When I’m with such people, I often pick up a creepy or slimy vibe from them. I sometimes need to excuse myself from their physical presence and slough off that distasteful energy.

I find it much easier to trust people who have a strong sense of ethical guidance and who continue to refine their values over time — people who seek to increase their alignment with compassion and move past cruelty, entitlement, and rationalization.

I’m now finally seeing that tolerating people in my life that I cannot trust isn’t a good idea. It drags me down emotionally and slows me down in terms of pursuing my own path of growth. It keeps me looking backwards to where I’ve been, as opposed to focusing on what I could be exploring next.

I also dislike that when I connect with such people, I start feeling more helpless and hopeless. I lose hope in humanity. I start feeling increasingly disappointed with the world. I begin to socially withdraw from the world instead of fully engaging with it. I don’t feel as inspired to share and contribute. This is disempowering. It’s not my path. It’s not me.

Conscious Rejection

I’ve been exploring different options for how to relate to such people, as you already know if you’ve read my last few articles, but it’s been difficult to find an approach that seemed rational, intuitively correct, and emotionally satisfying.

Yesterday, however, I began to explore an option that fulfilled these criteria: conscious rejection.

In the past I’ve been reluctant to dismiss pro-cruelty people. So I’ve tolerated them instead. This is like a man who tolerates misogyny from his male friends. He may justify his tolerance by noting that the other guys aren’t hurting him; they’re only hurting women. That’s what I’ve been doing with animals. I’ve been letting it be semi-okay for friends of mine to justify cruelty. I’ve allowed myself to succumb to the human-animal relations equivalent of the expression bros before hos. That isn’t aligned with the man I desire to be.

I now see how foolish it is to live like that. I can’t pretend that it makes sense to act like it’s okay for someone to hurt and kill animals with impunity. That type of behavior is wrong, regardless of how popular it may be.

So I’m no longer willing to tolerate this staunchly pro-cruelty attitude in my social circle.

In terms of communicating conscious rejection, I’m still working on that. Perhaps something like this would be a decent place to start:

Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this subject. Given what you’ve shared, I feel that it would be unwise for me to maintain a relationship with you beyond this point. My mantra for social relationships is: mutual respect, or disconnect. I can still respect your freedom of choice, but I find that I’m unable to respect your specific choices here, so I consciously choose to disconnect.

If your values and preferences in this area later change to the point where you feel we’ve become more aligned, please feel free to get back in touch and let me know about the shifts you’ve experienced, and we’ll see if it’s possible for us to reach a place of mutual respect and to reconnect. I would be open to that.

Until then I would prefer that we go our separate ways and do not communicate any further. If you wish me to respect your freedom to choose, then please respect my freedom to choose as well.

If you’d like a more detailed explanation of why I prefer to disconnect, please see my article on Conscious Rejection.

I hope you understand.

Were my initial rejections this tactful? Heck no! I had too much reactiveness mixed into them. For those who felt I was overly harsh, I’m genuinely sorry about that. That was my fault — I allowed my vibe to sink too low. Now it’s trending back up again, so I’m more capable of choosing a more thoughtful response.

Beyond being an ethical vegan, my commitment to conscious growth runs much deeper. This includes my willingness to respect other people’s freedom to choose their own paths, even when they choose options that I consider cruel or unethical. That said, when others choose to pursue such paths, I may also exercise my freedom not to tolerate behaviors which I consider abusive. To do otherwise slows me down and causes me to stagnate. I want to keep growing.

Relief

I’ve begun to explore this conscious rejection option to see how it feels to me. Last night when people would try to defend their pro-cruelty behaviors on my social media pages, I stopped tolerating them. I let them know that I considered their behavior unacceptable, without ambiguity. Then I consciously rejected them, first by telling them, then by blocking their accounts from accessing my pages again. Basically I dismissed them from my social circle.

I did this a few times as I felt the situation warranted. Each time I felt relieved. I felt lighter. I felt safer. I felt like I could breathe easier.

Some would interpret this to mean that I just got triggered and reacted impulsively. My experience wasn’t like that. I know what it feels like to be triggered. Being triggered is an unconscious reaction. This, however, was a conscious choice. I didn’t impulsively or unconsciously reject anyone. I opted to do it very consciously and deliberately. I simply said, “No more.”

I’ll admit there was some reactiveness mixed in, but that aspect seemed to fade a bit more each time. Looking back, I feel like these were deliberate choices, not knee-jerk reactions. I have, after all, been consciously considering how to handle such situations for a while now, including publicly writing about it.

I understand and accept that some people may consider this approach a bad idea. I’m going to explore it anyway and see where it leads. I like that it’s giving me a feeling of relief so far, helping me to feel lighter. The more I consider it, the more I feel at peace with it.

What about love and oneness? For me this is the most love- and oneness-aligned path I can see right now. I’m doing the equivalent of filtering out the cacophonous noise in my reality, so I can finally hear the quieter and more beautiful music behind it. I’m dropping the disharmonious elements, so I can tune into the harmonious ones. This makes more sense than continuing to tolerate the noise and getting a headache for the effort, while missing out on the inspired music.

Growth

This puts a decision upon the committed pro-cruelty people in my social circles.

They can speak up and defend their attitudes to me, which of course they’re free to do. If their attitudes feel creepy, slimy, or nauseating to me, I’ll drop them from my social circle. I’ll trust my intuition on a case by case basis.

Or they can consciously reject me first. I’m fine with that.

Or they can keep quiet and do their best to tolerate me in their lives, maybe giving further thought to how they wish to relate to me, if at all. This is how I previously dealt with them.

Or they can try to bobble around in the middle gray area. If and when they cross the line with me, they’ll know.

Does this mean that I’m rejecting all meat eaters out of my life? Not at all. Let me ‘splain…

To those meat eaters who genuinely desire to work on improving their alignment with compassion and reducing their contribution to cruelty over time, I’m happy to continue having them in my life, including as friends. I don’t feel I’m merely tolerating such people. I’m able to respect and appreciate them as they are. I’m able to trust in their commitment to grow into more compassionate and loving people over time. I see no need to push such people out of my life.

I don’t expect perfection from anyone, myself included. But I’m not willing to tolerate those who seek to stubbornly defend and rationalize indefensible acts of cruelty.

If people are willing to keep growing in this area of their lives, regardless of how fast they’re changing or where they end up, I can see enough of a basis there for trust, connection, and mutual respect. I can respect such people, regardless of their starting point. I can respect them even if they end up taking a different trajectory than mine.

I’m not, however, able to respect justification and rationalization of cruelty. That’s too far out of alignment with the principles by which I live. I neither trust nor respect those who stoop to this level, especially their proclaimed right to commit brutal acts of violence against animals, just because they can. I have no desire to invest more energy in tolerating such people. I would rather consciously release them.

I believe I’ve been using tolerance to slow myself down in terms of the refinement of my own sense of ethics. That’s probably because there are more aspects that I’m not sure how to handle yet and don’t necessarily feel ready to face, and so it’s easier to look backwards to decisions where I already have the comfort of knowing that I’ve made sensible choices. Getting wrapped up in the ethical stagnation of others was a symptom of my own. It’s time to move on.

Relationships

These realizations have also given me much clarity about the challenges I recently shared regarding some of my relationship explorations with women. I now see that the issue there is that I’ve been attracting women who’ve been tolerating abuse just as I was doing. These women felt a desire to connect, but they were skittish about letting go and trusting, which made it hard for us to connect very deeply. I realize now that I’ve been doing the same thing. And how else can it be? Like attracts like.

By tolerating the presence of people I perceive as violent, cruel, and abusive in my social circle, I’ve been dragging down my vibe. This has made it harder for me to trust people in general. When I meet new people, I often feel suspicious of their motives. That’s a side effect of tolerating too much unacceptable behavior in my life.

I’ve been wanting to connect with more people who find it easy to trust. I believed I was one of them and should be able to attract such people without much difficulty. I was confused because the flow wasn’t as strong as I expected. Of course there was a hidden block, which I can finally see now.

Until now I didn’t see that I was putting myself in a position that made it harder for me to trust other people. I wasn’t actually as trusting as I thought I was. I’ve been tolerating the presence of too many people that I consider untrustworthy. This needs to stop. It seems much more sensible to stop tolerating and to start consciously releasing such people. It takes me beyond ambivalence and gives me great relief to know that I’m not obligated to tolerate such abuse.

Based on my experience of undergoing many other shifts, I expect that this is going to change the types of people I attract into my life, as well as transform some existing connections. By consciously releasing the people and behaviors I find truly repulsive, I can move past the stuckness of partial matches and more congruently attract and connect with like-minded people who are willing to reject violence and cruelty. I feel especially attracted to people who speak their truths while surrendering to the inevitable social consequences of their unabashed honesty. I have a lot of respect and admiration for such people. Now it’s time for me to do a better job of becoming worthy of their expanding presence in my life.

A common piece of feedback I receive is that while people can be quite vocal in disagreeing with some of the decisions I’ve made or the attitudes I’ve adopted, they still respect my honesty. They like that I value truth ahead of reputation, ahead of income, and ahead of opportunism. I realize that this is a quality I very much admire and appreciate in others too, even when they say things I make dislike.

One thing I love about Rachelle is that she doesn’t tolerate abuse in her life. She doesn’t tolerate misogyny. She’s never allowed herself to succumb to an abusive relationship. She treats men well and says “no, thanks” or “goodbye” when she feels the compatibility isn’t strong enough for her. She doesn’t mess with people. When I first started connecting with her, she gave me the most unambiguous yes that I’ve ever received from a woman. I’d love to connect with more women who have similar high standards for their communication… not to mention high self esteem and a passion for exploration and growth — and cuddling!

I think it’s also time for me to stop saying yes (or maybe) to connections from women that I can predict are going to be weak matches for me in terms of their ability to trust. In the past few years, these connections helped to serve as a mirror for me, even though it took me a while to see that. I also think this was a way of sticking to my comfort zone. I’m very comfortable connecting with women who have a great deal of abuse in their past; I find it easy to relate to them. But these aren’t really growth connections for me. They just anchor me to similar attitudes of distrust.

Many of my personal growth shifts have social consequences, changing the types of people that I attract into my life. My social life is a rich source of feedback for me, not so much from what people say but from who they are. What kinds of people are showing up and why?

The feeling of relief is a good sign. More validation will come as I begin to attract new relationship matches. One thing I appreciate about being in an open relationship is that I can experience a lot more feedback this way. I don’t have to rely on deciphering the meaning of just one primary partner. I’m able to see how I’m creating my experiences from multiple angles. Each connection that shows up is a new piece to the puzzle, a different snapshot of the tapestry.

Rejection and Kindness

Many people are resistant to doling out rejection, finding it overly harsh. They figure it’s best to be as tolerant as they can. When they encounter a situation that doesn’t feel right to them, they may keep quiet or drop a few ambiguous hints instead of being honest and direct. But then the other person doesn’t receive quality feedback, and so when mistakes are made, there’s little or no stimulation to grow and improve. Tolerating cruelty and abuse only perpetuates it. Even if we can’t prevent it, we can at least consciously say no to it. We can let people know how we genuinely feel, which empowers them to make wiser decisions for themselves.

Is rejection necessarily unkind? When done consciously I think it can be one of the kindest approaches out there. To share one’s thoughts and feelings honestly and to call out behaviors we consider unethical may yield some harsh reactions initially, but in the long run this could potentially help all of us live more consciously.

I also suspect that harsh reactions are much more likely at the beginning of this path, where there’s still some lingering resistance to doling out rejection. This makes the rejection less congruent. Calibration will improve over time, however, and I suspect that when we become truly accepting and appreciative of the value of conscious rejection, we can dole it out more authentically and therefore receive thankful responses in return.

Incidentally, I understand that the word rejection may have negative associations for some people. If you don’t like that word, feel free to use a different phrase, such as conscious opt-out, conscious dismissal, or simply conscious no. The idea is what matters, and the idea is to move beyond tolerance and into a place of greater harmony.

Parallel Journeys

This approach is producing some rather unexpected feedback as well. Since I started blogging about this topic, I’ve received several messages from people telling me that reading this little series is creating some emotional shifts within them. Some of them are already changing their diets or kicking off new trials, specifically to see if they can reduce their cruelty footprints. I was not actually trying to convince any of them to do that; my intention for the past week or so has been to work on my own transformation in terms of my relationships with others. So that is very interesting — when we transform ourselves and share our journeys, we may invite and inspire others to join us. I think that’s because we’re each able to recognize parts of our own journeys reflected in someone else’s.

Regardless of what you think about me or what I’ve shared, I encourage you to tune into your own heart and connect with your spirit. Who are you? Does your true self really desire to continue to support factory farming, or do you want to move past this if you can find a way to make it realistic and practical? How can you increase your alignment with the part of you that feels the most whole… the most sacred… the most genuine? Where is your path with a heart?

One piece of advice that has worked very well for me is to apply the principles of Truth, Love, and Power separately when I feel stuck. First, I do my best to admit the truth to myself, whether or not I feel capable of acting on it. How do I truly feel? What am I afraid of? What am I resisting? Often times this means admitting that there’s a change I feel I should make, but I don’t feel strong enough to make it right now. Maybe I just can’t see the solution yet. Then I can consciously intend for the love and power alignment that I need to change. I ask for more compassion. I ask for more strength. I give myself permission to feel weak at first. Many of the biggest shifts in my life started when I admitted to myself that I wanted them but that I was too weak to make them happen. This type of honesty is very effective at kicking off some powerful personal transformations.

You may recognize that this is the approach I’ve been using to work on my own transformation for the past week or so. I started by trying to align myself with truth. I didn’t know where it would lead. I couldn’t see a solution when I started. I worked first on delving deeper into my thoughts and feelings, even when they seemed to be leading me to a pretty dark place. This gave me more clarity about what I wanted to experience instead (love alignment). And soon I began feeling enough clarity to summon the power to start making different decisions and taking different actions. I so love engaging with these principles consciously because they never let me down. They’re the most powerful growth accelerators I know of.


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