I'm an environmental lawyer that's becoming increasingly passionate about exposing "eco-friendly" companies who are anything but. It pains me to no end to see friends, neighbors and co-workers share their latest organic goods that were so obviously mass-produced and slapped with the term 'all-natural' even though a brief look at the ingredients raises all sorts of questions regarding the organic nature of the product.
I'm becoming obsessed, but I fear it's starting to affect my relationships. I have a hard time tempering my passion (especially when I believe companies are creating unethical products to fool uneducated consumers) and can sometimes slip into an hour rant at a dinner party while polite folks push food around their plates. Yes, I fear I've become "that person."
How can I temper this passion and keep it from taking over my thoughts? I'm not a cynic and don't want to become one. Is there a healthy way to take this passion and channel it into something positive for my cause?
Love, Feeling Not At All Natural
Dear Not At All Natural,
You are not the first professional to become overzealous in their focus. I get it. But passion is one thing. Making people miserable at a random dinner party is quite another. And educating those uneducated consumers with a one-sided diatribe is kind of reprehensible. Especially when those so-called fools are your friends. I would knock it off.
I can't say I understand you. Aside from this column, I try not to sway people away from their belief systems. I never talk hard about politics or religion, tattoos, breastfeeding, or Santa Claus. I've never even stuck on a vehement bumper sticker. If someone comes at me with super opinions, I smile politely and listen as intently as I'm supposed to in the sincere hope that I learn something new and this ten minutes of my life isn't wasted, but I can't say I really engage in a back and forth. On a related note, I've never held up an anti-anything poster at a pro-something rally. It's just never been my thing.
No, I can't say I understand you. But I kind of envy you. I would love to have super opinions. I would love to be passionate about something other than frozen Twinkies, true words on real paper, and at least one hidden tattoo per person. I'd like to be more complicated than believing in being nice, truthful, and fair on a daily – if not hourly – basis, and trusting in the good of most people. And, as Herman Hesse so eloquently put it, "To hold our tongues when everyone is gossiping, to smile without hostility at people and institutions, to compensate for the shortage of love in the world with more love in small, private matters; to be more faithful in our work, to show greater patience, to forgo the cheap revenge obtainable from mockery and criticism: all these are things we can do." Oh, and to skinny dip at least once a year.
But I would hate to make my friends uncomfortable. Or worse, left feeling somehow less than me.
Instead of lecturing, show a little love. Be patient with those who aren't lucky enough to be experts in your field. Think of them as foreigners learning a brand new language, and cut them a break. Subtly and not too often, correct their grammar with an encouraging tip. Like, "Hey…try to buy peanut butter without aflatoxin. It's just kind of a carcinogen, is all." Soon enough, they'll be fluent. And grateful for your guidance.
As for those unethical companies misleading the masses? Go get 'em, Tiger.
That's the only way I live my days. (And for the rest of you brawlers out there, don't forget this bit of Nietzsche: "Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster." I think that would make a brilliant bumper sticker, don't you?)