An interview with compassionate lifestyle advocate and writer Jeanne Grunert.
Q. What is a compassionate lifestyle advocate?
JG: I saw this phrase in, of all things, a chef’s bio in the back of a book promoting a plant-based lifestyle and it was like BAM that’s it – that’s what I do.
Throughout my life, I have knowingly and unknowingly promoted, advocated, and created a compassionate lifestyle. I believe deeply that we are all created in the image and likeness of God; my creed is Matthew 5:14-16. “We are the light of the world, may our light shine before all, that they may see the good that we do, and give glory to God.” My patron saint is St. Francis de Sales, who believe that the little things we do – compassion, humility, service, gentleness, sweetness of temper, cheerfulness – are all worthy and good and gifts to God. What a world we could build if we only put into practice the things we know, the things we find in scripture and in the words of Jesus himself.
Q. Are you Christian?
JG: Yes. I was born Roman Catholic, left the church for over a decade to study meditation with the Self Realization Fellowship, and then returned fully to the church by 2008. It was a long, steady process back, aided by the friars at St. Francis of Assisi church in New York City and the Capuchin monks down the street from St. Francis of Assisi at St. John the Baptist church across from Madison Square Garden. A few years ago, I discovered the writings of St. Francis de Sales, and consider myself one of his spiritual ‘daughters.’ My work as a compassionate lifestyle advocate draws heavily on Salesian spirituality as reflected in the work of St. Francis de Sales.
Q. Most people writing about “compassionate lifestyles” are Buddhist. Why?
JG: Ahimsa or non-violence is one of the basic tenants of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism. It’s in Christianity, too. Matthew Chapter 5 lays out Jesus’ thoughts clearly on this. He tells us to turn the other cheek and that an eye for an eye is no longer valid. Followers of Jesus should be equally as committed to nonviolence as our Buddhist, Jain and Hindu brothers and sisters.
Note that I say we should be equally as committed, not perfect. We will never attain perfection here on Earth. We should strive always to do better, each day offering ourselves to God and to his perfect will. Then, we commit to a compassionate lifestyle. We commit to doing better and to the mindfulness and self-reflection that brings about change and growth.
Q. What do you mean?
JG: I mean that when we are mindful of our thoughts, we can change them. If we are self-reflective, we see opportunities for improvement. We use the little opportunities in our daily lives to give, love and serve, and to offer compassion to ourselves, to others, and to all compassion.
Q. How do you define a compassionate lifestyle?
- Compassion towards oneself; forgiving oneself for imperfections, faults, and failings while continually striving towards improvement;
- Compassion towards all other human beings, with special love to children, the elderly, and the handicapped;
- Compassion towards those who harm us, who do us harm or who wish us harm. This does NOT mean suffering silently or acting “like a doormat” but forgiveness after lawful channels have been pursued.
- Compassion towards animals, especially the domestic animals in our care but also towards livestock raised for our needs and to wild animals with whom we share the planet;
- Compassion towards the planet and kindness towards the environment; utilizing resources with wise stewardship and awareness that present actions impact future generations.
We may show our compassionate lifestyle by choosing to eat meat sparingly or not at all; by recycling or taking a minimalist approach to life. We may buy used, recycled, or reconditioned clothing, cars, and furniture. We care for what we are given, and follow the old-fashioned mantra of use it up, wear it out, reuse or recycle.
We participate in harmless hobbies and pastimes that provide us with welcome joy and rest. We take care of ourselves and the well-being and that of our family first, then others. Compassion towards ourselves means we ensure we get adequate rest, sleep, nourishment, embrace challenging work, and nurture healthy relationships.
We do not support actions that do not show love, but neither do we actively attack, in word, thought or deed, others who act against the law of love.
We do not judge, but listen with love; we teach and speak the truth of Christ always but show love to all. We follow our chosen religion, if we have one, to the best of our abilities, and let God be the judge of our fellow man and the judge of the fruits of our work.
For ourselves, doing God’s will daily, and practicing the “little virtues” of patience, gentleness, humility, sweetness, and liberty of spirit with those we encounter in person and online, at work or at home, is our pathway to happiness.
Q. What does “compassionate lifestyle advocate” mean to you?
JG: It means that as a writer, my words advocate or promote a compassionate lifestyle. My fiction tends to feature elderly or handicapped people. My blogs focus on sustainable living, organic gardening, and plant-based diets. And in my work as a marketing manager, I try to help people promote themselves and their work with authenticity and truth. This is how I express the compassionate lifestyle in my life.