Ethical Living and I were formally introduced about a year ago. We were acquainted but the more its name was hashtagged, the less I understood it. Then we had our first real encounter; I heard the idea of injustice coming from broken relationships, the term ‘global neighbour’ and homemade toothpaste.
I was all in. Guns blazing, I came home proclaiming I was becoming a vegan. Alas, I also happen to be gluten intolerant and fairly annoying to cook for so my mam vetoed that.
It’s easy to be passionate when listening to someone else talk. It’s harder when you have to actually do something, especially when it’s sometimes inconvenient or expensive. With ethical living it’s especially hard to maintain at university if you live with people whose lifestyles don’t match yours.
You don’t want to nag, yet you also don’t want your flat’s energy bill to be solely responsible for melting the entire Arctic and Antarctic.
You can’t spend your whole day sprinting from room to room switching lights off after people – you have a degree not to fail.
Thus, you conclude, before the earth, or you (in frustration) spontaneously combust, you must say something. But then we are back to problem one. So here are a few things I have learnt from riding out this tension:
1. Check Yourself
Once I was with two friends; I complimented one on her jacket and she said it was a fiver from an ethically shady high-street shop. (My adjective, not hers.) When she left, I launched into an angry spiel to the other friend who happened to be my ethical guru. She gently pointed out to me that yes, we were making great, ethical decisions about our clothing but the night before we had eaten our bodyweight in ice-cream which was a different kind of consumerism, greed and lack of concern. It was an incredibly helpful prompt. I buy one ethically made deodorant and think I’m mother Theresa. Remember that Jesus has grace for the entirety of your lifestyle slip ups, so have grace for others’.
2. Right Relationships First
There is enough brokenness without us severing our friendships with tirades of righteous anger. Let Ephesians 4:2-3 be your mantra. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
3. Straight Talking
If your housemates do enquire why you spend every Tuesday night going through the black bin and taking out everything that should be in the green bin…then don’t overthink. Don’t let the six-point sermon fuelled by frustration come out, tell them why you care about it. Passive aggressive messages that yes, the teabag box is made of cardboard so (for the nine billionth time) it CAN go in the recycling – are not helpful.
4. Actions speak louder than your words
You never need to compromise your own habits. Your behaviour will spark conversations and changes. One of my passions is food and one of my heartbreaks is good food being chucked. My housemates have witnessed me use ‘gone off’ pasta sauce and not die. If they were throwing away good food, I would rehome it in my cupboard. I really hope that they saw something in this and understood a little more of how sell-by-dates are not a death sentence.
As you start this new term, be bold, start conversations, but most of all be gracious. We are not called to criticise and condemn, but to come alongside others and show them the love of Jesus throughout everyday actions.