Compassion: (noun)- Sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others
Log onto Twitter or Facebook on any given day, and you'll see a compassion battle playing out in real time. So what is it? It's the battle between those that welcome compassion and those that refuse to offer compassion.
The latest food allergy compassion battle took place over the recent announcement that Southwest Airlines was going to stop serving peanuts on flights as of August 1st, 2018. Comments highlighted in this recent article from The Mighty, or the Southwest announcement mentioned above, illustrate this battle perfectly. When a company alters its policies to accommodate a subset of the population, such as those with food allergies, people do have a right to be upset. However, making comments that delegitimize food allergies or suggest that a snack is more valuable than a life only fuels the battle, taking it to levels that are detrimental to society in general.
The truth is that these compassion battles will always exist. So what can food allergy parents do to navigate these battles without letting it negatively impact their mental health or derail their empowered attitude?
Just Keep Scrolling
When food allergy families read the comments at the end of articles about food allergies, our first instincts are typically to educate and raise awareness. Therefore, many parachute right into the battle field, responding to the insensitive comments with a mixture of anger and desire to evoke change. While these intentions are good, the environment is the wrong one in which to attempt this. Realistically, those that leave negative comments on these posts aren't people who are open-minded to change; they're typically there to express their frustration, which is centered on how it affects them. If your toddler was screaming or having a fit, you'd likely just sit back and let them wear themselves out. Why not do the same with these folks? If you're inclined to leave a comment, just leave it and run - avoid revisiting to see how the battle ends. Allergist, Dr. Dave Stukus said it best in a recent tweet:
Be Proactive Versus Reactive
When you're feeling attacked, whether personally or as part of a community, it's likely to evoke intense feelings. Anger, frustration, sadness, just to name a few. Negative feelings are completely normal in situations like this, but we can counterbalance them by finding complementary feelings. Instead of anger, we can choose to feel proud (of this allergy community). Instead of frustration, we can choose to feel indifference (don't let it bother us). Instead of sadness, we can choose to feel motivated (to be an advocate). Let those reframed feelings guide you towards channeling your efforts to better outlets. Think about environments where your education and awareness efforts are welcomed rather than jeered. These online compassion battles aren't worth your time, feelings, or effort. Use your energy on tasks that encourage being proactive rather than reactive.
Reconnect with the Positive
It's easy to become overly focused on the particular compassion battle of the week. Instead, look at the big picture. Food Allergy awareness and education is more widespread than it has been in the past, even being shared via mainstream outlets. Many companies are choosing to accommodate food allergies better, even if some still have some work to do. There are a large number of support networks out there to help families adapt to living with food allergies. Treatment methods are being researched at such a quick pace, that at times, it's hard to keep track of them all. We are heading in a positive direction with food allergies, so keeping that in mind can help us steer clear of fighting these unnecessary compassion battles with an opposition that isn't interested in fighting kindly.
Lianne Mandelbaum, the powerhouse behind No Nut Traveler, illustrated these three principles well with this one tweet:
So, what helps you navigate these food allergy compassion battles?