I recently had lunch with a friend at Arby’s. As we sat eating our roast beef sandwiches, I mentioned that I was a vegetarian. My friend inquired, “So how’s that going?” I had to admit it was tough—I mean, after all, here I was eating a roast beef sandwich. And it wasn’t an isolated incident. I had meat the previous night for dinner, bacon for breakfast, and chicken on at least two occasions over the past week. Indeed, some would argue I am not a vegetarian at all. How could I be if I eat meat?

Such a narrow understanding of vegetarianism is unfortunate, because it tends to create a high degree of insensitivity toward vegetarians like myself who sometimes question our beliefs and often struggle putting them into practice. If a vegetarian is “a person who does not eat or does not believe in eating meat, fish, or fowl,” at what point do I cease to be a vegetarian simply because I struggle to practice my sincerely held beliefs?

Religious activity in the LDS Church may be a helpful analogy. At what point do members cease being LDS? If they go to church only once every few months? If they aren’t obeying the Word of Wisdom? I recently made a home teaching visit to a guy who hadn’t been to church for several years, and showed up at the door in nothing but his Fruit-of-the-Loom underwear. (Incidentally, he asked if we’d give him a backrub, but that’s a story for another time.) No question this guy is highly inactive, but clearly, he’s still considered LDS. Can we not extend the same courtesy to vegetarians?

I may not be the most active vegetarian, but this is no reason to exclude me from the vegetarian fold.