Updated: Jul 28
I was first cancelled about seven years ago, when a friend from high school blocked me on every platform. Since then, cancel culture has grieved me in ways I could never have imagined. I’ve spoken to others from many walks in life, both strangers on social media and close friends, who have also been affected by “being cancelled” or ghosted by people close to them. We face a different kind of grief than past generations have faced, the loss of relationship without hope for reconciliation because of being blocked or removed. It feels like a death, but without the finality and closure of a death. There’s always a hope that the relationship can be restored and a hopelessness that you can do nothing to restore it.
In 2019, Merriam-Webster described being cancelled as “the removing of support for public figures in response to their objectionable behavior or opinions.” This has, obviously, broadened substantially to the point that friends are cancelling friends, siblings and siblings, parents and children, all cancelling each other.
As I’ve spoken with others, the consistent story has largely been that some sort of disagreement occurred, even if done with respect. Perhaps a differing opinion or worldview was shared, and rather than talking it through, the person just cancelled you. Maybe a boundary was placed that the other person didn’t like, so you got cancelled. Perhaps you voiced a concern about a choice or decision someone else was making that looked destructive, but instead of recognizing your concern and love, the person cancelled you instead. While the world screams "Why can't everyone just love everyone?" they simultaneously push (and actually applaud you) for removing anyone and everyone who doesn't "make you happy" or anyone who thinks or believes differently from you.
The grief that comes from being cancelled fills up my and others’ thoughts with these questions:
Why don’t they want me?
Why do they look so happy without me in their life? I’m grieving every day because of this.
Why was my voice silenced?
Was I only as valuable to them as I made them happy?
Why was I so disposable?
Why do I get so little of their love and others get so much?
Why does their quest for intellect have to disclude me?
Why can’t love cover many sins, if I have seemingly hurt them so much?
Stuck with these thoughts, the fight for the truth becomes imperative. You have to speak the truth to yourself every day—and I’m not talking about shallow affirmations. I’m talking about foundational truth that puts purpose back into your very being.
You have always been wanted. God created you because He wants you. You were wanted so much that even when your sin pulled you away from God’s holiness, He still planned a way to pull you back again. He has always wanted you and always wanted to have a relationship with you. That relationship is sealed when you believe that “while you were still a sinner, Christ died for you” (Romans 5:8, paraphrased), and that Christ is the “propitiation [atonement] for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2).
You have intrinsic value because you are a part of the purpose of God on this earth. You were made to look like Him and give Him glory (1 Corinthians 10:31; Ecclesiastes 12:13). Revelation 4:11 says, "'Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.'"
You do have choices, even when you feel helpless. You have the choice to treat others differently than how you have been treated. You have the choice to look at others’ value as human beings and treat them with the same love that God loves them (Matthew 22:37-39; see also 1 Peters 2:12 about how to respond when others speak against you). This means others are worth getting a text response, a conversation they want to have with you, listening to their constructive criticism or wisdom to help you become a better person. People are worth your time and energy because they are valuable. They are the most valuable things on this earth. They are the top of creation because they were specially made in God’s image (Genesis 1:26). And you get the choice to show them that by refusing to be a part of cancel culture.
“Seek first to understand, then to be understood” (quote from one of my college professors, Brian Trainer). Maturity sees someone else and looks to understand them and why they do what they do. It means trying to understand what pain and grief someone else went through that may have led them to start blocking people.
Take responsibility for your own actions that could have led to someone cancelling you, but also rest if you know that you did not do anything wrong. Even if “the canceller” does not allow you to make things right with them, choose to learn from that experience and act differently. On the flip side, James 3:17-18 tells us that the “wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable.” There are some choices and decisions you make that will not lead to peace. As a Christian, my first responsibility is to love God and serve Him (Matthew 22:37). As I speak the gospel to others (see point one above for the gospel) as I’m commanded to do, people may cancel me. But I am responsible to do what God has asked me to do, not to compromise for a relationship that doesn’t want God. So, I seek purity first, and if purity can be maintained, then I seek peace. And sometimes there is nothing you can do that would have stopped someone from cancelling you, because they just don’t like the message you are living and promoting.
Life is never hopeless, no matter how much hurt you face. You do not have to pretend that your grief is not there. You may grieve as long as you need to. But you have a great opportunity to live counter-cancel-culturally, to be different, to love as God is love. Take heart that, regardless of your being cancelled, your ultimate purpose for life has remained the same.