The cancel culture is a very wide and trending topic for the last few years. It can range from canceling out amateurs because we think they’re not good enough, to canceling out those we think affect our well being, to canceling out public figures.
Here, let’s talk about something personal. Something that only you and God knows. Something that resides deep in your heart such as a personal relationship with people that you have or have had.
Maybe you’ve tried canceling people out, cutting ties, unfollowing or unfriending someone on social media. Or you might have been canceled out by those you treated as close friends or family members.
Before anything else, here is a disclaimer that nowhere here in this post considers those who are diagnosed with depressive mental illness (or something else) which requires one to distant oneself from certain people for healing. If you’re in the said state, and some people bring out the trauma/s you’ve had in the past which makes you unable to function, then this might not be for you. However, if you decide to read on, I hope that the points addressed in this blog bless you in many other different ways.
Another disclaimer is that whatever I share here is also for myself. I am not perfect, and as an introvert, I find it easy to distance myself from people. I’ve had my fair share in the cancel culture, too, so this is a great conviction, personally. I wanted to share these learning with you, too, as we strive to grow spiritually and mature as followers of Christ.
Cancel culture, being dubbed as the Me (or Selfie) generation, the new trend of cutting of the toxic people in our lives—they’re all pointing to one objective: Putting oneself above anyone else.
And the purpose for this objective is for one’s convenience and comfort—others refer to these two as to grow and heal, self-development, or self love, and everything that has to do with what seem as good thing for ourselves that begins with self.
Let’s call these ideologies as the “self first” idea.
When you think about the purpose for a moment, it seems like there’s nothing wrong with it. It’s looks good. Actually, it is good! I am not against self-development or self-growth, and in no way discouraging you from pursuing your own. In fact, I promote those things. (You can find a blog category in this site that says “growth”.)
In Christianity, we also strive for growth, healing, and self-development (let’s refer them all as growth) because the Bible actually talks about those things.
However, the problem lies in the ways to achieve such, as the world and the Bible contradicts each other. The world is telling us that the way to grow is to individualize ourselves, to keep away from the people we deem not good enough for us, or those that provoke or convict us, or cause anger in us, or those that make us not feel good.
Yet the Bible tells us differently.
The idea of cancel culture is not new, this isn’t a discovery of this post-modern day. While the term “Me Generation” started during the baby boomers era, (and with other terms we just knew recently), the “self first” principle go way back during the Biblical times.
We see in the old testament God’s people (the Israelites) canceling Him and their leader, Moses, out, because they were sick of the manna and wanted to go back eating the food they once had in Egypt (Exodus 16:3). In the new testament, we see the apostles being canceled and killed. And ultimately, the Messiah brought to the cross by people He loved.
You might wonder these are examples where righteousness is being canceled instead of what’s toxic. How about canceling those that hurt or give us burden?
There’s hardly an example of Biblical figures, faithful godly people, that canceled those who persecute or did them them wrong. I’m sure that at some point, Moses, the apostles, and some others, have thought about giving up their calling because of the toxicity of the people they’re leading or reaching out. Even the Lord wiped out humanity in Noah’s time because people were so toxic (sinful, in this sense).
But let me tell you a story in the Bible which I was recently reminded of by a preaching a few Sundays ago. This is a story of a helper who ran away because she was mistreated by her master. It’s a normal response that we would possibly do when we’re hurt. Yet this helper went back to serve her masters as an act of obedience before the Lord. Her name is Hagar. (Genesis 16)
[From these examples, we can say that good people are seen toxic by the bad people because they cannot pursue their political or personal agendas. On the other hand, good people see bad people as toxic as they promote sin, inflict pain, or hinder growth. However, there still needs a lot to be done when we try to define good and bad, as no one is righteous (Romans 3:10). And sometimes, we treat people whose moral standards differ from us as bad. Thus, this is rather more subjective, so let’s leave that for now and focus on how a child of God should handle such situation.]
There’s a big difference between God’s children and those that are not when it comes to handling difficult people. Canceling out is not of the Lord as His love for everyone (all people, not one a miss) is the same.
And so we are called to show that love as well, even to the most toxic ones we’ve encountered. Although we’re cautioned to choose the group of people we walk with as “bad company corrupts good character” (1 Cor. 15:33), we are continually called to do everything with God’s love and reach people out with that love—unconditional and everlasting love.
Which is just so difficult! I know because we’re humans after all. But here are reminders that might help us change the way we treat people we don’t like or hate to obey the command of God to love people the way we love ourselves (Matthew 22:37-39).
1. We are all toxic people in some ways.
From the Bible stories, whether people see us as good or bad (whatever we mean by that), there will always be a possibility that some see us as toxic. There will be people who would want to distant themselves from us as much as we do with them. At some point, others will want to cancel us, or there might have already been a case that we don’t know about.
2. Canceling people might lead to destruction.
The Lord rescued the Israelite from slavery and yet they defy Him again and again to go back from where they have been. Canceling out the good news of the gospel, rejecting convicting sound advice, and pursuing one’s happiness in the world all lead to self-destruction instead of growth.
If we’re not sober minded or careful enough, and if we act based on our emotions, we could end up canceling the people whom God sent us for our own good. We may not realize it sometimes but we tend to cancel out those people who convict us just because we want to follow our own desires, not knowing that we’re digging our own grave.
3. Learn to draw boundaries and know when to draw them.
It is important to have boundaries because that’s where we can rest and draw strength from the Lord. We can see that from God’s faithful servants as well. They don’t just go around preaching and leading, they cultivate their relationship with God in their solitude and quiet hours.
Boundaries are not meant to be a division or walls to cancel people out, just as reconciliation doesn’t equate to distance. Their purpose is to give you a space for rest and grow your personal relationship with God. That’s where we draw strength so that we can be less toxic to others and, at the same time, learn to handle difficult people in our lives.
4. We are the salt and light of this world.
Hagar’s response when told to go back to her masters was very unusual. What she did was walking through the narrow path that very few people would take.
As Christians, we are the salt and light of this world. We are called to be different, to respond differently from the world’s ways. We can do that by being merciful, gentle, kind, faithful, having self-control, and all of the fruit of the Holy Spirit, even when others are not. (Galatians 5:22-23)
5. You can love to a greater extent because God is with you.
Moses was able to continue leading because the Lord was with Him. Imagine his patience and self control in dealing with a thousands of disobedient people. I bet he wouldn’t be able to do it unless it’s God’s power that made Him to.
Hagar, when God told her to go back to Sarah to serve them, went back realizing that the Lord saw her affliction and her desires. Who would even go back to an abuser? She did because she knew God was with her.
The apostles continued to share the good news even though they were being persecuted because they knew God is with them.
They all knew their weaknesses that are mostly the same as ours, but they were able to do extraordinary things because of the awesome God they believed in.
6. God is for you, and He’s for your neighbors, too.
Canceling people would be easy if we neglect the truth that God loves those people, too. The truth is, we hurt people, and they hurt us. We can be a hypocrite by saying we’re better than others, but truly we are just as sinful as them. And if all of us embrace the cancel culture, then we would find it difficult to pursue growth and development because a community is essential to such.
When you look at people less than yourself, remember that Jesus died for them, too. He also has prepared good future for them. We can be toxic but God loves us nonstop.
So, believe that as much as God is working in your heart, He is also working in their hearts. Pray for them, and pray for a personal change in your heart. Nothing is too evil, too sinful, too toxic, that God’s grace cannot touch and redeem. There are no lives too dark that God cannot shed light on.
7. It’s through Jesus that we heal and grow.
Hagar found healing from the Lord at a spring where He met her. She might’ve thought that now that she had ran away, she’d find healing and peace, but it was not so until she received blessings from God, knowing that she was seen by a God who loves and cares (Genesis 16:13-14).
The world impresses to us that by cutting people who hurt us, we can heal and grow. The truth is, it’s only through Jesus that we can achieve healing and growth. No matter how far we run away, or how long our pains have been, there will be no healing if we don’t come to the Healer. It’s “by His stripes, we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5). Even when you cancel out people, if not for God’s grace that heals and gives life, we really cannot embrace a full life—a life that no one offers but God.
I hope that these reminders will make us see how we are ought to stand and walk with God in a culture that promotes individualism and cancelation of those who we see as not good enough. It’s really difficult, but when God calls us unto something for His purpose, we can do anything through Christ who strengthens us (Phil. 4:13).