When You’ve Been Canceled

“There are support groups for parents like us,” she said with a sigh so deep I felt it too as I sat across the table from one of the real-life faces of “cancel culture.” It didn’t look like partisan political rhetoric. It didn’t sound like an angry social media post. This was the face of a mother who had been cut off from a relationship with her adult son without an explanation. I’d asked her to meet me for coffee because I was experiencing something similar: a friend suddenly announced she was “blocking me” from her life. No motive was given. No attempts to reconcile hit their mark.

We aren’t the only ones. My friend told me that support groups for parents who have been cut out of their adult children’s lives are increasingly common, a byproduct of a growing cultural norm that says if someone doesn’t think like you do, you should simply and permanently untether from them. As we talked and prayed, my friend and I teared up often. Being “canceled” stings. 

Admittedly, there are times when separation in a relationship is a wise last resort. This post is not about that. This is not an ache caused by abuse or neglect. It’s the ache of rejection, of being or feeling erased. I walked away from that coffee shop conversation encouraged. Our circumstances didn’t change, but we were not alone in the hurt. Solidarity is such a powerful balm. 

I wonder if you’re part of the club? Maybe you know from experience that “cancel culture” is not a black and white headline. It goes beyond backlash against a celebrity. (Though celebrities are people, too.) It is the reality of life in a broken world and a sad consequence of the postmodern beliefs that truth is relative and personal, and that people can be easily discarded. To what hope can we turn when someone decides to “cancel” our relationship with them?

A Different Definition of “Christ-like” 

As followers of Jesus, our assignment is to live like our Savior lived. That includes emulating the love, grace, and conviction that make up the DNA of His character, but sometimes the application is more literal. We can be like Christ by experiencing some of the things He experienced—including being canceled.

Enraged by what Jesus stood for, many tried to wipe Him out. 

But the Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him. —Matthew 12:14

Then the Pharisees went and plotted how to entangle him in his words. —Matthew 22:15

Pilate addressed them once more, desiring to release Jesus, but they kept shouting, “Crucify him, crucify him!” A third time he said to them, “Why, what evil has he done? I have found in him no guilt deserving death. I will therefore punish and release him.” But they were urgent, demanding with loud cries that he should be crucified. And their voices prevailed. —Luke 23:20–23, emphasis mine. 

People wanted to do more than cancel Jesus. They wanted to kill Him, and then to erase His impact and eradicate His message. When we face rejection, we can find great comfort in the fact that Jesus was rejected to redeem us. He is not indifferent to our ache. No, Jesus is all too familiar with this kind of sorrow. 

He was despised and rejected by men, 
a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; 
And as one from whom men hide their faces
He was despised, and we esteemed him not. —Isaiah 53:3

To face rejection is to walk the way of Christ. 

The Escape Clause

Still, our human minds can’t help but play the game of “what ifs.” 

  • What if we never reconcile?
  • What if this is all just a big misunderstanding?
  • What if I hurt them unintentionally? 
  • What if they lie about me to others, causing a domino effect?
  • What if they’re out of my life forever? 

What ifs can make us paranoid, desperate to glue the pieces back together and wondering what our role is in a relationship derailed. Romans 12:18 brings our perspective back into focus. 

If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. —Romans 12:8

When human relationships go sideways, there is peace to be found in the words between the commas . . .

“So far as it depends on you.”

We should strive to treat others like we want to be treated (Matt. 7:12). When we fail, we should apologize (Matt. 5:9). Because Jesus has forgiven us, we must freely forgive others (Col. 3:13). But none of that means all relationships will always endure. Once you’ve modeled your relationships according to God’s Word, you must surrender them to the sovereign hand of the Savior who loves you. You don’t have the power to force the other person to reconcile, to forgive you, or to see your perspective. If peace depends on you, have you done your part? If so, let it go and let God take it from here. When a separation is especially painful, that might mean giving it over to God over and over again. Take heart! He is strong and attentive enough to take the weight of your sorrow as many times as you must hand it to Him. 

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. —1 Peter 5:6–7, emphasis mine

Kill the Bitter Root

There is one area of responsibility that rests squarely on your shoulders just as it rests on the shoulders of every follower of Jesus—going to war against bitterness

In the case of my weepy friend, she has been wronged. Her mother-love has been met with frigid silence. For others, attempts at reconciliation are met with false accusations, slander, or passive aggressive avoidance. Even when there are two sides to the story, sometimes our hands really are clean and still, we are cut off. What then? First, we must be on guard. Painful silence is a breeding ground for bitterness. If you have been dismissed or disowned, heed the Bible’s warning: 

Make sure that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no root of bitterness springs up, causing trouble and defiling many. —Hebrews 12:15

Scripture also gives us the weed killer for pesky and persistent bitter roots. 

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” —Matthew 5:43–45, NKJV

If you’ve been canceled, follow the way of Christ by rehearsing blessings instead of curses in our mind for the one who rejected you. Pray for more than your comfort. Pray for the Lord to give gifts to the one who has given you sorrow. 

A Never Canceled Love

Sometimes it is the broken things of life that point us to our Savior. People will fail us and we will fail them. When sin shatters our hopes for our relationships and leaves us canceled and out in the cold, we have a permanent and unshakable hope to hold onto. Jesus has promised, “ I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Heb. 13:5). 

Cancel culture may continue to ravage hearts and homes, but it has a boundary. There are places that way of thinking cannot go. No matter who rejects you on this side of heaven, your relationship with Jesus is secure. Grab a cup of coffee with a wise friend. Let your tears fall straight into your steamed milk latte. Then remember, Jesus has offered you love and acceptance that can never, ever be canceled. 

“All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” —John 6:37

About the Author

Erin Davis

Erin Davis

Erin Davis is married to her high school sweetheart, Jason, and together they parent four energetic boys on their small farm in the midwest. She is the author of more than a dozen books and Bible studies, the content manager … read more …

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