I Have a Problem with Cancel Culture

The concept of “cancel culture” has certainly been front and center lately, with one of the largest “cancellations” coming from the beauty industry (psst...you can read about it here, if you’re interested).

Being “cancelled” seems to be the equivalent of shunning. And now that we live in a digital age, (literally) everyone in the world can read about the cancellation and offer their opinion.

If someone says something you don’t like, or offends you, or fails to apologize sufficiently, or disrespects you (in your opinion), you can simply “cancel” them—essentially, telling them they are dead to you.

I confess, I don’t get it.

No one ever promised that everyone would like me, or be nice to me, or see things my way, or agree with everything I say. That’s life. But don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting anyone should put up with behavior that’s physically or mentally dangerous.

However, we can’t get so carried away with our version of what is “right” that we lose sight of the fact that we are imperfect beings—all of us, all over the world, in every culture. I know that I’ve said and done things that make me cringe when I remember them. Those are the things that can keep you up at night, even if they happened 20 years ago.

Fortunately, I’ve been shown a lot of grace over the years. And I’ve needed it. As a result of that grace, I’ve grown and changed and learned. I wonder if any of that would’ve been possible if I’d been canceled by those I offended or wronged.

I doubt it.

It seems to me that canceling leads to withdrawal and anger and frustration and tremendous sadness. All that negative emotion is destructive to the individual and to society. If we can’t learn to tolerate differences, even those we find offensive on some level, we risk losing ourselves. And we certainly won’t be moving toward a world that embodies those qualities we value—inclusion, honesty and equality.

Yes, people can be rude—sometimes intentionally and sometimes unintentionally. People say and do things that cause us to wonder what the heck they were thinking, or whether they were thinking at all. Behavior that is questionable at best and anti-social at worst can leave us shaking our heads.

Yes, you can cancel people who offend you, but I think pretty soon you will find yourself alone at home. Because, you know, we’re human and imperfect. And, ironically, that seems to be the equivalent of canceling yourself.

So, at the risk of offending you, my suggestion is that you show a little grace—forgive, accept, and live a life of gratitude and compassion. In other words, lead by example. Is it less dramatic? Yes. Will it create the change you want to see? Maybe. Will you have less to cringe about in the middle of the night in 20 years? Absolutely.

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