Discernment vs. Cancel Culture

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During a Zoom Meeting, discussing current events, we dipped our toes into the topic of Cancel Culture.   In the broadest definition it means cancelling anything that you disagree with.  It can encompass cancelling out someone’s voice or opinion by unfriending them (in real life, or online) to a more extreme of banding together as a community to shut down a business, organization, brand.

As a whole, I’m not a fan of Cancel Culture because I believe it is incredibly important to have your fingers on the pulse of the thought life (and thought leaders) who do not share the same views as you.  Sometimes it is a matter of knowing thy enemy, and other times it is a teachable spirit that is willing to learn & change should the person present the right argument or data.

At the same time, I’m also a huge fan of Discernment.   Discernment helps me to determine if this is a person with a teachable spirit (teachable =/= agreeable) or someone who is not.  I love people with a teachable spirit, because we can have conversations about any number of subjects.  We won’t always agree with each other, but we can maintain our friendship out of mutual respect for one another.  Those who do not have a teachable spirit, are approaching subjects with blinders & earmuffs on.  They really have no intention of learning anything & only enter the discussion to win people to their side & sometimes by any means necessary.

Teachable spirits will accept correction & be thankful for it, should you provide information they were unaware of.    Teachable spirits don’t assume that those who disagree with them are less intelligent, and don’t resort to calling names and speaking in condescending tones. Their education level, life experiences, etc. really don’t matter because they are genuinely dedicated to learning more and growing.

Those who are not enter the discussion to elevate their own superiority, devalue anyone who doesn’t think like them, and create division.  They are pot stirrers.  Now, sometimes they are highly educated people who just value their education, resources, and experiences more than others.  Other times, they are people who lack the wherewithal to look beyond face value.  Perhaps they are more like an ostrich with their heads in the ground unaware of what has happened in the world present and past.   They may also be choosing to believe a narrative that fits within their on presumptions about a given topic.

This is where discernment is crucial.   We need to be able to tell the difference between someone who simply disagrees with us, but is a teachable spirit, and those who are not.  Discernment is the place that lies between Blind Acceptance and Cancel Culture.

When it’s Personal:

Here are a few tips I use in my own interactions to determine if I am going to “unfriend” someone within the realm of Social Media….

  • Do I know this person in real life?  What does their daily walk look like?  Is this is an otherwise good person, kind, generous, helpful, etc.?
  • If not, this is someone who has followed me for my platform, do we have any mutual friends?  Who are the people that they are following?  In other words, who are they surrounding themselves with?  It may also help me understand how I came to be friends with them.  Maybe we met once at an event or we were introduced by someone?
  • What does their Social Media account tell me about who they are, and what they believe?

If I know the person in real life, I have to ask questions about our relationship.  Is this one that I value, and want to keep?  Then, I can’t just “unfriend” them because of what they are currently posting online.  However, I can determine based on our friendship what is the best way to proceed.  If experience has taught me that they are teachable spirits, then I can choose to have a personal conversation with them about my concerns.  Or, I can choose to “snooze” or “unfollow” while remaining friends so that I don’t see their posts and I preserve our relationship.  Sometimes the long game of being a voice in their life is worth the short game confrontation.

If I know the person in real life, and don’t really consider them a friend… or I’ve noticed a pattern of behaviors that make me question the value of the friendship… I may choose to let the whole thing go.  If they are not a teachable spirit, and unwilling to be self reflective or discuss things in a safe manner… this may not be the right friendship for me.  I need to pray for discernment as to whether or not this is a relationship that God wants me to continue with or if these revelations are a way of the Lord showing me who the person is and to protect myself from them.  (Remember the tongue will deceive the heart, God could be showing me that this person is not who I thought they were… saving me heartache in the long run).

If we only know each other through platform, looking at our mutual friends can help me learn a bit more about the person.  I can see if they are maybe in a space where they are trying to learn, step out of their comfort zone, etc. … even if they are not necessarily doing a great job of it.  If I see that they can share friendships with people who think along the same lines as me… even if they seemingly disagree… I will use this as a moment to examine myself.  Am I being too sensitive or expecting too much?  Am I being teachable in this moment or judgemental? 

Just the same, if I find I have no mutual friends and I am the only one who who challenges their preconceptions / misconceptions… should I stick around & be that solo voice?  It’s possible that God could use me in that conversation to challenge one or more people involved.  If they are respectful, even if disagreeing with me, I’m happy to stay in the conversation and maintain the relationship.  However, if I’m the solo voice and find that when ever I contribute to conversations I am met with condescension … there is no reason for me to remain.  I must pray for discernment about what my purpose is there & if it is a safe place for me to be apart of.

If we have mutual friends, I may reach out to those people to learn more about the person.  Recently, someone did this with me.  A mutual friend was posting some things that offended her.  She reached out to me to talk about it.  For her, this was a person that she met through online connections & could potentially partner with.  For me, this was a person I’ve known for the better part of twenty years.  Please understand this was not a gossip session.  She was seeking advice with how to proceed.  Because she reached out to me, I was able to salvage the relationship. 

Finally, I will deep dive into their social media.  Is this a one off instance, where they expressed something offensive or concerning?  Or, is this consistent behavior?  If this is a person who made a one time error (even if they are unteachable about this particular issue) and it doesn’t represent them as a whole… I will happily continue the relationship.  We all deserve grace at times.

However, if this is a consistent pattern… I’m going to pray for discernment on how to proceed.  If the person only ever posts conspiracy theories and talks of people who disagree with them in obnoxious terms… I will opt to “unfriend”.  If this is the third time I’ve attempted to correct their misinformation and I’m met with hostility… I will opt to “unfriend”.  I am also praying that the Lord would reveal to me their intentions.  If their social media posts are intentionally combative, provocative, and controversial… if they seem to get an emotional buzz off of people arguing with them… if they are trying to feed their ego or promote an agenda that is not in alignment with the Word… etc.; then I will “unfriend”. 

Some people might suggest that you should stay in these “relationships” because you might be the only person who is providing sound “reason”.  You can’t reason with people who are unreasonable.  (Also, reasonable = agreeable).  You do have the right to protect your emotional state, your mental health.  Just to be the “voice of reason” is not enough to justify keeping yourself in a toxic pool.

This is why Cancel Culture is not the answer, but Discernment is.   Cancel Culture says to abandon anyone who doesn’t agree with you.  Discernment helps us tell the difference between a good person who disagrees with you vs. a toxic person who is out to harm & destroy.


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