Last week, an interview my co-writer and friend, Jay Asher, did for a podcast came out. It’s a podcast I’ve been a bit obsessed with since he told me he was going to do the interview because it talks about a phenomenon I’ve watched play out around me to some of my dearest friends for the past 4 years. The show is called CANCELLED. (click here to learn more) The cohosts, Rob Rosen and Desma Simon have candid conversations with individuals who have had their lives and careers destroyed by the social media mob that…well…destroys lives and careers.
I’m fascinated by this behavior in part because I’ve watched people I respected and considered good friends engage in it. We should use the word “mob” loosely, because the majority of us aren’t part of it. It’s really a minority of people who seem somehow empowered by tearing others down. They spread their venom and figuratively high-five one another for pointing out the flaws or wrong doing of someone. They drop their bombs, implode a life, and move on. It’s particularly fascinating to watch in the world of children’s literature where these individuals create books for kids. They would certainly denounce bullying, and likely create works that speak against that sort of thing. Yet, that is exactly what they are. Bullies.
I’m also fascinated by it because after my cowriter was cancelled, the entire Minnesota chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writer’s and Illustrators (an organization I served as a regional leader of for nearly a decade) was cancelled – literally, it’s gone. And then my agent was cancelled. None of the perceived “crimes against humanity” were intentional or particularly grievous. And what should have been opportunities for positive discussion and personal growth became pure destruction.
But you see, that’s how it works with the cancel mob. They profess to want to make the world better. But there is zero grace. I suppose that’s another reason I’m fascinated by it. I live in grace. Grace for myself. Grace for my family. Grace for my brothers and sisters in this journey of life. I value grace like breath. Because it is such a life force. It’s all those mistakes and imperfections within our journey that allow us to learn and grow and become better versions of ourselves. Without it, every single one of us should be cancelled. Because no one gets through life without falling down.
As a mother, I’ve seen the anxiety and fear this societal trend creates in our youth. Can you imagine learning to walk if your skin was incapable of healing. Imagine falling down and skinning your knee, knowing your broken flesh would not form a scab, and if that cut was too big, you were just going to bleed out. That’s the scenario our youth watches play out over and over again. God designed us to fall down and heal and get back up. And probably fall down again – maybe from doing the same stupid thing.
“Justice without mercy is cruelty.”– Saint Thomas Aquinas
Some will continue to throw their stones and publicly shame others. It’s a flaw within their soul that they are fed by the suffering they create. Saint Thomas Aquinas was talking about exactly this sort of behavior back in the 13th century. It’s not going away completely. But remember, that “mob” isn’t really much a mob at all. And if those of us who believe in mercy and grace could be just a little bit bolder, like these cohosts on this podcast, we could change the effect that toxic behavior has on those it’s directed at. We don’t publicly stone people, drown witches in the local rivers, or force “sinners” to wear scarlet letters anymore. Because eventually the silent majority who believe in mercy and grace stop being silent.
I’ll leave you with one last quote. A reminder that this behavior to shame and callout others has been around a really, really long time. And it was frowned upon by one of my all-time favorite truth-warriors.
“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?”– Jesus (Matthew 7:3, NIV)
To my friends who have fallen down, I see you. I love you. I stand beside you.
To my friends who are publicly shaming others, I see you. I pray for you. And I’ll be here to love you again when you knock that crap off.