I’m not sure if this is ok to admit, but I’m a thirty-five-year-old father of four and I just watched Taylor Swift’s new single and animated music video, “Look What You Made Me Do.” But, there you have it.
And I’ll be honest, as a fan of music and a kid who grew up in the pop culture era, I was a bit uneasy after watching it. Why? Because I immediately saw history repeating itself—maybe. Much like Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, Madonna, and Miley Cyrus, I saw another kid full of life and talent and vibrancy who could possibly become swallowed up by the slow fade of the spotlight. And while I truly hope that’s not the case for Taylor, that’s exactly what I thought.
But there’s something deeper going on here that I want to point out. While I much prefer the cute, innocent teenager who sang about tear drops on her guitar or even the spunky mid-twenty-year-old who shook off the haters, this darker version peeled back the layers to reveal something more profound.
From the imagery of snakes to her choice of words, Taylor Swift’s new song is raw and real and it reveals the cry of a culture and a generation that is wrestling with a very real truth.
Look What You Made Me Do
The title of Taylor’s new track speaks volumes about the predisposition we have to blame someone else rather than take responsibility for our own actions. The chorus repeats the phrase “Look what you made me do” over and over and over again. It’s a dull, dark repetitive anthem that gets creepily ingrained the more you listen. But that’s exactly the way we think and live—as if someone else is responsible for what we do.
That’s not only false, it’s insanity. To live your life as if you have no self-control is deadly, but it’s truly how we feel sometimes, isn’t it? We’ve become conditioned to believe that we don’t have a choice—that our actions are just a byproduct of someone else’s. Or, that we’re incapable of changing.
Friends, please wake up and do not be deceived by the literal nature of these lyrics. Pause and truly consider what’s more empowering to say: look what you made me do, or, no matter what you do, I still have a choice?
The first leaves you stripped of power and points a defiant finger at everything that’s gone wrong. In short, it removes hope. The second however is full of hope and gives you reason to focus on what you can control—yourself.
Taylor Swift has a choice. And, so do you.
But why is it so hard?
The Loss of Trust
We have a culture screaming, “Look what you made me do,” because we’re a culture that has lost trust. And that’s exactly what Taylor Swift is saying. The bridge of the song repeats the words, “I don’t trust nobody and nobody trusts me.”
Sadly, we’ve lost trust in one another. And, when we lose trust in one another, we lose trust in ourselves. When we lose trust in ourselves, we lose trust in something greater than ourselves. This is the slow fade that I mentioned before. That’s why Taylor flippantly says, “I’m sorry, but the old Taylor can’t come to the phone right now. Why? Oh, ’cause she’s dead.”
When we lose trust in something greater than ourselves, we die. This is the real guts underneath it all. If there’s no hope, no choice, no trust—if there’s not something greater than us—we have nothing left but death.
And that’s why we cannot continue moving in this direction. We cannot allow ourselves to be deceived and fall into the trap of believing everything we feel. This song can’t become our literal anthem. We need something greater. In death, there is life.
This is the part when the stereotypical, evangelical, church-going Christian holds up a sign that says “Taylor Swift is Going To Hell”, or when your white-haired grandma says, “That music is from the devil.” But enough with the cartoons.
You probably expect me to use some analogy to talk about Jesus being our hope or quote a cliche passage from Proverbs about trusting in the Lord. Jesus is our hope and we should trust in the Lord, but enough with the cliches. I’m tired of a culture that wants to box God in to some distorted Hallmark Card of religiosity.
Enough with the cartoon god and enough with the charade. That’s exactly what Taylor Swift is singing about. This culture is tired of the cliches, they’re tired of not being able to trust, and they’re exhausted from shaking off all the haters. They want something authentic, something real. And in the absence of that, they say, “Eff it all, look what you made me do.”
Don’t you see?
Taylor Swift’s new song shows the deep longing for authenticity and truth instead of some set of rules and cliches from a pulpit on Sunday. Our culture doesn’t want a bunch of cookie-cutter folks who can recite passages from scripture, they want to see the rawness and realness of a God that’s bigger than their circumstances and emotions.
Just Say Yes
As I’m processing how to end these thoughts, I can’t ignore the fact that Taylor Swift has a huge platform. In less that eight hours, her new song has more than three million views. Against that type of Goliath, what difference could my words possibly make? In light of that, I could choose not to write or share this article at all. But that’s not the choice I will make because I believe something.
I believe that you were created with a distinct “Why” and for a distinct purpose by a good, good Father who loves you more than you realize. And I believe that God is better than you’ve imagined Him to be. But I’m also aware that you live in a culture that crushes your hope on a daily basis.
This song is a microcosm of how our culture feels, but we’re called to a different response. Let us remember Jesus who didn’t say, “Look what you made me do.” Instead he said, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” No matter the stage and no matter how small the microphone, I will stand up and pour out every ounce of my energy and passion to remind you of that truth—the hope that you have whether you realize it or not.
Nobody is making you do anything. You can blame whatever you’d like. You have that choice. But blame never produces hope. Hope is yours if you want it. You choose.
Matt Ham is an author, speaker, and cofounder of YouPrint, a Faith Development organization that helps people uncover their “Why”, thrive in their gifts, and live the life of impact they were created for. He is also the cohost of “Wake Up Our Faith” a radio show based in Wilmington, North Carolina.
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