I’ve been writing a lot recently to process what has been going on in the United States. Not only have we been dealing with COVID-19, unemployment and politics, but also something dear to my heart, racism. In my lifetime, the issue of racism has never been brought into the public’s eye as much as it has right now. This matters to me, as I sure it does for many of you (which is why I host Conversations on Racism). But I am also sure that for many, everything in the news is confusing. You might not be prepared to know what you think let alone how to respond. Regardless of how you feel about the chaos ensuing, there is often a time when we must respond not through social action, but through something I call cocooning. Today I am talking about the art of advocacy of knowing when it is time to cocoon.

Adulting in Chaos is Hard

Juggling work, non-profit life, schooling-at-home my kids isn’t NEARLY AS CHALLENGING as navigating our exploding culture right now. This type of adulting is HARD.

Last weekend I started writing a prayer of everything heavy on my heart when it came to the extensive division I am seeing among Americans, among Christians and among ethinicities. This definitely was a prayer born of lament. I was hoping to share it. Then #georgefloyd was killed. And not only was it anger about masks and rights and churches and meetings and black lives being stolen, but then the United States became a bomb:

Mask or no mask? Stay at home or go to church? Post something AGAIN about racism or not?

So many need to be heard as they are hurting. So many more are covering their ears. It reminds me of a marriage gone sour.

I wanted to connect with everyone else out there who is really struggling with this tension too, trying to navigate social/spiritual/emotional responses and responsibilities of being an adult in a divided society. I’m with you. THIS IS THE HARDEST.

The Art of Peacemaking

Average Advocate Elisa Johnston

I love this picture because of the story behind it. Our trip to the Old City Jerusalem was such a beautiful time of rest and so good for my marriage. But I was also grieving when it was taken. And I was standing on a building overlooking churches, listening to mosques’ prayers, and standing next to women in hijabs and men dressed in Jewish Orthodox fashion. The building is owned by those whose work is peacemaking in one of the least peaceful areas of the globe.

Everyday they have to adult while peacemaking. How do we do that here?

What is peacemaking in this season? What does seeking justice look like in this season? How does my faith inform how I advocate in this season? (I am confident that my faith in action is not posing in front of fancy buildings holding Bibles and taking down protesters with rubber bullets!)

I decided not share my psalm of lament last week, nor am I putting it on my website because every day I change it to represent what is on my heart. (You can see today’s version here.)

How Do You Know When The Noise is Too Loud?

As I began processing through this prayer of lament, I started seeing that I wasn’t actually doing very well for a number of reasons, but one of the big ones was the way I was responding to the media. One principle from the art of advocacy that has proven vital for all who follow said principle is this:

When there is so much noise that it demands an immediate response without the time to process an intentional response, we must step back.

For example, I can spend hours discussing or jumping on every hashtag out there. I begin hustling to make my voice heard. Then I consume more that feeds and polarizes my worldview without necessarily taking the time ro dismantle it in depth. When I am challenged, without having the bandwidth to center myself in life, peace and truth, it is far too easy to become an angry advocate. This is when you can tell the noise is too loud.

I recognized that the way I was perceiving and engaging with social media wasn’t healthy. I also remembered I usually take a hiatus from social media for a week in May while up in the mountains. But this year, with shelter-in-place, I missed it. It killed me a little bit to choose this at such a pivotal time in our country, but I decided to go off social media for a little bit. Today especially, as #BlackoutTuesday is happening, my identity as an advocate feels shaken. I wonder if I will be perceived as aligning with racism simply because in weeks from now, people looking at my Instagram feed will not see that there was a black image today.

When our identities get tied up in social media, people’s perceptions and how we are branding ourselves, that is a problem. I’ve done burnout before. I’ve done angry activism before. It doesn’t make the difference I want to make in the world.

I believe we can change the world while not burning-out. Recognizing we have limits is healthy (we aren’t God, guys). Taking a breaks from social media is part of this. I’m am not planning on being gone from social media too long, there isn’t a time limit. And I am only telling you because I think being verbal when we break from social media is good. Not only does it help us stay accountable, but it can also provide needed examples. Whenever I see a friend do it, I am reminded I have the freedom to untether myself.

Cocooning: An Art for All Who Care About the Stuff Going on in the World

As people who care, we can easily become overloaded. Especially in Stages 1-3 of the Five Stages of Rising Up (I’m revamping and changing the name of Five Steps of Being a World Changer). This is when we need to take a break. There are a few things we specifically need to take breaks from. Social media, yes. But sometimes this should also include groups/events/people/preachers/triggers, news media, documentaries/books/articles, and anything that overloads us with information about what we care about that is going on in the world.

This isn’t just a break though. It is more than that and very intentional. My mom coined this “cocooning”, which is now we call this sacred art of advocacy. Unlike a break, cocooning is something that helps us experience metamorphosis. It does this in three ways:

1.) It empowers us to process excessive media and new information

2.) It heals us when we become emotionally close to suffering and injustice

3.) It gives us bandwidth to become intentional rather than dangerously haphazard with our actions and response

Cocooning doesn’t sound so bad, now does it? I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve cocooned, even if just for a few days. In fact, many of the resources I’ve created for you were born from cocooning (most recently, Journal Through Change).

When I’m Done Cocooning

I am not sure what you need in this season. I am hoping some of you are able to walk the line and provide positive ways for us to make a difference in the world. I love that you are leading the way and I wish I was with you. But honestly, I don’t have the bandwidth to lead in that way right now, on the frontlines of social media. I do, however, have the bandwidth to teach you about cocooning. If you are one of those people who need permission to cacoon and unthether too, I am inviting you to join me.

And while we are here, we will not simply escape (though it is okay to take some time for that–if you are already burnt out that might take months!). In this season we begin intentionally planning. For myself, as a person of faith, I pour myself into prayer like this one. And in that, I wait and see what the best next step is, where my best fit is to make a difference.

One of these I already know for sure, though, is to add to a series on Average Advocate that was already begun many years ago (although now with a name) – Your Voice on Racism. If you are interested in guest posting for it, please check out the guidelines here and send me your story!

I guess I’ll see you on social media later, but if you want to engage with me about cocooning or taking a break to be a better advocacy, feel free to talk with me in the comments below. (And always, if you think this might help someone else, please share it!).

Relevant Posts:

6 Questions to Help World Changers Know When They Should Unplug as a World Changer

Prayer of Lament for the American Church

Responding to Injustices With Fight, Flight, Freeze and Fawn