On My Word

by Cris Gladly on July 15, 2013

photo by Mil Ranon

photo by Mil Ranon

Late last night I accepted a challenge.
One that makes my stomach bottom out.

Because if I do not meet this challenge by Jul 29 …
I have to make a $5 donation to the NRA.

The theory behind the challenge being this:
when we do not put our work out in the world
(especially work meant to positively change hearts and minds),
when we let our fear silence us
(as I confess, I have hugely let my fear silence me),
our silence, in effect,
is SUPPORTING the very things we say we oppose.

The ills of the world occur,
not because of the actions of random dark souls,
but because of the inaction of hundreds and thousands of people
who stand complicity silent and ALLOW those dark things to occur:

people who see racism occurring and say nothing,
men who see women being raped, abused and harassed and say nothing,
adults who see children being harmed and say nothing.

Those who turn a blind eye to cruelty and oppression of any kind.


The step I have to take to meet this challenge is nothing dramatic.
It is “giant and scary” only to me,
but it is the first step toward putting my voice and my true work out in the world,

and though most of my work in the world is tethered to gender issues,
a $5 donation to the NRA
was a stomach-churning enough symbol to drive the point home to me.

If you are not actively putting your love and talent
toward what you value and believe
you are inadvertently supporting its direct opposite.

photo by Pierre Pedelmas

photo by Pierre Pedelmas

I am posting about this challenge because:

a) I found it so compelling when it was presented to me,
(my entire body went cold when it was mentioned)
I thought you might find it compelling, too,
and reflect on it your own way; and

b) I wanted to up the ante
by publicly acknowledging that I’ve taken this challenge on.

I will not tell you what the challenge is,
but I will share whether or not I successfully meet the challenge.

And I promise to be honest.

The “lost choice” is a myth.
Inaction IS a choice and its own action.

The work I long to do in the world SCARES me.

I feel small ALL the time.
I feel irrelevant ALL the time.
I feel isolated and lonely ALL the time.

I think: “no one wants to hear what you think” daily.

My fear silences me.

When I started this post,
I was writing it nonchalantly on Facebook.

Because it feels safer to post a thought there
then to “publish” a thought here on my blog.

There I’m a “peer”.
Hitting publish on my blog has a different energy.
It isolates my voice, singles me out.
It is me claiming my space.
That is scary.

But I accepted this challenge.
And I am a woman of my word.

I … am a woman of words.

So, July 29.
Two weeks to meet this challenge.

I accept the terms.

What are YOU holding back on in life?
And what negative thing in this world is served
by YOUR inaction?

I invite you to ponder the challenge I’ve accepted
and think about what the equivalent of it would be in your world.

Feel free to take this challenge on with me, in your own way.
Post in the comments if you want to join me in this.

Just know that your word is your word.
Will you honor it?


p.s. thank you to Heather Day for issuing this profound challenge to me. You are Springtime, my friend.


UPDATE: Aug 3 — Woo -hoo!!!
I’m pleased to report that I did, indeed, successfully meet my challenge.
My first attempt at completing it got derailed
(despite 3 days straight of me pouring hours of work into the effort).

But things always go as they are meant to

and the derail prompted me to go another direction entirely,
one that brought me back to my foundation of being a woman,
not only passionate about giving a voice to the voiceless in this world …
but also a woman madly in love with stories and words.

“If you are an interesting story, I would like to know you.”
This is my tagline. This is who I am!

I love writing!

And I’d forgotten the LOVE part of it
(the JOY part of it)
in the shadow of trying to figure out
how to best use my words to help better the world.

This shift in course has started a domino effect
of me re-strategizing several projects I’ve been working on …
seeing a new, exciting way to creatively tie them all together.

But, isn’t that how life always goes?
It’s always the knocks off course that help us find our truest path.

And so … onward.

This challenge was simply the first step toward something.
Now, I keep walking!

I SO hope that YOUR challenge (if you took one on, as well) went successfully, too.

p.s. Sorry NRA, no donation for you!!! :)

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{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Puja July 15, 2013 at 3:29 pm

Love this post! This is really not the time for silence or to play small or hide or… I feel all these things from time to time but too much is at stake if we don’t step up. The NRA donation had chills running down my spine… that would spur me into action too… and how!

Thank you for this great reminder Cris! xo


Cris Gladly July 15, 2013 at 3:37 pm

Puja … yes, my whole body went cold when she said it. After the Trayvon Martin verdict, the NRA challenge was particularly poignant. And yes, there is no time for silence or playing small. I have been doing both for too long now. I am motivated. How can I break my word with terms like this on the table? I simply cannot.

Thank you for being here and for commenting, Puja.


Heather July 15, 2013 at 5:03 pm

Oh Cris. You are a woman of words, a woman of commitment, and a freaking MERMAID who is ready swim to the depths. No more shallows for you, sister- claim your space. Claim your purpose.
As AniD says, “I sing sometimes like my life is at stake, ’cause you’re only as loud as the noises you make.” Time to make some noise, sister.
And please, dear god, don’t donate to the NRA.
Adoring you. Cheering you on. YES.


Cris Gladly July 16, 2013 at 1:57 am

ha ha!!! Yes, Springtime! You tossed this mermaid into the sea with this challenge. Only way to learn to swim is to dive in. Thank you so much for the inspiration. It struck a nerve in a way nothing else has in my courage-mustering process.

And I love this quote: “I sing sometimes like my life is at stake / ’cause you’re only as loud as the noises you make.” = YES!!!! I’m steeping those words in my tea and drinking them in, my friend! love you! xo


Sue Ann Gleason July 15, 2013 at 10:56 pm

I know this place. I am about to launch a new website. I have so much to say, much of it challenging the status quo. Yet, I find myself writing the “safer” articles. The ones that won’t push any buttons. And yes, I’ll join you here. And yes, I want to know what the challenge is because, for me, that is also a piece of putting ourselves out there. Naming it.


Cris Gladly July 16, 2013 at 1:48 am

Hi Sue Ann!! — the challenge is whatever you need it to be. Basically, whatever goal you have that scares you most. That thing you know you most need to do to move yourself forward and so its the thing you dodge the most. I’ve known what that is for MONTHS (well over a year, actually) and I’ve avoided it and avoided it. So, now I must DO that thing. At least the first step of it. And I have to do it by July 29 or make good on the godawful terms I’ve agreed to. If you want to participate, and set a no-holding back challenge for yourself. I’d love to have you on board for this. I have every confidence I will do this now. Heather’s challenge speaks to my core values in a way no other “pep talk” has before. Helping me reframe this has been so powerful. And now I now I need to make good on my word and my words! :) xo


Faith July 16, 2013 at 2:04 am

Wow – beautifully said with such grace and honesty – profoundly true for so many – thunderous applause for your commitment and your courage…and your inspiration.


Cris Gladly August 3, 2013 at 3:23 pm

Thank you so much, Faith. It was an intimidating but powerful challenge to take on. I appreciate your kind words. :)


Sherold July 16, 2013 at 4:15 am

This is a beautiful post and the photos are exquisite. The research shows when you make a declaration publicly it helps. It drew me in too. I felt today like my manifesto is going to suck. Maybe I just give it away for free and don’t do anything else. It’s that inner critic voice that needs to be “outed” and I have to say bullshit to it. I am better than that and so are you. Thank you for writing this.


Cris Gladly July 16, 2013 at 4:26 am

Thanks, Sherold. Amazing how we are each gripped with fear in our own way. I was saying to a friend today, as well as Heather last night, in the convo that led up to this challenge, that I have been staggered by how hard overcoming fear would be in my new life. I had far more swagger about it when I left. I thought I’d just hop, skip, JUMP. It has been humbling. But it has increased my sense of mercy for others ten-fold. I have so much more compassion for how we are each mired in fear … in our own ways, to our own degree. I’m SO glad to hear you are writing that manifesto and I thoroughly look forward to reading it. I saw on your FB wall you are on Chapter 10? Wow!! Keep going! Keep going!! xo


Scott Powers July 16, 2013 at 6:16 am

Dang Cris, this post alone is validation that the world needs to hear more of you. Your challenge served me two-fold: 1) Relief that someone else shares the same paralyzing fear and self-doubt as I do, and 2) A slap in the face from one of those old-fashioned lady gloves (probably from the late 1800′s when they were long and made from heavy leather so it would hurt like shit), that I need to do this too.
At one point in time I had a real blog, with a few real followers that was starting to grow. As I started to reveal more of myself I chickened out and shut down. Maybe more to it than that, my excuses were always legit, but underneath I feared letting my voice be heard. The shame is that I now feel so much less of a person because I know I have let myself play small…in more than just a few areas of life.
I took action on something today that I had been wanting to do for a bit , but fearing, because I knew it meant enduring discomfort. This was a good step….more to come. Thank you for sharing your challenge Cris.


Cris Gladly July 16, 2013 at 10:13 pm

Dude, you made my day with this comment. :) ALWAYS so happy to see your name here on the blog. Thank you for your kind words about this post. It seems to have resonated with a lot who have read it. I found it such a powerful re-frame to identify a motivation BIGGER than my fear. As for what you wrote about your “used to have” blog … I could have written those exact same words, no? I summoned the courage to start Gladly Beyond, made great strides cranking out posts, and then ‘the end of last year’ happened and I just STOPPED. For 8 months after I wrote NOTHING. I just froze. And now I’m trying to shake off the stiffness of atrophy.

I’m so proud of you for taking action on whatever it was. Do more of that! So often we (and that’s ME) get stuck in the planning phase, the warm-up, the think-through, etc. and use that to stall on just doing it already. I’m excited people have responded well to this post. But I’m not patting MYSELF on the back until I actually complete the challenge. Promise is one thing. Follow through = something else entirely!


Cynthia Bland July 16, 2013 at 9:47 pm

These words resonate so deeply with me. I was silent for many, many years and when I finally found my voice, amazing things began to happen. Sad, gut-wrenching things along with tremendous growth and freedom.
I speak about silence every day as it is a core message in the epidemic we fight in the work I do. (I founded an organization that is committed to the prevention of child sexual abuse and the support of adult survivors) Silence is what allows perpetrators to continue their abuse of children….
You have so eloquently, honestly and effectively stated what happens when people are silent. Thank you so much for sharing this…and I am thrilled to have ‘found’ you.
(PS..organization is named after a blog I used to write many years ago – appropriately called ‘VoiceFound’.ca


Cris Gladly July 16, 2013 at 9:57 pm

Cynthia, welcome to Gladly Beyond! I’m so glad you found my green sky. :) Wow, what powerful and important work you are doing in this world. Thank you for telling me about VoiceFound. Yes, silence is the most insidious weapon abusers use against victims, in my opinion. I’m so glad you are helping survivors find their voice and use it to transcend shame and hurt. I am truly glad to have you hear on the blog. Thank you for saying hello and I hope you’ll visit again. And yes, speaking up can be sad and gut-wrenching, but also brings tremendous growth and freedom … hopefully in a way that helps lift up others along the way. :) -cris


Cynthia Bland July 26, 2013 at 6:14 pm

You’re a beautiful person. I’m so happy to have found you in this crazy, lovely, amazing world.


Mary August 3, 2013 at 11:06 am

And whatever happened with this profound challenge?


Cris Gladly August 3, 2013 at 3:22 pm

Thank you so much for reminding me, Mary!! I JUST posted the update here thanks to your prompting! It was an amazing outcome, indeed. Thank you so much for circling back to find out how it went. :) Wishing you a beautiful weekend.


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