Do the Hard things

Hard things

I remember a time when I was about 11. It was in the summer and one of the rare times we ever went to a pool. I couldn’t swim well, and was very scared of the water. I’d never really been around it except 1-2 times of going to a creek and 1-2 times of going to the public pool for an end of the summer pool party with a local day camp.

This was at one of those parties. I don’t know how I got talked up onto the diving board, but I did. I was terrified. My knees were shaking so badly I thought I might just go ahead and fall in. Once I was out there, there was a line of kids waiting on the step, so there was no turning back. If a person could wish herself out of existence, I would have done it right then.

I should go ahead and tell you that my uncle was there waiting for me, promising to catch me when I jumped. But I was still scared. I stood there for what felt like an eternity with tears streaming down my cheeks. Finally, I took what must have been the smallest step ever.

But I did it.

True to his word, my uncle caught me. And I felt a thrill, that exhilaration, that only happens when you do something you didn’t think you could do.

I immediately ran to an adult who was very close to me. Someone whose approval I desperately craved but never could seem to get. I said, with all of the enthusiasm of an 11 year old girl, “Are you proud of me? I did it!”

This person looked at me with hard eyes and said, “No. It took you a long time and you cried. Why would I be proud of that?”

Those words deflated me, and had a lasting effect.

I learned to be safe.

I learned not to do anything hard because I could fail. It might be too hard. It might take too long. And I might cry a little in the process.

Basically I learned never to try. I spent the following years doing only things that were comfortable. Things that were easy. Things that were sure. I suffered a lot of pain and missed opportunity because of fear. Fear of falling short. Fear of disappointing. Fear of failure.

But I have learned that this person was wrong. So very wrong. Because it’s the hard things that matter most. 

I wish I could go back and look my 11 year old self in the eyes and tell that broken-hearted girl that she didn’t fail.

Failure is when you give up. When you hide away and don’t even try.

Sometimes, failure can even look like success. All those years that I succeeded because I didn’t let myself try anything hard. I never failed because I never tried and that is the biggest failure of all. 

I wish I could go back and tell my child self that those hard-won battles are the ones that matter. Those moments of pushing through even when we have no idea of the outcome and are scared to death. Those are the moments that define us.

And I am tired of being defined by fear.

This week, I am jumping off that diving board again.

All my life, I have dreamed of being a traditionally published author. It took me nearly 30 years to even admit that out loud, because I was so scared of how big that was.  And so scared of the failure that could come from admitting a too-big dream. Still yet, I have allowed fear to hold me in a vice. I haven’t taken the steps needed to fully pursue the dream–writing, editing, submitting. I have avoided those things, because that would mean trying. And trying could mean failing.

But, I am done with that. This week I will be in St. Louis, joining with hundreds of fellow writers and industry professionals at the ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) conference. A very expensive, real push toward pursuing that dream. I’m going by myself without really knowing anyone, and it is so far out of my comfort zone, it’s not even funny.

It’s hard. It’s scary. And there is a good chance that I could fail.

But it won’t be because I’m hiding.


  1. Jane Onstead McNaughton says

    Very proud of you! You go and have a wonderful time!! Fear no longer defines who you are or what you do — you have broken free of its curse on your life! Yay!! Wish I could grab you and hug you and give you a high-five! God bless your new adventure!!

  2. Regina Merrick says

    Oh Crystal! Your words encourage me! I’ve been on that diving board, too – in so many ways! So, so proud of you for what you’ve accomplished already. I have a feeling this is just the beginning! Praying that you meet the folks you’re meant to meet, and that on top of everything going on, you have FUN, too! :)

  3. Sarah H says

    I loved this post. I too, have been stuck in this fear cycle way too long. To the outsider I may look like a success, but on the inside I know that I have failed at so many things because I was too afraid to even try. It is so encouraging to me to know that someone else has gone through the same things that I have been struggling with for as long as I can remember, and is now taking the steps to overcome those fears! I am so excited for you and will be praying for you as you take off on this grand adventure to live out a dream. I gave up dreaming so long ago I don’t even know what my dreams are anymore. Maybe it’s time to dig them out and dust them off…
    Thank you and may God be with you on your journey to becoming a published author!

    • Crystal Brothers says

      Sarah, I am so glad that this post was an encouragement to you, and thank you so much for your kind words and prayers. Sweet, sweet girl, don’t ever stop dreaming! Yes, dig them out and dust them off! The Lord has plans for you!

  4. Paula says

    I’m proud of 11 year old you and of the you today Crystal. Wish I could take back those harsh words uttered so long ago but you have successfully done that by pursuing your dream of being a published writer. You will speak for so many who don’t hear the words they so desperately need to hear. Thank you for sharing this piece. I have lived life in a way like you. I didn’t try so many things for fear of failing. You have stated in print what I dare to say to myself. Thank you for being my voice and saying what I could not say. Because of your bravery I will try to do things out of my comfort area. Thank you again.

    • Crystal Brothers says

      Thank you for the kind words, Paula! I’m so glad this post was an encouragement to you. Thank you for taking the time to let me know.

  5. Kimberly says

    Oh, Crystal—I promise to be among the MANY who are PRAYING FOR YOU!!!

    I had tears as I read the post, the Comments, and your responses….and one thing I will be praying for you, too, is a verse that we keep up where we can see it every day. I hope it helps you, too:

    “You encourage me by giving me the strength I need.” —Psalm 138:3 !!!!

    With many blessings and with deep gratitude,


    • Crystal Brothers says

      Kimberly, thank you so much for your sweet words and prayers! They are so much appreciated! And, thank for the verse as well.

I love to hear your feedback and value your thoughts! All I ask is that we remain respectful and civil, even when we disagree. Thanks so much for reading. I appreciate you!

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