Melissa Harrison speaking on stage at an event

Protect Yourself From Loneliness By Building Community

Diane Paddison and Melissa Harrison share their past experiences with loneliness and how building community was key to overcoming it. Melissa also writes about what she is most looking forward to with her role as 4word’s new Executive Director.

You can listen to this conversation with Diane and Melissa on our podcast, Work, Love, Pray! Listen below or click here to find your preferred listening platform.

Diane: You know, when you’re in meetings that are only filled with men and yourself, you know that they won’t understand if your daughter calls you on the phone to see if you can help her with a big problem she’s facing that day, or that your son is facing some decisions that he needs to make and might not be making the right ones. The reality amongst my generation at that time was that the woman is typically the one carrying the responsibilities of caregiving. So not only do you have a crazy life as a professional woman in the workplace, but then you’re also trying to care for your children, which is your priority. Most of the time, you’re dealing with that when a lot of the other people in the room don’t have or understand those responsibilities, which meant it was hard for them to understand the demands being placed on me. Even today, we see from the data that women feel like they’re on equal ground with their male colleagues, but when those same women have children, things change. We see women come to 4word in their early 30s (70% of our audience is between 35 and 55) because they have started their families or have reached a level within an organization where it starts being tougher because of the multiple responsibilities that a woman carries. 

Melissa: As a news personality or as someone working in that field, you’re taught how to keep your emotions separate from your work because that’s more professional. I’m very much an old school journalist. You shouldn’t know what I’m thinking or what my bias is whenever I’m reporting. That mindset comes a real disconnect between you as a person and you as a professional. I learned early in my career how to put up a wall that helped me, even if I was having a really tough day, to go on the air and smile and greet people and be able to operate in a way that was engaging. I had to put aside whatever emotions or personal struggles I was facing.

This goes back to that game face that I saw New York women put on: you just go to work and you power through and you deal separately with the emotion, crisis, or whatever you may be feeling or facing. That can be a very lonely way to operate, especially as a Christian in the workplace. It was rare to find other believers in the field of journalism who would also wrestle with the things we were coming in contact with every day as journalists. You see a lot of really horrible circumstances when you work with the news. You’re sitting with people and their grief, which is why it became more and more difficult for me to be able to separate from those feelings. It was a very lonely time, and whenever I found someone who understood what I was feeling, it was such a relief to know that I wasn’t the only one.  

Diane: I am so excited. The Holy Spirit always gives me these nudges, daily and at big times in my life, and a couple of years ago, I really felt like it time for me to move to where my strengths are the strongest within 4word. I felt that I needed to bring another leader in to lead the organization so that I can spend my time where I’m best used. I’ve also moved into a season where I now have four grandchildren and I just really want to have time to cherish my grandchildren’s lives as they grow up. This was just the right time for me from a professional and a family perspective.

When Melissa and I met for lunch in September 2023, she was bringing me up to speed on her life over the last five years. She was telling me about her burning desire to be in ministry and serve women in the workplace. I looked at her and said, ‘Well, did you know I’m looking for my successor to lead 4word?’ Melissa said no and I told her to pray about considering taking the role because we had a search firm actively looking at the time. When I got home from that lunch, I told my husband Chris that I felt like the Lord was His plan and I feel Melissa is the perfect person to lead 4word. 

She already had a passion for women just like the women of 4word. She’s a servant leader. She was successful at fundraising, which when you’re an executive director of an organization, about 90% of your job is making sure that the organization has money so that they can grow the mission. And her background in media will be so helpful because we are ready to reach millions of women around the globe with our platform. 

Melissa: When I stepped away from my position at The CEO Forum, I didn’t know what the Lord had for me when it came to ministry, but I knew that I felt I was going to be ministering to women of all leadership levels, not just the senior executives. On my StrengthsFinder, one of my strengths is Includer. I love being able to include women from all different backgrounds and leadership levels.

I have had people, both from the ministry in New York and women that I had met through my work in my previous ministry, who came to me and asked, ‘Would you start something because we would love to follow if you’re willing to start something. I didn’t feel that I was called to do that, at least not yet. My husband and I just had to pause and really pray that the Lord would make it clear where I’m supposed to serve and when, and I don’t want to step one step outside of His will because ministry is really hard and you want to be in His perfect timing and perfect will. Otherwise, it’s just not going to work and it’s going to be striving and not depending on Him. 

So when I stepped away from my previous ministry, and then less than two months later, this opportunity with 4word presented itself, I just felt the Lord giving me the green light. My husband and I prayed about it for two weeks before I applied. But when I went to apply, the application period was closed because they had received hundreds of applications. I remember my heart kind of sinking, like, ‘oh man, what if I missed it?’ I ended up texting Diane and she encouraged me to just go ahead and send in my application to the search firm…and the rest is history!

As I met women in the 4word ministry, women leaders at the Board level, and as I spent more and more time with Diane, it all just seemed like God’s perfect timing to me in a way that only He could orchestrate. The morning that I expected to find out whether or not I’d received the offer, I woke up and just prayed to the Lord, ‘What I love about this is that if this happens, it is so You.’ There’s no way that I could take credit for this all lining up the way it did. He knows the plans He has for us to prosper, not to harm us and to give us hope in a future. He knows our steps and directs them.

It is my sincere honor to step into this role and follow Diane. I described on a Board call that this felt like running a race. There’s a baton that’s being handed to me, but my race is just continuing to run with Diane and the women in this organization and see what the Lord has for us in the coming weeks, months, and years. I can’t wait! Diane has laid such an incredible groundwork and an amazing group of women who’ve come alongside her through this work over the years. I am honored to be able to lead 4word and am so eager to see all that God’s going to reveal to us, because He’s obviously been in this for the past 14 years. I can’t wait to see what’s going to come in the next 14. 

Diane Paddison, 4word Founder and President, is a Harvard MBA, former global executive of two Fortune 500 companies, CBRE and ProLogis, and one Fortune 1000 company, Trammell Crow Company, and serves as an independent director for one corporate and four not-for-profit boards. 

Diane is a leading advocate for Christian women in the workplace. Diane published Work, Love, Pray in 2011, and Be Refreshed . . . a year of devotions for women in the workplace in 2017, laying the foundation for 4word.

She authors weekly posts at and is a featured columnist for The Washington Times and the 4word Mentor Program has been highlighted in The Wall Street Journal’s MarketWatch.

Diane and her husband, Chris, have four children and two grandchildren and live in Dallas, Texas.

Melissa Harrison Headshot

Melissa Harrison is a bilingual journalist with more than 20 years of experience in television and radio news. She has worked as a news anchor and reporter in six different television markets including WNBC in New York City and WFAA-TV in Dallas/Fort Worth. Melissa has also worked as a writer for ABC’s World News Tonight and as a morning news anchor for CBS Radio. 

Melissa founded PURE in New York City in 2004 where she served Christian women leaders through events and retreats until 2016. She also served women executives at the C-Suite level through the CEO Forum from 2021 until 2023.

Melissa is currently an Executive in Residence at SMU where she teaches Digital Media. She earned her master’s in Journalism from Columbia University and her bachelor’s in Spanish and Communications from Baylor. She also studied with Syracuse University at the Instituto Internacional in Madrid, Spain. Melissa speaks frequently at conferences and industry events across the globe including recently in Chile, Indonesia and The Philippines.

Melissa and her husband live in Dallas with their three young children.