Bishop T. D. Jakes is the author of several books, including the bestsellers The Lady, Her Lover, and Her Lord; Maximize the Moment; His Lady; Loose That Man and Let Him Go!; and Woman, Thou Art Loosed!, which is also the basis for a bestselling video and CD. His weekly television broadcast, Get Ready with T. D. Jakes, airs on Trinity Broadcasting Network and Black Entertainment Television, and in Europe and South Africa. Recently named one of the nation?s most influential minister by The New York Times, Jakes is the founder and pastor of The Potter?s House in Dallas.
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A conversation with T.D. Jakes, author of God’s Leading Lady
Why did you choose GOD’S LEADING LADY as the title of this book?
A: The “leading lady” concept is a metaphor to express the significance of the contemporary woman. It is meant to help her understand that she is the leading player in her own life rather than someone merely playing a supporting role in the lives of others. Many women in contemporary society have a tendency to support everyone else without recognizing the important role that they play. The title of the book is meant to affirm and suggest that every woman is significant in her world; every woman is a leading lady to the cast with whom she is associated, whether that cast is her children, her work colleagues, or her community.
Many of the themes central to GOD’S LEADING LADY have already been written about in some of your other works including The Lady, Her Lover and Her Lord, Lose That Man and Let Him Go!, His Lady, and, most particularly, Woman, Thou Art Loosed! What’s different about this book? What’s new here?
A: None of my previous works have carefully choreographed the connection that exists between biblical and contemporary women like this book does. God’s Leading Lady takes readers backwards and forwards in time as it seamlessly knits together the everlasting principles that have worked for women past and present. It was my intent, as a writer, for women to walk away from this book with timeless principles that can help them understand how they can more fully maximize their potential.
As you point out, twenty-first-century women arguably have more opportunities for greatness than ever before. So why aren’t more women fulfilling their dreams and soaring? What barriers do they face?
A: It’s no secret that a “glass ceiling” has long existed for women in the corporate world as well as in the Church, and that women from all walks of life continue to struggle against preconceived ideas, prejudices, and limitations placed upon them because of stereotypical ideologies about their gender. I challenge women to overcome the barriers of what other people think about them and not to allow those external opinions to become attached to their own self-perception. It is very important for each woman to remove the limitations she might have placed upon herself and be all that she can be.
And then there are struggles that relate to balancing career with children, marriage, or other demands associated with the roles women play in their private lives. These are all unique challenges, particularly for single mothers who face responsibilities that don’t always mesh well with job demands. Many women from the past—including women from biblical times—have faced these limitations and overcome them. They can serve as examples for women today. Proverbs 31, for example, tells the story of the virtuous woman who is also a businesswoman and a successful mother, a wife, and a property owner. The challenges she faced, and the ways in which she dealt with those challenges, can serve as a template for women to pattern their own lives so they can better handle things like time-management and multitasking. This will allow them to enjoy a broader perspective of life and to massage all their creative abilities without the liability of being limited by preconceived ideas.
Women are called on to play so many roles in their lives: wives, lovers, daughters, sisters, friends, caretakers, hostesses, and much more. What problems do women run into when they try to be all things to all people? And how can women break from that trap?
A: One of the things I stress in this book is that if you don’t take care of yourself, you won’t be available to take care of other people. When you’re faced with a long list of responsibilities, prioritizing becomes critical. It’s very important that each woman understand that as a leading lady she cannot become so supportive of the other members of her cast that she forgets her own lines, her own well-being, her own preparation for the play. In this book we’re calling on women to recognize the importance of preparing themselves so that the people around them can benefit from their creativity, rather than allowing themselves to become drained by the roles they play. Everything stops on stage if the leading lady is not there, so it’s very important she understand her significance as it relates to the other people with whom she associates.
You have been praised for your ability to cut through commonplace generalities and focus directly on the specific pains individual women feel from the marriages they try to hold together, the physical abuse they might have suffered, the loneliness of single motherhood, or the mistreatment they’ve perhaps received in their jobs and careers. Where does that ability come from?
A: The secret to being able to help people is to be a good listener. Many women in relationships often say to their husbands or partners, “We need to talk.” The problem with the pursuit of communication is we’re sometimes so busy preparing what we’re going to say when the other person finishes talking that we’re not listening while they’re talking. As a counselor to women for more than twenty-five years I’ve been a good listener. And there are certain conclusions I’ve formed, while listening that seem to help women better understand who and what they can be.
What do you think will most surprise readers of this book?
A: When women read this book I think they’ll be surprised to feel an intense sense of sisterhood and fraternity deriving from the collaborative wisdom extrapolated from contemporary and biblical women. I think they’ll also be surprised to experience a feeling that they know these Bible characters personally; and that it’s almost as if they’re just sitting back and having tea with these wise women of the ages. The book is very conversational in tone and, at the same time, very exciting.
What surprised you most as you were writing it?
A: What surprised me most was the way in which similarities between women from different cultures, different periods of history, and different socioeconomic backgrounds became apparent as we gathered them together on the page. There was a great deal of similarity, for example, between abolitionist Mary McCloud Bethune and Cathy Hughes, the billionaire owner of Radio One, or Jacob’s wife, Leah, and Coretta Scott King. It is clear that these women, and indeed all women, have innate strengths that have nothing to do with the culture or age in which they live.
In God’s Leading Lady you refer to something called “ex-cues.” What are they?
A: Ex-cues point to the ghosts of past opportunities and failures that blindside us in our present lives and have an effect on our behavior if left unchecked. In thinking about the challenges we face, the trick is not to allow the ex-cues to become excuses for limiting ourselves from future achievement.
What does it take for a woman to become a “leading lady”?
A: A leading lady needs to be strong and resilient. She has to be prepared to face many obstacles and to endure great criticism—there’s no way you can be a leading lady and not face the critics. And she has to be self-supporting and self-enabling in order to overcome hurdles and understand how her destiny, her story line, fits with the story lines of those around her.
Of all the strategies, suggestions, hints, tips, and advice you offer women in this book, which do you consider the most important?
A: One of the most important things women can do is identity their own significance. There are times when we all find ourselves looking to others to applaud us, define us, or create a sense of appreciation that can make us feel good. God’s Leading Lady encourages women to recognize their own significance and to look to God for the accolades and the encouragement they need, because the people around them may not be as supportive as they would like. In the face of that lack of support they should not allow their apprehensions to deter them from reaching their goals.
What role does your gender play in your ability to reach women?
A: The advantage of being a man writing to women is that many women have not had an opportunity to have an open discussion with a male figure about the issues facing them. In the book I serve as a counselor, as a male best friend, as a big brother, and even sometimes as a father. And I’m shocked to find there are many women, both aspiring to success and already successful, who have never had those roles fulfilled in their lives—perhaps because they grew up with absentee or distracted fathers, or because the men in their lives are focused more on amorous intentions than on building a wholesome friendship. God’s Leading Lady gives each of these women an opportunity to sit down with a male best friend and discuss the things they always wanted to hear men talk about but were afraid to ask.
But isn’t there an incongruity in the fact that you—as a man—are telling women what they need to in order to excel and to live lives of fulfillment?
A: I don’t tell women what they need in order to feel fulfilled. I encourage them to look within and to ask the right questions, so that they can determine the direction in which they want to go and so that they can lay out a blueprint for how they can best get there.
What advice do you offer for women as they reach new heights in their business careers?
A: I tell women it’s important for them to begin thinking in terms of financial portfolios, investments for the future, and the decisions they need to make now so they can have the lives they want in their later years. As women achieve new levels of wealth, notoriety, and responsibility, they need to talk openly and candidly about their plans for the future: where they would like to live, when they’d like to retire, and the kinds of activities they’d enjoy at each stage of their lives. These are issues that were traditionally left to men. That can’t be the case if you want to be a leading lady.
What are “fatal attractions” and what sort of problems do they bring?
A: What I’m talking about here are women who define success in terms of bagging a successful man. We’ve all seen references in the media to women who seek advancement through sexual liaisons and entanglements with prominent men. One of the great tragedies resulting from this sort of behavior is that it suggests advancement can be found through ungodly entanglements. It makes us lose touch with the fact that success is not predicated on who you marry or who you sleep with but rather on your ability to unlock your own intrinsic value and worth.
What do you want readers to get out of this book?
A: When the final page of this book is turned, I would be happy if each woman sat back with a smile on her face, and a sigh on her lips, and recognized that she is the most significant thing in her world. I also want women to understand how important it is to enhance that significance with a deeper appreciation for their faith in God, a deeper understanding of their responsibilities to make a contribution to those they love, and a firm commitment to enjoy every ticking second of the lives they lead.
Find Books by T. D. Jakes
NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work: Nominee
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