T.D. Jakes can't remember a time when he wasn't in church on New Year's Eve for Watch Night Service. Those moments of reflection and rejuvenation continue to serve him today in his role as a preacher and counselor to individuals and families facing every imaginable issue.
Among the valuable lessons the popular spiritual leader and senior pastor of The Potter's House in Dallas says he has learned: A crucial part of spiritual growth is understanding which people and situations we must leave behind, lay aside, and let go of in order to move forward. "The folding of one year into the next is a prime opportunity to contemplate what we should keep and what to cast off," says Jakes, 49. "How do we unload baggage that, in some perverted way, has become a constant friend? How do we create less stress and gain more clarity and a greater resolve?" In an exclusive year-end message just for you, Jakes offers ten solutions that will help you banish the thoughts and feelings that can block many of us from living more rewarding lives.
Loneliness is rooted in a lack of intimacy with yourself. Loneliness is also rooted in the myth-bought into by far too many women-that having someone ensures you'll never be lonely. It ensures no such thing. Mates leave, they die, they change. Even if you end up with a life partner, saddling one person with the responsibility for making you happy is a weight that can break that person's back. If you're in turmoil, and someone else enters that atmosphere, they join the turmoil. So we've got to stop indulging these false perceptions of happily ever after. Spend more time alone with yourself, being introspective, meditating, truly getting to know the woman you are. That's the only way out of loneliness into your very own joy. You don't have to be in a personal, intimate relationship with a man to have a significant life. Find fulfillment in giving to other people, serving the community, the environment, animals, God's creations. Get a life.
KNOW THAT YOU MATTER
Self-loathing is subtle, stealthy, evil. When we were children, someone may have told us, "You're dumb. You're stupid. Why aren't you more like your brother or your sister?" We were compared with someone's ex-girlfriend or ex-wife. As a result, we end up thinking everyone else is wonderful. You must stop fixating on yourself in this manner. Spend time on the inner woman, the woman God wants you to see. God will show you your unhealthiness, your mis-perceptions about yourself. You will begin giving yourself permission to think you're important too.
LEAVE THE PAST IN THE PAST
Do not make your healing from long-held insults and injury contingent upon someone acknowledging the harm she's done to you. That may never happen. If someone else's apology is a prerequisite for your healing, you may never get well. You can be healed, whether or not you get a formal apology. And that is your choice. Holding on to past hurts only eats up energy better spent elsewhere.
OWN YOUR FINANCIAL POWER
Many of us have not been taught commonsense investing. Too often we choose clothing, cars, food and fun over real estate, stocks, annuities and other goods that, in the long run, tend to accrue value. In this time when many women are primary breadwinners, it's essential to be savvy about money. Identify financial habits that are taking you down, see them as the enemy, and wipe them out. As the saying goes, "God bless the child that's got [her] own." Fund your future by investing regularly, even if it's in modest amounts.
HONOR YOUR 'ME' TIME
Busyness is sometimes born of arrogance: "Yes, I can be everything to everybody." Our lives, like plants, keep growing and growing. But one must exercise discretion. An exhausted, worn-out woman is no earthly good to herself or anyone else. You need time to recoup and regroup, or you will end up depleted, dysfunctional, moody, unhappy and hard to be around. We're finite resources. Learn to relax. Take some "me" time, without any guilt. All of nature teaches us that we need to recuperate. Leaves turn brown in the fall. Sap runs down the tree in the winter so that spring can come again.
PRIORITIZE YOUR RELATIONSHIPS
When the liabilities in any relationship outnumber the assets, that relationship is bankrupt. And all relationships have liabilities. To determine whether you and the other person can possibly work things out, ask yourself whether remaining connected spiritually, emotionally and financially to that person is more fruitful than disconnecting. Just because you need to excise someone from your life is not a strike against you or the other party, only a sign that the two of you are a bad mix.
FOCUS ON YOUR PURPOSE
All of us are affected by what other people think, say and do in response to who we are. Yet if pleasing other people becomes the goal, you will spend the rest of your life chasing down your critics. And if satisfying the critics becomes your goal, you'll never have peace. Finding peace requires zeroing in on your singular, divinely ordained purpose, the task or tasks that God has assigned especially to you. Other people cannot define that. God has a role for you to play that may be quite distinct-no better or worse-from what's designated for the next person.
REVEL IN YOUR SUCCESSES
Often we don't give ourselves permission to succeed. Nor do we appreciate people who look like us and are successful. Surround yourself with those who won't compete with you but will revel in your success and somehow see your ascent as a reflection of their own possibilities. And don't forget that success is not just cash in the bank or degrees on the wall; it is living out your life's purpose. It is being all you can be.
MAKE PEACE WITH YOUR FAMILY
Some of us are under the misconception that our kinfolks are the only folks with deep, dark secrets. But I've got 12,000 families in my church, all with some drama. Puberty, marriage, divorce, midlife, menopause-just plain living-bring out drama. What matters is how we manage the drama. If, for example, as the current wife, you've got anxieties about your husband picking up your stepchildren from his ex-wife's home, arrange to help him ferry the kids back and forth. Try to establish a rapport with both the kids and the ex-wife. If, as another example, you think your sister is crazy and apt to fly off the handle in your presence, don't deal with her when you're tired or irritable. Family drama is not the same as workplace drama: You can change jobs; you cannot fully detach from the people you are committed to loving. Manage family relationships in a way that gives you the greatest peace, which might demand putting up some boundaries-and examining the role you play in the buildup of that drama.
CELEBRATE YOUR LIFE
Jealousy is an outgrowth of not realizing who you are and what you possess. It's born of fear that someone has a better life than yours, even though the people you envy are not without their own insecurities, pains and unrequited dreams and hopes. Focus on your accomplishments, not your failures. Count your blessings. Celebrate the life you've been given.
Bishop T.D. Jakes is the founer of The Potter's House in Dallas. His latest book, "Before You Do," is out now, and his new film, "Not Easily Broken" opens next month.