Bishop T.D. Jakes says preaching the gospel of forgiveness is a sermon that never gets old or loses its meaning.
Members of The Potter’s House, Jakes’s mega-church in Dallas, often hear their popular minister share stories of his own struggle with “letting go” of past hurts and disappointments. Jakes has spoken about the issue so much that he decided a full-length book on the art of forgiveness was required.
In Letting It Go: Forgive So You Can Be Forgiven (Atria Books), Jakes explores why people insist on holding on to past heartache, pain, and grudges, and offers reasonable suggestions for a different approach to relationships in their life.
“Forgiveness is a big idea, and it works best when it is invested into people who have the courage to grasp the seven-foot idea of what’s best for their future, rather than the four-foot idea of recompense for what happened in the past.”
Jakes says he was moved to write about the subject of forgiveness and compromise as he watched the constant friction and upheaval in the world of business and politics.
“I looked around and constantly saw people at each other’s throats and constantly blaming each other for what was wrong in our communities and around us in the world. That has to stop. We have to let go and forgive the other person for whatever we feel and whatever injustice was done.”
Jakes says he believes in the axiom that the act of forgiveness is not really a gift to others as much as it is a gift to oneself.
“It’s an age-old problem that continues to be true,’’ says Jakes. “You free yourself by freeing up all that clutter in your head and anger toward others. I tell people that in this time where no one has privacy, your head has to be clear so you can go inside yourself and be still. You won’t have anywhere to escape if your mind is always full with anger and regret.”
For the last month, Jakes has been helping to comfort the family of singer Whitney Houston, who died Feb. 11 of undisclosed causes. Jakes was the producer of Houston’s last film project, Sparkle, and spoke thoughtfully at the 48-year-old’s funeral in New Jersey.
“I’ve had prayer with Cissy (Houston’s mother) a few times over the recent weeks, and I’ve let Bobbi Kristina know that I’m here for her, too,” said Jakes. “I got to know her mother well while filming, but only met Bobbi Kristina at the funeral. This is a family that has been shaken to the core by this loss, and they’re still very hurting badly.”
While Jakes acknowledges that the Houston family’s pain is still fresh, he adds their decision to speak with talk-show host Oprah Winfrey less than a month after Houston’s death was mostly based on a need to tell the truth to the singer’s fans.
“Cissy feels everyone had a chance to talk about Whitney in the weeks after her death, and now it’s time for the Houston family to have their chance. She and Bobbi Kristina want the world to hear about the Whitney they knew and loved, and they should have that opportunity. It’s only fair.”
He stresses that grief over the death of a loved one comes in many forms and that the Houston family may use the chance to speak out to Winfrey as a way to begin healing.
“Only they (the Houston family) know when the time is right in terms of talking about their beloved daughter, sister, and mother,” said Jakes. “Only they know what needs to be done to ease their pain.”
Jakes says he shared a short but unique bond with Houston that developed on the set of Sparkle late last year. The film is based on the 1976 movie of the same name and follows a trio of musically talented sisters from Harlem and their rise to major stardom that ends when one dies of a drug overdose.
“The similarities between this film and Whitney’s life are eerie,” says Jakes. “I’m not sure if that’s the reason she always wanted to be apart of remaking this film over the years. But I do think she saw it as well.”