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Redefining the Strong-Willed WomanHow to Effectively Use Your Strong Will for God
By Cynthia Ulrich Tobias
ZondervanCopyright © 2002 Zondervan All right reserved. ISBN: 0-310-24578-8
Chapter OneWho Is the Strong-Willed Woman?
It is clear to us, friends, that God not only loves you very much but also has put his hand on you for something special. When the Message we preached came to you, it wasn't just words. Something happened in you. The Holy Spirit put steel in your convictions.
-1 Thessalonians 1:4-5
A pleasant, petite Texan was introducing me to an audience of several hundred women at Baylor University, where I was speaking about strong-willed children. The moderator had obviously been a strong-willed child. With a gentle southern drawl, she grinned and winked at the audience. "My mother always used to tell me I was the only one of my kind-in captivity."
I had to smile. What a great way to put it! I was only one of at least two hundred other strong-willed daughters in that crowd who immediately knew what her mother had meant. We look for opportunities to stand out from the herd, so to speak. We resist being lumped together, even if we share the label of strong-willed women. We are as diverse from one another as we are unique in the world. Our strong will doesn't take the place of personality, temperament, or learning style. It frames each of our souls, providing the borderfor hundreds of puzzle pieces, including spiritual gifts, personal preferences, childhood and life experiences. Although we differ in many ways, we can forge strong bonds with each other by identifying and affirming the strengths we have in common. The woman who alphabetizes her spice cabinet and color codes the hangers in her closet can be just as strong willed as the woman who writes out checks according to the pictures she likes and keeps her stuff in piles instead of files.
So what does it take to have the distinction of being a genuinely strong-willed woman? After all, every woman has opportunities to use some degree of strong will at various times in her life. Much of what we'll share in this book could characterize almost any woman when she's backed into a corner or forced to protect the ones she loves. But for those of us who fit the description of the strong-willed woman, it can be said that we use our strong wills almost as often as we breathe. It is so deeply ingrained in us we often struggle to understand why everyone doesn't share the depth and strength of our convictions.
I met Emily after one of my learning styles seminars for public school teachers. She had not grown up in a Christian home, but she had attended a conservative church off and on during her youth. She thanked me, not only for the seminar but for weaving my faith into the presentation. Then she hesitantly asked me, "Do you believe it's even possible for a strong-willed woman to be a Christian?" I was startled by the question, and she went on to confess that she had very deliberately stayed away from church the past few years because she knew she had a stubborn and independent nature. Half of her was afraid God wouldn't even want her, and the other half was afraid he would demand she give up her strong will if she did decide to give her heart to Christ. Emily is certainly not alone. There are so many strong-willed women whose hearts and souls long to know Christ but whose self-sufficient natures won't even consider the possibility of surrendering their hard-won independence. These are women who can and will change the world-one way or another-and it's never been more important to find a way to recognize and validate their worth in the kingdom of God.
Many of us may have secretly wondered if there was something wrong with us, if perhaps we just weren't trying hard enough to be good conforming Christian women. So let's come together and identify ourselves to each other and the world. Let's discover and celebrate the fact that God has placed in the heart of many of his human creations an undercurrent so strong and so solid it carries us from birth to death.
How Strong-Willed Are You?
The following is a quick, informal quiz to get a handle on how strong willed you are according to how we'll be defining it in this book. Answer honestly, understanding that strong will itself is not a negative trait; it only becomes negative when you use it in ways that do not honor God. After you take and score the quiz, have at least two other people who know you best take it on your behalf, just to see if their scores match yours.
Your SWW (Strong-Willed Woman) Quotient
Place a mark in front of each of the following statements that almost always describe you.
____ When told to give up because it's impossible, I'm
willing to move heaven and earth to prove you
____ I can move with lightning speed from being a warm,
loving presence to being a cold, immovable force.
____ I may argue the point into the ground, sometimes just
to see how far into the ground the point will go.
____ When given the ultimatum "Do it or else," I will often
____ I consider rules to be guidelines. (I'm abiding by the
spirit of the law; why are you being so picky?)
____ I can show great creativity and resourcefulness; I
always seem to find a way to accomplish the goal.
____ I can turn what seems to be the smallest issue into a
grand crusade or a raging controversy.
____ I don't do things just because "you're supposed to"; it
needs to matter to me personally.
____ I usually refuse to obey unconditionally; I almost
always have a few terms of negotiation before
____ I'm not afraid to try the unknown, to conquer the
unfamiliar (but I'll choose my own risks).
____ I've been told I can take what was meant to be the
simplest request and interpret it as an offensive
____ I may not say the exact words to apologize, but I do
make things right.
Your Score: How Much Strong Will Do You Have?
0-3 You've got it, but you don't use it much.
4-7 You use it when you need to, but not on a daily
8-10 You've got a good strong dose of it, but you can
back off when you want to.
11-12 You don't leave home without it, and it's almost
impossible not to use it.
If you scored between 11 and 12, you have definitely come to the right place! Your heart will instantly warm to the discussions of how we think and why we do the things we do. You have found your kindred spirits!
If your score is between 8 and 10, you may not be completely sure we are describing you when we talk about some of the more extreme traits of the strong-willed woman. As you read through the book, the chances are good you will discover you have more strong will than you thought, but perhaps-for a lot of reasons-you haven't felt free to admit it openly. The chapters you are about to read may liberate and empower you more than you expected.
If you scored between 1 and 7, you are probably reading this book to gain a better understanding of the strong-willed women in your life, and we certainly encourage your efforts. We are not really a mystery, but most of us will tell you it takes one to know one, and understanding us can be a challenge.
What Do Strong-Willed Women Have in Common?
You've probably figured out that I scored a 12 on the quiz you just took. I have to confess that throughout these pages I will be speaking directly to those who think like I do-and believe me, that's no small number of women! As we identify what most of us have in common, you will find this is by no means a comprehensive list. But it can start the important process of understanding and appreciating what can make strong-willed women such a powerful and positive force in the kingdom of God.
Read the following descriptions carefully and prayerfully. The positive characteristics can be true of any strong-willed woman. It is my heartfelt belief, however, that only through God's grace can any strong-willed woman avoid the negative aspects of even our best traits. Several of these characteristics will be explored in more detail later in the book, but this will give you an overview of what almost all strong-willed women have in common. Is this your heart? Does this describe so much of your innermost being? Are you a part of this unique and wonderful group of godly women?
In Her Own Words
At times in my life I questioned God for making me so
strong willed. This strong will had taken on a life of its
own and seemed more of a burden than a blessing. How
could I feel so strongly about so many things? It took years
to come to terms with this, but I now realize that my
strong will is one of the most treasured gifts the Lord has
given me, and I thank him daily for entrusting this to me!
Excerpted from Redefining the Strong-Willed Woman by Cynthia Ulrich Tobias
Copyright © 2002 by Zondervan
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.