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‘I Will Survive’ Another edited headline

New book by Tammy Faye Messner recounts the lessons she’s learned and offers insight on forgiveness, faith and fashion.

Tammy Faye Messner is a true survivor. During the late 80s, Tammy Faye survived the sex scandal between her televangelist former husband Jim Bakker and church secretary Jessica Hahn. Since then she’s survived colon cancer, troubled children, and a drug addiction. Now she’s sharing her tips on how you too can survive in a new book titled “I Will Survive ... And You Will Too!” She discusses the book on “Today.” Read an excerpt below.

REJECTION & HOW TO HANDLE IT

Rejection can come in many forms — and I think I have experienced rejection in about every way possible. You’d think that after feeling rejected so many times you’d get used to it, but I don’t think you ever really do. With every rejection there seems to come a feeling of self-doubt, a question of self-worth and the feeling, “Well, I just must not be good enough.”

It happened to me today. Recently, despite everything in me holding me back, I finally worked up the courage to ask a very wealthy friend of mine if he would help me financially to get back on Christian TV. He had told me that if I would get a budget together he would take a look at it. Perhaps I let my hopes get a little too high. I usually don’t allow my hopes and expectations in life to grow too tall. I’ve learned over the years that they can be cut down very quickly, and the pain of that is too much for my heart to bear sometimes. So I always try to look at things realistically.

I faxed the TV budget to him after going over and over and over it to make sure it was cut to the bone. It certainly was not out of proportion. I let myself think that I had a fifty-fifty chance it would actually happen. My husband Roe wasn’t quite so sure. I teased him about his lack of faith, and how with God all things are possible. Since he’s a believer, I think my little mini-sermon worked on him, and he too began to feel that it wasn’t out of the question.

When my friend hadn’t called back for five days, Roe suggested that if he hadn’t responded by the following day I needed to call him. I was dreading having to call such a busy man and bother him with something so small and insignificant to him. Of course, it wasn’t small and insignificant to me. It meant starting over for me, a chance I have not had since PTL. The thought of his saying yes made me feel like my stomach was in my throat. The thought of his saying no... well, I tried not to think that thought.

So today the phone rang and Roe answered it. He came into the bedroom, where I was packing for a trip, and said it was my friend on the line. I felt like I was going to throw up. I wanted to hear what he had to say, and yet I didn’t want to hear. But I knew I had to know sometime. So I took the phone, and a happy, positive voice said, “Hi, Tammy. How are you doing today?”

My friend and I exchanged small talk for a few minutes. My hopes were growing as we chatted-and then he said it:

“Tammy, I don’t want to do this.”

He proceeded to tell me that he had signed a contract a few days before, giving $4 million to another Christian organization. Four million dollars! All I needed to produce the show and buy airtime was less than $200,000. That would buy me six months. After six months, I felt in my heart, the show would be paying for itself.

He went on talking as if saying no to people were something he did everyday. Perhaps it is. We exchanged family talk and said goodbye.

Now, to me friendship is much more important than money. I never equate the two. In fact, I usually steer clear of rich people, because I don’t ever want them to think I want to be their friend just because they have money. I feel much more comfortable around middle class and working people.

So my first thought was I shouldn’t have asked my friend for this money. Why did I even think that he would say yes? My next thought was, “It’s over, my dream is over.” A sadness came over me, a feeling of rejection by yet another friend, a feeling of inadequacy, and I could feel my self-confidence draining away like water down a sink.

Then the thought hit me: Hey girl, put the plug in! Don’t you dare let it all drain out.

I certainly do not blame my friend. It’s his money, and he has a right to support the things he wants to support. My questions will eventually fly away out of my mind and I’ll be free again of my doubts. In the meantime, I keep chasing those doubts and questions away. Doesn’t he think I’m good enough to do a talk show? I did one for thirty years! Is our friendship all one-sided, a figment of my imagination? What’s $200,000 compared to $4 million? Maybe I’m not supposed to start over again. Does he not trust me?

Get away, bird-fly away! I will not allow you to make a nest in my hair!

The Bible says that when we’re disappointed, hurt, angry or feeling rejected, we need to think on things that are good. I always try to do that, and it really works. After all, nothing in life is worth giving up over.

The secret is to live one day at a time. Yesterday is gone; it’s like a broken egg, it can never be put back together again. Today is all we have. None of us may even be here tomorrow.

I often think of Princess Di. I know she never in her wildest dreams thought she would die so young. She thought she had years of tomorrows left. I think of Elvis. And John Lennon — he never imagined he would walk out of his home and be shot to death. Marilyn Monroe, Judy Garland, John Kennedy Jr. — gone in an instant. The Bible says that life is but a vapor, it’s like chasing the wind.

Yes, life is full of disappointments, dreams that never materialize, ambitions that are never realized, friends who let you down, relationships that fail, loved ones who die. Life has its share of loneliness it passes out to those who will accept it, and a bountiful supply of unfairness.

But even so, I’m glad I made it this far. People always ask me what I would change about my life. They’re dumbfounded when I say nothing. Because every bad thing that has happened to me has also brought about something good. Every bad thing has changed me for the better in some way. That which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

Make a resolve today that no matter what happens you are not going to let life get you down. You can make it! It’s all about choice — your choice!

Excerpted from “I Will Survive... And You Will Too!” Copyright 2003 by Tammy Faye Messner. All rights reserved. Reprinted by permission of Tarcher, a division of Penguin Putnam, Inc.