My dad was not famous most of the years I spent growing up. He was a salesman working on straight commission so he travelled a lot. Dad was a good father. He always gave it his best effort. He taught me to obey the law, tell the truth and work hard, but he didn’t become a Christian until I was a few weeks shy of being seventeen years old. Until then, Dad couldn’t have known everything he needed to be teaching me.
I missed being raised in church. I missed being taught Biblical principles. I know the Bible made all the difference because of my little brother Tom. Tom is almost ten years younger than I; Dad raised him with the Instruction Manual, took him to church and read him Bible stories. Tom has had a totally different life than my sisters and I had, and it is most apparent in the choices he has made. I believe it is because Tom learned the “why and how” behind the rules and expectations.
When I talk about what it was like growing up with Mr. Positive Attitude himself, I enjoy teasing about waking up to an “opportunity clock” instead of an alarm clock. I point out that most families look forward to the weekend; not the Ziglar family, we looked forward to the “strong end.” When we got the sniffles we had a “warm,” not a cold. Daddy was always positive and looked on the bright side and he brought lots of joy and laughter into our home. He was a fun and loving father who always had a good story and lots of hugs and kisses for his children.
I read you struggled as a teen and young adult; you went through depression, alcohol, and men. What do you think led you down the road of negativity, when you grew up in a background that expressed positivity?
I made bad choices that led to negative consequences. My choices were based on my immature, thirteen-year-old desire to “belong and fit-in” when our family moved from Columbia, South Carolina to Dallas, Texas. The process was complicated by a situation where a jealous girl started a false rumour about me that was so bad none of the kids with good reputations would be my friend. Ultimately, I earned the bad reputation I had wrongly been given. I wasn’t actually a rebellious child, at least not openly. I was a people pleaser of the worst sort and that, I believe, caused the majority of my problems.
Was it hard for you to relive your struggles for your new book Growing up Ziglar?
It wasn’t difficult at all to relate my struggles. I learned long ago the more secrets you have the harder it is to live a well-adjusted, problem-free life. Often the things that grieve us most are buried deep to escape the pain, but that which we will not admit cannot be forgiven. For several years now I have been free to speak of the past and all of the shame and guilt that once ruled my world. Once I stopped the offending behaviour and understood fully that Jesus Christ had forgiven me totally – forever, I had nothing to hide.
How did you overcome your problems?
I surrendered each behaviour to God. Thankfully, He didn’t demand all of the changes at once, but He shone a light on each thing He wanted me to deal with. As soon as one would be dealt with He’d show me another fault or sin I needed to address. I had to become willing to let God change me from the inside out, even when it hurt. I also prayed daily for godly wisdom, the truth I needed to see and the power to carry it out. As I wrote, I was not afraid of the judgement of others. I am wildly, unimaginably free in Christ.
What advice would you give to someone who is going through turbulent times and cannot see any hope?
I would share with them the promises of God, and quote Jeremiah 29:11 – ‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’ Then I’d tell them I, too, felt hopeless but the truth set me wildly free. I would share how the following verse has shown me that all my junk, the messes of my life, are used by God to comfort others…even them and that God will comfort them and use them for His glory, if they will only let Him.
2 Corinthians 1:3-4 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” (NKJV)