"I know what it's like to have low self-esteem, to count on other people to validate me," says Michelle McKinney Hammond, author of the best-selling Secrets of an Irresistible Woman. "My parents went their separate ways when I was two, and I moved around a lot. I guess I was always looking for love and security—with the wrong kind of guys."
It's hard to believe this 41 year old with the sparkling brown eyes, infectious laugh, and dramatic flair for living ever struggled through years of unhealthy relationships in an effort to feel good about herself. After all, today she's a veritable Renaissance woman with a resume that sports the titles writer, singer, speaker, art director, playwright, voice-over announcer, and cohost of the Christian television talk show Aspiring Women. Michelle's finally made peace with being single—and unabashedly loves being a woman. But she's quick to point out her self-worth—and accomplishments—didn't come without a price.
After her parents parted, Michelle went to live with her maternal aunt, uncle, and grandmother in Barbados and lost all contact with her father, George Hammond. Her mom went back to school in England, where she met William McKinney, with whom she fell in love and married. They flew to Barbados to get Michelle and moved to Michigan when she was seven. At 14, Michelle was miraculously reunited with her biological father when an aunt found him on a trip to Africa. He immediately flew to see Michelle and they've been close ever since.
Michelle moved to Chicago to attend college, where she entered a succession of unhealthy relationships. Right after she graduated, Michelle flew to Africa to meet the rest of her father's family. She was intrigued by her grandmother, a devoted Christian who spent several hours a day praying at a nearby church.
Five months after Michelle returned to Chicago, her boyfriend was shot and killed. Michelle was sent into a tailspin. "I was suddenly faced with eternity. In my despair, I longed to know what happens after you die," Michelle says. That search led her to read The Late Great Planet Earth by Hal Lindsey. While reading it, she began to long for the peace her grandmother in Africa had, and to wonder what she talked to God about for so long. When she read Lindsey's statement, "if you have never asked Jesus into your heart, put this book down and ask him to come into your life right now," she knew this was the answer. Following that prayer, Michelle enjoyed her first night of peaceful sleep since her boyfriend's death three months earlier.
A couple of days later, she met a woman on her bus to work who hounded Michelle to come to church with her. One Sunday she finally tricked Michelle into attending a service with her. When a minister prayed for Michelle during this special service, she was struck by the words he kept repeating: "God loves you so much." After years of desperately trying to earn approval and love in a string of unfulfilling relationships, Michelle learned of God's unconditional, unceasing love for her. "After that day, I had a voracious appetite for everything concerning God. And I've never looked back."
While her love affair with God was wonderful, her need for human affirmation lingered. "The first few years I was a Christian, I spent more time looking for a husband than building my relationship with God," says Michelle. Only after she studied the relational habits of women in the Bible did she find contentment. With the energy she'd previously invested in finding a man, she developed a rich relationship with God and explored her talents beyond her advertising executive job.
When we single women stop asking,
"Why am I alone?" and start asking,
"Why am I here?" our whole world
will change—for the good.
"I learned the secrets of healthy relationships the hard way. Now I want to share what God's taught me with as many women as I can," says Michelle. These lessons are the basis of her books, What to Do Until Love Finds You and Secrets of an Irresistible Woman (Harvest House). True to her dramatic life and personality, Michelle packages her relationship advice with a one-two punch. Her bottom line for single women? "Get a life!" For married women? "Be the woman God created you to be and let your man be a man." For all Christian women? "Don't just love God, be in love with him." Her words may be somewhat unconventional, but lives have been changed and relationships revolutionized as a result.
Brace yourself for an intimate conversation with the woman who once almost became a Playboy Bunny and now teaches women to celebrate their unique, God-given purpose in life.
You seem so self-confident now, yet you talk about feeling rejected and isolated. Tell me more.
I was born in London, moved to Barbados, then to America. Each place left me with a heavy accent that made me different from all the other children in our next home. Besides that, I was an ugly duckling—with a gap between my front teeth, glasses, and an extremely thin body. I was an easy target for neighborhood bullies! My escape was spending time alone reading books. When I'd venture out, I'd try to buy friends by giving them things. I thought I could earn their approval and love, which, of course, was untrue and unhealthy.
Did these insecurities lead to bad relationship choices?
Yes. Before I became a Christian, I was a desperately needy woman who saw relationships with men as a way to validate my existence. So men fled from me; I scared them half to death! Even my friendships weren't sincere. Most of my relationships were built on what we could exchange. They didn't come from the heart. They were empty and constantly changing because they were based on my needs at the moment.
I was also into glamour, so I thought being a Playboy Bunny would be exciting. I wanted to feel adored and in demand so I actually interviewed. But while I was on the waiting list, I became a Christian and landed a job as an advertising executive!
What was the turning point?
Even after I became a Christian, I had a lot to learn. While I was thrilled by God's unconditional love, I was still bent on meeting my physical desires. Core attitudes like that sometimes take a long time to change. About a year and a half after I became a Christian I became frustrated that I was still single. I got really angry with God and said, "You know, Lord, I don't want a husband until you prove I can be happy with just you. I'll never be able to tell anyone you satisfy all our needs until you prove it to me, but I haven't experienced that yet." God took me up on that. Of course, some long lonely days I regretted those words!
What happened when you made this deal with God?
Nothing changed right away. After seven years, I still hadn't received a husband and decided to take my life back into my hands. I jumped in and out of some unfulfilling relationships based on my neediness. Then I met the man of my dreams, or so I thought. When our relationship ended, I was heartsick. Even though I knew he wasn't God's best for me, I had a hard time moving on. My disappointment and pain were so intense, I hurt physically. Many days I would walk down the street fighting back tears until I could get home.
Oh, it was horrible. But eventually I got tired of being sick and tired.One morning I told myself, Michelle, you have a choice. You can either be happy or sad today. So I started consciously choosing happiness every day. It makes a big difference when you realize you have that power to decide!
I remember saying, "God, I know you love me. I know you want what's best for me. I've got to trust you to bring that about." I'd repeat that a hundred times a day. I had to keep saying it over and over until I released the pain and allowed the truth of those words to seep into my heart. I also began praying, "God, deliver the right person into my life when you know the time is best."
In this painful process, my perspective changed. I've found that when we single women stop asking, "Why am I alone?" and start asking God, "Why am I here?" our whole world changes. We start rediscovering old dreams and discover creative ideas on how to use our gifts to bless other people.
Finding a mate becomes less important when we find joy and meaning, because that hole in our heart isn't about a person. It's about fulfilling our God-given purpose—what we were created to do and be. Only then will you find true peace and satisfaction—whether you're married or not.
So, it was an attitude shift.
Yes. My thinking changed. I started loving the people God placed in my life, rather than pursuing people who weren't interested in my love. I realized I'd been squandering my time looking for a man instead of investing in my family and the rich network of friends God had already given me. So I stopped keeping Friday nights open in case someone asked me out. If my friend Cindy called, it was her night. I'd have a great time, forgetting all evening I didn't have a man.
I also stopped approaching every male who entered my life as a potential husband. I relaxed, enjoyed getting to know them, and realized men make great friends—a secret many single women don't know. I now have a great group of male friends who fill a lot of the "male void" in my life.
How did you find your unique purpose in life?
Actually, the process started after I was hit by a van! I was on my way to a business meeting. At a stop sign, a man in a van stepped on the gas just as I walked in front of him. Realizing there was no time to get out of his way, I literally gripped the front of his van and rode there, screaming for him to stop. But he didn't. When I couldn't hold on any longer, I fell and rolled into the street. I looked up and saw the van still coming at me and screamed, "Jesus!" Right at that moment the van screeched to a halt.
Then the most extraordinary thing happened as I was lying in the middle of the street. As people ran around calling for help, I heard a voice say, "Michelle?" I thought for sure I'd died!
After a few disorienting moments, I realized it was a woman from my church. She said, "I was coming around the corner and saw you. Do you want me to pray?" I said, "Please," because I realized there was something wrong with my leg. I couldn't get up. So she prayed out loud for me in the midst of the confusion. She even went to the hospital with me—along with the man who hit me. He was weeping openly— he hadn't even seen me and was mortified at what he'd done.
How serious was your injury?
Eventually the doctors discovered I'd severed my patella tendon, which is the ligament that goes over your knee cap and causes your leg to bend and straighten. I ended up having three surgeries and a year and a half of physical therapy. I had to learn to walk again. For a long time I couldn't get around on my own, and yet, for some reason, I was denied disability money.
But God incredibly provided for me during this tough time. I'd just been put on retainer by a company I'd done a lot of writing for over the years. I was able to do projects for them at home and send and receive projects via fax and Fed-Ex packages. Friends stopped by nearly every day to check on me. Since I'd always been an independent woman, this was quite humbling. Other miracles of God's provision along the way melted my heart, leading me to fall more deeply in love with God. I never felt afraid or sorry for myself during this long recovery because God provided for my every need. This was the kind of deep, all-consuming love for which I'd been searching.
While I was recovering and not able to move anywhere, I wrote my first book, What to Do Until Love Finds You. After approaching several publishers, I found a home for my manuscript. I'd started that book in 1991 and finally finished it in 1995 because I had to sit still while I recovered!
Why did you write What to Do Until Love Finds You and Secrets of an Irresistible Woman?
I hated Christian singles books. They were so "spiritual," they weren't practical. They made me feel like a backslidden Christian because I had these basic needs nobody ever addressed. They'd say, "Jesus is your husband," which would make me cringe. I didn't want Jesus to be my husband. I wanted a human being I could touch and hold and kiss. I needed someone to speak to that level of reality. So I decided to write the singles' book I'd always wanted someone to write for me.
Tell us, what are some of the "secrets" of irresistible women?
Get a life! It really is that simple. I like how Luci Swindoll put it when I interviewed her for Aspiring Women: "Be interested and interesting." So often we forget that second part. When your life is full, men are intrigued. If he calls and you're not there sitting by the phone waiting for him or if you're too busy taking a class or doing volunteer work to hang out with him this weekend, he'll wonder what you're up to. I think men like to feel needed, but they don't want to rescue someone with an empty life. That's too much pressure! And that's not how God designed relationships.
When I studied marriages in the Bible, I realized they're all about complementing each other. We strengthen each other when we blend our talents and interests. But if you haven't explored your God-given abilities, how will a man know if you're the right complement for him? And how will you know if he's the right person for you?
What advice do you give to women dealing with unmet expectations?
I've dealt with this on many levels. Besides my unmet desire to be married, at one point I really wanted to be a professional singer. But the doors weren't opening for me to sing professionally. I finally realized I was so full of ideas, they wouldn't fit into songs. I needed books! When people tell me how God's spoken to them through my writing, I'm overjoyed. I think sometimes unmet expectations are misdirected desires.
Ask yourself, What do I do that amazes
people and I think is absolutely
nothing? That thing is your gift.
We need to give all our unmet desires to God and ask him to show us what he has in mind for us. He knows what will really make us happy—and he's waiting for the chance to surprise us!
How can other women find their unique, God-given purpose?
Ask yourself, What do I do that amazes people and I think is absolutely nothing? That thing is your gift. Everybody can't sew like you sew, or write like you write, or lead a meeting like you lead a meeting. Find a way to use that gift to bless others and honor God. Then your life will become so full that you won't need a man to fill it for you.
God created relationships to be partnerships. It's not solely about chemistry; it's about partnering to further God's design for two people's lives. It helps if you discover your purpose in life before you get married. Friends are great about helping you figure out that purpose, because they can see you and your talents objectively.
Do your friends play a big role in your life?
Yes! They're like my sisters. Sheila and I pray together every morning, even though she lives in California. I've known Michelle, Brenda, and Theresa since 1979. We always get together for our birthdays. We give each other gifts, eat dinner at a nice restaurant, and return to my apartment for dessert. Then we pray blessings for each other for the coming year. By the time the next birthday rolls around—they're evenly spaced throughout the year—we give a report of what's come out of that special time together. It's become our tradition.
Then I have what I call the "Faithful Four" who live really close. They're my accountability team. We're quite a diverse bunch. Charlotte is a Jewish believer. Karen is Miss Corporate. Cindy is from a Greek Orthodox background. And Jan is the one who keeps us all gently in balance. We yell at each other, pray for each other, and love each other intensely. We're each others' "safe place"—emotionally and spiritually.
What do you enjoy most about being a woman?
Having the powerful gift of influence. The license to change my mind. The freedom to cry. The liberty to laugh and just be silly. Probably the thing I enjoy most about being a woman is knowing how much comfort I bring. I think only a woman can give a certain type of comfort to another person. There's something in us that can still the heart of the weary and the upset and the abused. There's something in our touch, our spirit, the tone of our voice that brings comfort. That's our gift.
I like it when I pick up a child and she nuzzles against me and falls asleep. I like it when I touch the shoulder of a male friend and say, "You know what? It's going to be okay," and I feel him relax under my fingertips, because there's an assurance that comes from me speaking a comforting word. I revel that I can be on the phone and cry with one of my friends who's struggling with a problem, and she feels comforted because I have enough compassion to really feel what she's saying. These are the special gifts a woman holds.
Is there a downside to being a woman?
We have so many expectations on us to be superwomen. We're always off and running, seeking everyone else's approval so we can approve of ourselves. But God's approval and agenda get lost in the mix.
We have a lot of good ideas, but are they God ideas? I'm starting to learn how to prioritize, to give my schedule to God every day and say, "Okay, Lord, clean out what doesn't need to be here. Show me what you want me to accomplish today." I'm not very good at this, but I'm getting better—with the help of my friends who keep me accountable.
What's the main message you want women to get from your books?
There's life outside having a man. A lot of us single women put our life on hold while we wait for a husband to show up. We want to be rescued from the daily drudgeries, so we end up getting married for all the wrong reasons. But if our life is more balanced and fulfilling, we'll be more discerning about our spouse-to-be, if we do choose to get married.
Marriage isn't a cure-all for loneliness. A husband can't meet all your needs; only God can. And even the Proverbs 31 woman had a life outside her house. She had more than just the kids to talk to her husband about when he came home.
One of my favorite Scriptures is Proverbs 27:7—"He who is full loathes honey, but to the hungry even what is bitter tastes sweet." I want single women to get to the place where their lives are so full, they don't need a man to fill some void. Otherwise, we make bad choices.
Do you still long to get married?
My mom asked me that recently. I don't know. And I never thought I'd be able to say that.
Before, if I met a nice guy, I'd jump at the opportunity to date him, to go for it while the getting was good. But now I understand I've been specially made to complement a certain type of man. I actually do believe I'll get married some day. I don't know when, and now I don't care when. I know my future husband and I are going to be a fabulous team. Until then, I don't want to sell myself short by stopping before he gets to me—and doing someone else a disservice in the process.
Right now I'm happy. My life is full. I'm fueled with passion for everything I'm doing, and I think I'd be nearly overloaded if I had to be passionate about somebody else, too. So that's up to God. I've given that completely to him. I'm just glad to say I've discovered single and happy can coexist. For now, that's enough.
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