Gleb Gladwin tells how he discovered the value of forgiving his ex-wife.
In my journeys and experiences I have facilitated many a men's group and I noticed a common thread amongst those that were doing 'deeper' work. A lot of men are stuck; they have 'built a shrine to their wounds.'
Week after week they do anger work, shame work and grief work all thematically tied to a basic wound in their past. They do this instead of letting go, which often is about forgiveness. They gain energy by hanging on to their wound, and often it is an indirect version of blaming, being a victim. The hook is the energy they gain from it.
In doing some reading, I was attracted to what Terry Warner said about grace, mercy and forgiveness. We leave little room for these options as we create our negative emotions through judgements and believing falsehoods about the way things are.
"It is the nature of most human beings to assume they are seeing the world correctly. This makes each person's way of seeing the world self-fulfilling since we selectively 'see' events, persons, and experiences in a way that reassures us that our view of the world is right. And this is never more evident than in our relationships and the conflict we sometimes experience there."
This is a powerful paragraph. What he is suggesting and what I have also witnessed is that reality, or our reality, is nothing more than what we choose to see. That which basically supports our view and makes us feel good being reassured.
He goes on to talk about change:
'The only change that matters is a change of heart. Every other change alters us cosmetically but not fundamentally, modifies how we appear or what we do, but not who we are. Our hearts change when resentment, anxiety, and self worry give way to openness, sensitivity and love of life. The subject defies understanding however. Our troubled emotions are so painful and self-destructive that it is hard to see why we would ever live that way. But equally they are so entrapping that it is hard to see how anyone could escape them. Indeed, most who teach and write about them offer techniques for changing behaviour, not feelings. They assume the unlikelihood of a change of heart. But in the end, if we do not make that change it won't matter much what other changes we have chosen.'
As I read and experienced Terry's work, I came to understand a basic truth about the conflicts in my life. Each one that I remembered as a wound, each one shaped my future judgements. Most of the actions I choose in my life were attached to the wounds in one way or another. I literally 'created' the offendedness within me; I fed the anger with justifications of how right' I was, and how 'wrong' the other was. And I was thoroughly convinced that I was right; I could defend my position with power and determination.
It was very easy to get a group of like thinking people around me to 'agree' with me, and 'justify' my anger, my rightness, and my ex's 'wrongness'.
I could make endless reasonable and passionate cases for how I had been ripped off, how my children were going to suffer, how terrible she was, and how unfair the 'system' was. The energy of all this was highly addictive, it fuelled my purpose in life. I felt 'honourable' that I would take on such a noble battle and fight for what was right!
Meanwhile, underneath I was also saying that my ex essentially didn't have the right to choose, primarily because it affected, offended or inconvenienced ME! The cold hard truth of this reality started to sink in. What was the right thing to do? Years of 'It's unfair' messages from way back when I was a child rang through my ears. Meanwhile all my training was fighting for a voice. "Gleb, she is a free human being and she gets to choose, just as you would want as well. She gets to make mistakes and choose her path without you! Shit happens, now you get to move on. The choice is yours, keep carrying all the self-induced 'offended' energy, or.............?"
Forgiving is a hard place requiring an act of faith. The paradox is that it's only hard if we choose to make it hard! From modern paradigms of fairness and justice and 'me' centeredness, true forgiving often looks like giving in, quitting, settling for less. It literally takes a leap of faith to embrace another possibility.
When I had a 'change of heart' about my ex-wife and forgave her, I was suddenly free; free to love others, get remarried, have joy free of the fighting, free to live to my greatest potential. Slowly my estranged step children were attracted to this, and are writing me and wanting to see me again. My ex doesn't trust the process, and that's OK. For me to demand that she see my change of heart is manipulative. I forgave her because it was the right thing to do, not because I wanted contact with my kids, or for my ex to be impressed.
Regardless of my ex-wife's adulterous behaviour, the betrayal, and the breaking of our family, I forgave her AND I only concerned myself with what I did wrong, how I was a poor husband, what I could have done better.
The miraculous thing that I have witnessed over and over is that EVERYTHING does change with a change of heart, as counter-intuitive as this may appear. The alternative which most of us know well is years of struggle, legal manoeuvres, resentment, and bitterness. Even worse, years of being fuelled by that energy, a false reality of pride in which we choose to be victims of someone else's choice.
How do we do this?
We need to get honest with ourselves, and I mean really honest about our motivation, desires, and most importantly our selfishness. This is hard work, requires humility and the willingness to always see ourselves as the creator of our own reality. No blaming, no 'ya buts', no justifications, NO expectations of others. The basic steps are:
Get Humble - This basic truth runs through all the great philosophies of the world. Other words and phrases used are, surrender, let go, submit, be as a child. This process is also about letting go of pride, selfishness and ego centeredness.
Tools to use here are to see what I did wrong, how I screwed up, how I didn't go through the fear, how I held back love. Get really humble. If you can't think up ways you were wrong, call Rome and apply for sanctification. If all you can think of is how someone else caused you to react, or you were forced to do whatever, you're not getting with the program. If "But this isn't fair" crosses your mind, acknowledge it and let it go, this part of the process has no room for that.
The paradox - As I get humble, less self centred, I become more loving, people are attracted to me, and I open a small door to joy.
Take positive actions - Despite how lousy you feel, despite how unfair it is, take positive actions. This is not about legal action, or telling people how wrong your spouse is. No matter how positively convinced you are that you are right and that the world should know how horrible the other party was (blaming), or how terribly you've been abused (victim).
Tools include doing loving unselfish things, doing noble things, participate in anything that will make others feel good. If you feel resentment, check it at the door! Literally touch a door frame when entering a room and leave your resentments there, you can always pick them up again on the way out! Remember, this is a process, not a magic bullet. You will fail the first few times, have faith and TRY AGAIN!
The paradox is that self esteem comes from being loving and noble, NOT from retreating into yourself, or taking care of your own needs or demanding that others love you. Self love as taught by pop psychologists is nonsense. Serving others, and working hard to be honest day to day, is the key. This IS the definition of taking care of yourself! No matter how cynical you are, if you can be totally honest with your true feelings even for a moment, you will feel good serving others! If not, ask your parents if they were ever abducted by aliens before you were born.
Apply these two basic steps and you will discover the gold within you; you will find that people are more attracted to you. And your innate talents, stuffed by years of your choices to be unforgiving will start to blossom. Your unforgiveness will melt away.
Soon forgiving will start to come naturally, like breathing or sex, and you'll look back with great surprise and amazement at the divine simplicity of it all. As you hear others you will see how selfish and fearful they are, and your heart will be filled with desire to help them.
In conclusion: Get humble, take positive action, and forgive others and your world will change dramatically!
Gleb Gladwin is a Personal and Business Coach, and Corporate Training Facilitator in North America who is planning to move to Auckland, New Zealand in the near future. Gleb has been active for many years in 'men's movement' activities, including founding a New Warrior Centre in Edmonton, now called Canada West Centre. He plans to work with two Kiwi New Warriors in Auckland to bring the New Warrior Training Adventure to Auckland, as well as bringing Coaching Training to both New Zealand and Australia. Gleb's email address is
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