What is your opinion of children who observe their parents fighting all the time. Do you think this observing child might become a bully in school or a difficult partner when an adult?

This depends on what the child, who now is an adult, has learned from what was observed about the parents.  It is possible that the person might gain wisdom from the parents’ fighting and realize that such a pattern is not healthy.  Thus, the person may deliberately commit to not following the parents’ behavior.  In contrast, if the person does not reflect on the potentially destructive pattern, then, yes, the person may grow up to show bullying behaviors in school and to repeat the pattern of a conflictual relationship with a partner.  In other words, insight along with a commitment to not imitate the conflictual behavior might spare the person from repeating the parents’ behavioral pattern.

Learn more at Family Forgiveness Guidelines.

I am feeling hopeless. I know people forgive to restore peace in a relationship, but that is not possible for me. What do you suggest?

Reasons for forgiveness go beyond only a restored relationship.  You can forgive because it is good in and of itself.  You can forgive to rid yourself of resentment. You can forgive to pass the insights on how to forgive to your children.  Thus, even if a restored relationship is not possible, you still may forgive if you choose to do this.  Our research shows that as people forgive, their sense of hope increases in a statistically-significant way.  You need not remain with a sense of hopelessness.

Learn more at 8 Reasons to Forgive.

I have reconciled with my partner and I think I have forgiven him. Yet, at times, I think about his original unfaithfulness and it makes me angry all over again. Am I only fooling myself in thinking that I truly have forgiven?

The late Lewis Smedes wrote that forgiveness is an imperfect process for imperfect people.  Feeling anger again does not necessarily mean that you have not forgiven.  People can forgive and still have anger that rises and falls depending on the situation.  If you are in control of the anger and are willing to forgive now on a deeper level, then you have forgiven.

Learn more at Forgiveness for Couples.

I have noticed that some of my friends just are angrier than others. They do not seem to show this anger only when recently treated unfairly by others. They are just angry people. Why do you think this would be?

Without knowing the person’s history, it is not possible to know for certain why one of your friends is consistently showing anger.  I suspect two issues.  First, the display of anger in the home, when your friend was growing up, might have been high.  In other words, angry behavior was demonstrated in the home and implicitly approved as a norm.  In other words, the friend learned anger by observing it being modeled in the home.  Second, the friend may have been hurt by the anger displays in the home and so there is resentment from the past that is affecting the person now, in the present.  If this second scenario is correct, then the friend might benefit from forgiving one of the parents who might have displaced the anger onto your friend while growing up.

Learn more at Family Forgiveness Guidelines.

You are Invited to a Live Benefit Concert on Nov. 11

The Arts @ First United Methodist Church, Madison presents…

    Live on Stage from Around the World:
 90 Minutes of World Class Performances

2:00 pm
Sunday, November 11, 2018
First United Methodist Church
203 Wisconsin Avenue
Madison, Wisconsin
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Join us for a live concert featuring these internationally-respected performers:
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The Kat Trio

The Kat Trio, formally known as The Ekaterinburg (Russia) Classical Trio, is composed of Victoria Gorbich (violin), Vladislav Gorbich (Clarinet), and Joseph Ross (pianist). The trio’s unique Russian arrangements and seamless transcriptions of timeless melodies feature classical works, well-known inspirational songs, and even American pop standards, including Scott Joplin’s rags.

Click this link to hear The Kat Trio perform Joplin’s hit tune “The Easy Winners.”

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The Varshavski-Shapiro
Piano Duo

The Varshavski-Shapiro Piano Duo is comprised of pianists  Stanislava Varshavski (born in Kharkov, Ukraine) and Diana Shapiro (born in Moscow, Russia), who began playing together in 1998 after meeting at the Jerusalem Rubin Academy in Israel. After studying in Israel and the US, both pianists completed Doctoral degree studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2011.
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Click here to listen to The Varshavski-Shapiro Piano Duo perform three of their piano classics.

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Miles McConnell 

Miles McConnell is a classical guitarist from central Florida who has studied and performed around the world and who is now based in Madison, WI, where he earned the Doctor of Musical Arts degree in Classical Guitar Performance in 2010. Miles has just returned from his performance at the Classical Guitar Retreat at the Cathedral of the Isles, on the isle of Cumbrae, in Scotland. Click here to see and hear Miles play six of his classical arrangements.
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Norman Gilliland
Concert Master of Ceremonies will be Norman Gilliland who began hosting classical music broadcasts on Wisconsin Public Radio in the mid-1970s. Gilliland has also been the narrator for the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra’s popular summer series “Concerts on the Square” for the past 28 years.
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Meet the artists at a hospitality reception following the concert.
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…..Proceeds from this concert will support:
The First United Methodist Food Pantry
and
The International Forgiveness Institute
$10 donation suggested.


For more information contact:
Jonathan Little Management / JL Presents
Mobile: 608-219-1077

Do children really understand what forgiveness is?  If they do not, then can they really forgive?

We have been helping teachers set up forgiveness education programs since 2002.  In our experience, children as young as age 6 can understand the worth of people, including the built-in worth of all people.  This is a foundational step in forgiving.  Even though young children may not understand the moral virtue of love (serving others for the others’ sake), they nonetheless can see that to forgive is to see the worth in the other and to offer kindness of some kind to the one who offended.  As forgiveness education occurs on higher grade levels, then students’ understanding of forgiving as an expression of mercy can become more sophisticated.

Learn more about Forgiveness Education for Children at: Curriculum

My Journey to Forgiveness

I never expected that one day I would be asked to give talks about forgiveness.  Forgiveness was the farthest thing from my mind. How could I ever forgive someone who hurt me so much, someone who was supposed to love and adore me? After all, I was her child.  By the time I was twelve, I made a pack with myself that I would never let anyone hurt me the way she did.  I lived a life protecting my heart, keeping connections at a distance and sabotaging intimate relationships if they got too close.  And where did I end up?  Middle aged and single.

On the outside, I looked good.  Had a successful career in a glamorous field and was acknowledged with prestigious awards along the way.  My face, my projects, my stories were featured on the front pages of The New York Times, The Washington Post and others.   As I aged, I managed to keep my weight down, my figure looking not too far from college days and my face less wrinkled than many of my contemporaries.

I would be rich if I had a dollar for every time someone asked me, “Why are you not married?” or said “The man that gets you is a lucky person.”

A young Gayle and her mother Mildred.

Underneath this glossy package, I was seething with anger towards my mother.  My accomplishments didn’t matter.  From head to toe there wasn’t anything right about me. My hair was too frizzy, my butt too fat and my nose too big.

Growing up and well into adulthood in my mother’s eyes, I just couldn’t do anything right. And my brothers couldn’t do anything wrong.

Little did I know, the obstacles I faced in my childhood would end up being the biggest opportunity of my life.  By facing those challenges, I figured out the secret to finding forgiveness and the power and freedom that gives you.

Growing up in my house was like growing up in enemy territory and you’re the only one who was captured.   From the moment I was born, mom took ownership.   She was at the helm controlling how I looked, spoke and behaved.  Not always successfully as she wrote in a letter to me in college, “You are my product and you are destroying it.”

When my nose started growing so did her relentless campaign to get me to have a nose job.  No, I never had a nose job.

My brothers were mom’s bouncers. The one closest to my age did not want me around as you can imagine he had been the youngest. And he let me know it on a regular basis – destroying my dolls and then trying to do the same with me. And my eldest brother did as he was told.

When mom wanted me out of her way, she had my brothers put me on top of the refrigerator where I could not get down.

There is one evening mom refers to today proudly as the night she pulled a Mommie Dearest on me. Remember the movie about how Joan Crawford was so abusive to her daughter Christina?

I was a teenager and out with my friends.  I came home a bit later than she expected. When we pulled up to my house, my mother was standing on the street with a glass of water in one hand and the dog’s leash in the other hand.  With my friends  watching from the car and the head lights shining on us my mother threw the water in my face, and told me to walk the dog, she didn’t care if I got raped if I wasn’t already. That was just the beginning.

Never knowing what I would do that would trigger her rage on me, I lived in fear of my mother, in fear of her punishments, often humiliation.

The fear led me to being sick and I had headaches and dizzy spells. As soon I left home I never had headaches again.

Gayle, shown above — and, yes, she’s Jewish, so the “nose” problem (mom wants her to have it “fixed”) crops up early on and never goes away.

When I hit middle age, I finally gave in to mom and agreed to visit plastic surgeons for consultations about my nose as long as I could have a camera crew with me.  What resulted was a funny short film about mom’s relentless campaign to get me to have a nose job.

After the Q&A, people stood on line to compliment my nose, and then tell me their story. It wasn’t always about their nose. It was about criticisms they endured from their mother.

I saw how many people were hurting and knew I was not alone.

It didn’t matter if I was attaining success in my career, traveling the world, making friends internationally – underneath it all I was fuming and holding onto victimhood.

I had given my power away.   I was still reacting to mom’s insults and criticism.  And often would give it right back to her, having learned how to have a sharp tongue and knowing how to leave a lasting scar.  I was not proud of my behavior and it was not making me happy.

I was emotionally and mentally trapped hanging onto the anger.

I knew I would have to change how I thought about my mother in order to heal myself.

I knew if I was going to find peace and happiness I would have to forgive her. I just didn’t know how.

Mom was now well into her 80s. I asked her if she would be willing to go on a journey with me to resolve our relationship in front of the cameras and she agreed. I knew I had a golden opportunity. In her mature years without the responsibility of taking care of children, my mom’s humor came out and she was not only willing but also happy to show herself to the world.

The result was my award winning feature documentary LOOK AT US NOW, MOTHER!  It’s been released widely. Unforeseen, this deeply personal film has been transforming lives all over.  Due to the humbling response, I have launched workshops and talks teaching forgiveness called NO MORE DRAMA WITH MAMA.

So how did I do it? How did I forgive my mother?   There are three main steps.

The first step is to UNDERSTAND.

I knew I had to first understand my mother and to do so I would have to dig into her past. With cameras rolling, I started my investigation and learned about her pain, her father’s suicide attempts, the untimely death of her baby sister, and the financial hardships.  And the childhood she never really had.

A big light bulb moment came when I played a psychological board game. I threw the dice and it landed. The facilitator asked to me to imagine my mother as a little girl. At that point, I knew about her childhood and saw a wounded little girl. Then she said imagine yourself as a little girl.  I knew my pain and that I was a wounded little girl. Then she said now you both come together.  Wow! She was no longer my mother. We were both wounded little girls.

The second step is REFRAME.

By learning about my mother’s pain, I was able to understand her and instead of seeing her as an abusive mother, I now reframed how I looked at her and saw her as a wounded child.  And by doing that I changed my expectations of her.

The third step is FORGIVE.

When she said something critical, it bounced off of me, as I knew she was a little girl in pain herself.  By reframing how I looked at my mother, I was able to actually feel compassion for her and forgive her.  I rendered her abuse powerless over me. And as a result her insults were less often until they faded away. Why?  Because they had no effect on me. I laughed them off or ignored them and at times gave her love in return.

What makes us so upset is when we have unfulfilled expectations.   When your three year-old daughter looks up at you and says, Mommy or Daddy, I don’t love you anymore. What do you do?  You bend down and pick her up and give her love because you know that is really what she is asking for.  So when you mother tells you that you are fat, you will amount to nothing, imagine she is a child crying for love and respond accordingly.

I forgave my mother. I didn’t say I forgot. You never forget.


“If you don’t forgive and you hang on to the anger and resentment, it hurts you and affects all aspects of your life – your relationships and health.”
– Gayle Kirschenbaum


While I was making LOOK AT US NOW, MOTHER! I reread my childhood diaries and relived the trauma. I ended up getting an autoimmune disease. It came out through my skin, and I developed a bad case of psoriasis on my hands that they were bleeding and I needed to wear vinyl gloves it was so painful. After trying various medical treatments and not getting lasting results I turned inside and realized I got myself sick due to the emotional stress and I will heal myself.  I did so by changing my thoughts and getting rid of the anger and forgiving my mother and feeling love.

The biggest gift you can give yourself is the ability to forgive.

Forgiveness is emotional freedom. It unleashes the perpetrator from holding the noose around our neck, which we have allowed.

Once I learned the secret to forgiveness I was able to apply these steps to other people and used this method to also forgive my brothers.  I know now when I am faced with a difficult person and situation how I can turn it around.

As I look at others who are acting unkindly, I reflect on myself and know when I am unkind to others, it is coming from fear, insecurity and anger.  When we are feeling loved we are not reacting nasty to others.

Gayle and her mother after forgiveness.

With that said, by showing kindness, compassion and love to someone you can actually transform them.

Our BRAIN is the most powerful organ in our body. It is our thoughts that control our  emotions and actions.

By changing my thoughts I was able to reframe how I saw my mother and forgive her.

Mom has become my closet friend.  Today she is in her 90s. We have been traveling the world together for the last 10 years.  We speak to each other daily by choice because we love to share and communicate.

To recap the three simple steps:
1. UNDERSTAND
2. REFRAME
3. FORGIVE

Think about your own life.  Who hurt you so badly that you have not been able to forgive them?   Remember you have the power to make the choice whether to forgive or not.  We all have a story.  Be the hero of your story not the victim. 


To learn more about LOOK AT US NOW, MOTHER!  and watch it,  visit: https://www.lookatusnowmother.com/   It is also on Netflix, Amazon and several other venues.

To learn more about Gayle Kirschenbaum’s work or to book her for her talks, screenings  and workshops, visit:  https://www.gaylekirschenbaum.com/

To watch Gayle’s TED Talk, visit: No More Drama With Mama

Email: Gayle@gaylekirschenbaum.com