Jim McGreevey is a long way from the podium where he stood to announce his “truth” nine years ago, telling the world he was gay, that he’d had an affair with a male staffer and would leave politics.
The man who approached the podium that day possessed unbridled ambition and was among the purest natural politicians to ever grace the halls of the Statehouse.
Today, McGreevey lives a far different reality from the one he envisioned for himself before things spiraled out of contro forcing im to resign in disgrace.
” I’m very grateful for where I am today,” McGreevey said in an interview this week. ” My resignation ironically was a great source of blessing because I had the opportunity to correct my life and to live a more authentic life and I think to fulfill my life’s purpose, not based on what I wanted but based upon what I believe God called me to do.”
“Fall to Grace,” the new HBO documentary that chronicles McGreevey’s quest to become a priest and his work as a spiritual advisor to incarcerated women, is set to premier tonight at Kean University. A host of political luminaries are set to attend and it will be, in the former governor’s words, “a typical McGreevey event.”
These days McGreevey is at ease talking about his work and speaks passionately about his ministry. He quotes alternately from the Bible and from noted psychologist Lawrence Kohlberg’s theory of moral development and says incarceration in this country must change.
“It costs $44,000 per year to house an inmate. The U.S. accounts for 5 percent of the world’s population but we have 25 percent of the world’s incarcerated population,” he said. “That’s unsustainable.”
What brought the former smooth talking charmer to a life of ministering in prisons is a well-documented story, told “ad nauseam,” McGreevey says, but the documentary produced by Alexandra Pelosi is different.
“What’s different about this film was Alexandra’s willingness to explore the lives of the women,” he said. “For me, I would drive by a prison, see the barbed wire and the high concrete will and think, “those are bad people where they are supposed to be.'”
That’s not always so, McGreevey said, and it’s important for people to come to that realization as he did while working in a Harlem prison.
“I saw broken people like myself trying to stand on their feet and begin to live life on life’s terms and to do the right thing,” he said.
There is no question the past nine years have changed McGreevey. Asked how, his frankness and introspection become laser focused. Having lived a life that focused solely on the next rung up the ladder, McGreevey said he has learned to be truly happy by serving others.
“For me it was traveling from the place of self where my political career, my ambition, my goals were paramount in my life to a place where I re-examined that sense of narcissism and began to try to be of service. I recognize the concept of love of God is not integral to everyone’s life but for me that’s important.”
Told he was far from alone as a narcissist in the political arena, McGreevey is quick to explain that he is done with judgment for others. The man who once had the world at his fingertips now says he is content with simplicity and rarely looks back.
“I’ve been working to let go, and largely have let go of the what ifs,” he said when asked if he believes he could have had a greater impact had he stayed in elected office. “The point being, I believe I am more grounded and fulfilled and helpful in working with these women a person at a time.”
McGreevey said he is proud of the documentary, set to premier at Kean University tonight at 7:30, but not because of his role.
“This shows the imperfect journey of a very imperfect man, but what I am grateful for is that people will get to see the intelligence, capacity and beauty of these women and hopefully recognize that we need to drastically alter the way we go about imprisonment in this country.”
A documentary selection at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, “Fall to Grace,” is set to premier Thursday at 8 p.m. on HBO.