The Patriot, Braveheart and the Passion of the Christ…he has made some of the most inspiring, ambitious and epic films. As an actor, he’s entertained me in Lethal Weapon, Mad Max and, of course, he was brilliant in What Women Want. I just shake my head when I hear of his latest foible in the media.
The worst part of it is that the soundbites and slices of filtered information we get don’t even begin to tell the whole story. I have no idea why Mel Gibson says some of the things he does. But I do know this: I’m not going to speculate on the entire life of someone when I only get a few minutes of information from a piece on Entertainment Tonight or five paragraphs in the Star.
I don’t know if Mel Gibson is a hateful person or not. I won’t deny that he’s had several bad moments that would understandably lead one to think he is. But, I have to think about my own bad moments and what people might believe about me if they concluded who I am based only on my own lapses of judgment and bad choices. Most of the people around me choose to give me the benefit of the doubt in those moments and I thank God they do.
The funny thing about benefit of the doubt is that it only works if we extend it to everyone. When we don’t do that, then all we are really doing is picking and choosing who we want to pass judgment upon and who who we give a pass.
Giving the benefit of the doubt is a lethal weapon against conflict and relational tension. It disarms, separates and clarifies.
I know there are people in the darkest recesses of society who are just bent on bringing harm to others. But, Mel Gibson isn’t one of those and I suspect most of don’t move in those circles. Most of the people we know don’t wake up each day wondering how they can make life terrible for us.
Here’s what I’d like for you to do:
Think of that person in your life that just seems to rub you the wrong way no matter what they say or do. Now, ask yourself if you really believe that they began their day plotting to irritate you. If you conclude that’s the case, then you need to go let someone know about that because that person needs to be removed from their position of influence. My guess, however, is that if you got really honest about them, you’d realize that the tension you feel has less to do with them and more to do with you.
Do yourself a favor and give them the benefit of the doubt. If you’re feeling particularly ambitious, make a deliberate effort to treat that person to lunch or an overpriced caffeinated beverage. Ask questions. Find out what makes them tick. You may be surprised at what you discover about them…and about yourself.