Robert Downey Jr. and Mel Gibson: Two Good Men “Hugging the Cactus”

Does Mel Gibson deserve forgiveness? Don’t we all?

At the American Cinemateque awards ceremony in Hollywood last year, Robert Downey Jr. paid tribute to his friend Mel Gibson and, in an unusual (and surprising) move, asked for forgiveness on his behalf:

When I couldn’t get sober, he told me not to give up hope, and he urged me to find my faith. It didn’t have to be his faith or anyone else’s, as long as it was rooted in forgiveness.

And I couldn’t get hired, so he cast me as the lead in a movie that was actually developed for him. He kept a roof over my head, and he kept food on the table. And most importantly, he said if I accepted responsibility for my wrongdoings and if I  embraced that part of my soul that was ugly — “hugging the cactus,” he calls it — he said that if I “hugged the cactus” long enough, I’d become a man of some humility and that my life would take on a new meaning.

And I did, and it worked.

All he asked in return was that someday I help the next guy in some small way. It’s reasonable to assume  that at the time he didn’t imagine that the next guy would be him or that someday was tonight.

So, anyway, on this special occasion … I humbly ask that you join me — unless you are completely without sin, in which case you picked the wrong fucking industry — in forgiving my friend his trespasses, offering him the same clean slate you have me, and allowing him to continue his great and ongoing contribution to our collective art without shame.

He’s hugged the cactus long enough!

It’s a beautiful testimony and a powerful moment. I’m still deeply troubled by Gibson’s anti-Semitism, but everyone deserves forgiveness, right? What do you think? Two good men who’ve “hugged the cactus” and offered forgiveness and redemption to each other. Seems like a wonderful thing to me:

About Steve Knight

I love telling stories and throwing parties. I'm the co-founder and co-CEO of Sogo Media, a new kind of Christian television network on YouTube, and the co-editor of "In Good Faith," the religion and spirituality channel of The Good Men Project.

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  1. Everyone deserves forgiveness. The person you forgive doesn’t have to be your friend, and you are not obligated to agree with him, but forgiveness should be unconditional.

  2. None of us deserves forgiveness, Steve. That’s one reason why it’s so powerful.

  3. Barbara Gauthier says:

    Opps my bad still moderating the first one… sorry didn’t know it would take that long Oh well I live with what ever…

  4. Barbara Gauthier says:

    So am I to understand that forgiveness only comes if one gives apologies first? I was under the belief that forgiveness is given whether the other person apologizes or not… It is for the benefit of those doing the forgiving… not those who are forgiven.
    As to Mel apologizing about being what JJ says well it isn’t our place to judge him either…Mel has to deal with that with his God! Is JJ not doing the same thing to Mel that Mel did to others. We are to love the sinner not the sin so their for whether there is an apology on Mel’s part or not should not come into account as to whether we forgive Mel or not. Would it be nice to have an apology, sure it would but not getting one and still forgiving him is not giving him a free pass. He know he did wrong… As a Christian we believe homosexuality is a sin… love the sinner doesn’t mean we accept the sin nor does believing it is a sin make us homophobic!! Racism is not acceptable from anyone as God made the races… And drunkenness is also a sin! It does I believe somewhere in the bible say be not drunk with wine something to that effect but we do forgive the alcoholic as well… we don’t however accept his life style… of being drunk! Does that make us Drunkaphobics ? Sigh if people would work more at just forgiving without attaching conditions just as we should love others without conditions… people would much sooner see their errors and start to live a better life. What I think anyway. This is only my thoughts of which I am entitled without being judged. I say this without prejudice.

  5. I don’t know.

    He has to admit his homophobia,racism and assh*lism first before he deserves any forgiveness.

    I say that because people need to SEE HIM for who he is first. Otherwise,we’re just giving him a pass.

    Admit his crimes first.

  6. Wow. Great piece, Steve!

  7. Joanna Schroeder says:

    Steve, I really agree with Downey here, and I adore him (I’ve met him a few times). He’s a great guy.

    And I do believe that he deserves forgiveness, but I’d love to see an open-hearted quest for it from Gibson himself. Has he done that yet?

    I presume he has with his family, but if he wants forgiveness from the public, he’ll need to do it publicly. Maybe he has. I’m not up on the gossip.

    But I think Downey’s sentiments are absolutely true about forgiveness in general. And I like “Hugging the Cactus”… Pretty great phrase.

    Thanks for sharing this.

  8. Just saw a movie called “Devil” …. I’d suggest watching it in that it has a great mssg about forgiveness.

  9. Forgiveness isn’t about validating or agreeing with one’s behavior. Forgiveness is about accepting that others are human, and fallible. We are all doing the best we can in this life, with what we are equipped with.

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