Is There a Point of No Return for Forgiveness?

The other day I read an article from the Huffington Post about Robert Downey Jr. asking Hollywood to forgive Mel Gibson. He talked about the downward spiral he was in a few years ago and how Mel was one of the few willing to lend a hand. Here’s a portion of his plea.

I couldn’t get hired and he cast me. He said if I accepted responsibility – he called it hugging the cactus – long enough my life would take meaning and if he helped me I would help the next guy.

He finished up by asking everyone, unless they were without sin, to forgive Mel and let him work.

It was a good speech. Anytime I hear the “unless you’re without sin” line, it makes me stop and think because yeah, I’m not perfect. I try to own my mistakes and learn and grow from them. AKA accepting responsibility. That’s where I have a hard time forgiving Mel.

The man had some dark thoughts he verbalized about other races and his wife. And whether you consider it a stretch, some of it could’ve been chalked up to heat of the moment stuff. We’re all guilty of that, but not once did I ever get that he felt bad. He even got annoyed with an interviewer for asking about it before Edge of Darkness came out. It was his first movie since the controversy. Did he really expect the topic not to come up?

But I only know Mel from his movies. I only know what I saw in the news. Imagine my surprise when The Downfall of Terrell Mims happened the exact moment I pondered forgiveness.

Terrell and I weren’t great friends, but we had brief conversations on Twitter and I commented on his blog once. We were also writers working on getting our careers going. I suppose within the MyWANA crowd, we knew of each other’s existence. Other people, like David Walker and Kristen Lamb, knew him better.

From what I read on David’s blog, once news of his deceit started to spread, he was given numerous chances to “hug the cactus”. He, instead, stoked the fire with more lies.

David also said what a personable guy Terrell was when they met, which to me is a real shame. He obviously had a talent for getting people to like him, which he used in the worst way possible. Imagine if he had worked on improving his writing. He might’ve been an awesome blogger. An awesome novelist.

But he made all the wrong choices and the only thing he seemed to care about was that he was caught.

That I can’t forgive.

I doubt we’ll ever hear from him again, but I’d like to think if we did and heard his side, (the why and some remorse) I could say, “Okay. I get why you betrayed everyone. I’m sorry it happened and even more sorry that you’ll probably never be trusted in these parts. But maybe you can take the lesson you’ve learned and turn it into something good somewhere else.”

That’s my perfect world scenario, you know, The Land of Make Believe. There are some offenses that people can’t or don’t want to forgive.

Is it too late for Terrell to get forgiveness? Is there anything you’d never forgive? Have you ever looked at forgiveness as therapeutic for the victim?

22 comments on “Is There a Point of No Return for Forgiveness?

  1. Great post. If someone earns my trust again, I might follow them. But I need to get some trust in Mel for a while before I’d go see another movie with him. And I loved Braveheart as a kid.

    That said, how does he earn trust? Only time will heal for me. Time where he isn’t being angry at the world, other races and his wife.

    Oh wow, about Terrell. I always think it is crazy when I hear about people doing this sort of stuff. Forgiveness? Sure, in time.


    • I guess that’s what it comes down to. If you’re willing to take someone’s faith in you and wipe your ass with it, then be prepared for the long road of getting it back. If it’s possible.

  2. My take on Terrell:
    I’ve got little problem forgiving Terrell because, to me, there was so much utter stupidity in what he did. I have a certain amount of “Bless his heart, imagine how hard it is to go through life and try to be somebody when you’re that stupid,” in my reaction.

    a) stealing whole blog posts, including pictures, including the witty CAPTIONS on the pictures
    b) even more importantly, stealing them from a very popular blog
    c) thinking that you can just pull the posts and deny the whole thing and that no one’s going to look up cached files via Google (’cause, oh honey, you know I did).
    d) not having enough character to make a post saying here’s what I did, here’s why I did it, here’s my understanding about how I fucked up, here’s my remorse. Not knowing that’s what you need to do BEFORE you slink away and change your name. I’ll admit that’s the part that pissed me off.

    I pity the fool who has to go through life like that.

    I’m sorry for the people who defended him because they thought they knew him and now feel betrayed. I didn’t know him, I only recognized his name, I think from when Zoe used to allow comments on her blog. So when someone came to me with the story, fervently on his side, I had to look up both sides of the story to satisfy my own curiosity and abiding interest in internet drama. And then I had to go back to that person and say, No, sweetie, he did it, I present these links as evidence, read them before you go out and crusade for him. And then I sat back again.

    It’s sad. I’ve been more or less off Twitter, but I did see some people I respect give him, like, #FF mentions or whatever, being supportive of him even after the HolyTaco story broke because they believed in and supported him. I’m sure finding out they were wrong about him was unpleasant, and I could see how forgiving him would be harder because maybe they’re feeling silly for believing in and supporting him.

    I don’t feel they were silly. I don’t think they should be embarrassed if they did that. Sticking up for someone with whom you have some kind of relationship over a tale told by someone you don’t know at all is what humans do. Especially good humans.

    I feel sorry for anyone who actually paid him to read their pages. But not by a lot because this whole business of people with no real credentials charging for stuff and other people actually paying them really ticks me off. But it’s also not my business, I guess.

    In the end, I guess it isn’t even FOR me to forgive Terrell or not. He destroyed his entire reputation and has to go through life as an idiot who, it would seem, STILL doesn’t get how to be a person of character.

    • Unfortunately, I picture him setting up shop somewhere new, having learned nothing except how to conceal his deception better.

      Agree about people not feeling silly. I pity the fool who tries to tell me something negative about you or any of the good friends I’ve made. That would take a lot of convincing and even then (because my brain works in soap opera) we’d have to have a final showdown where I brought you back from the brink.

      Anyway . . .

      I think having Kristen’s name to flash around went far in establishing his cred with nothing but a blog to support his writing. That’s what got me the most. That people I know and respect were affected by this.

  3. I was unaware of this situation. I wonder how huge it will get. It if opens a dialogue about plagiarism and what I see as an endemic devaluation of today’s writer, then maybe something good will have come of it. Maybe.

    I hate plagiarists. I nail them to the wall. That’s an actual quote from my syllabus- “If you plagiarize in my class I will nail you to the wall.”
    I really hate stupid plagiarists.
    Most especially before breakfast. 🙂

    • Unless Terrell decides to respond publicly, I think it’s pretty much over.

      I also think people will be more careful him whom they trust.

      Sorry if I ruined your breakfast, I’ll plan for a feel good post next week.

  4. I have a lot of thoughts about forgiveness. I could write a book on forgiveness. In fact, forgiveness is a HUGE theme in Ravenmarked and that whole series.

    *reaches for soapbox*

    I don’t normally talk real openly about my faith, but I am a Christian, and I probably align closest with Evangelical Christianity on a doctrinal level. For me, forgiveness is what it’s all about. Everything. What it all comes back to.

    So no matter what the sin, here are just a few of my thoughts:

    1) The person who has been forgiven much should be willing to forgive. I have been forgiven much. MUCH. I need to be willing to forgive.
    2) Forgiveness is not for the other person. Forgiveness is for me. I am the one who suffers the most if I don’t forgive. Harboring grudges is like carrying around a bag of rocks. It’s not heavy at first, but keep carrying it, and pretty soon, you’ll want to start throwing those rocks at people. Holding onto grudges is poisonous.
    3) Forgiveness is NOT the same as forgetting. I hate when people say forgive and forget. I can forgive, but that does not mean I have to remain in a poisonous, destructive relationship or encourage repetitive bad behavior. It is okay to forgive AND walk away.
    4) There is no point of no return. Whether or not someone apologizes, I can still choose to forgive at any time.

    How this applies:

    1) Regarding Mel, you are right that when there are no signs of remorse, it’s pretty hard to be forgiving. I haven’t seen a Mel Gibson movie since his downward spiral started. I just can’t find it in my heart to care. But it’s not really my place to forgive, in this case. Mel didn’t hurt me. I can choose, however, to not encourage his poor behavior by no longer watching his movies or supporting his career. Now, I might do that–I might not–I don’t know. Depends on a lot of things. I still list The Passion of the Christ in my top five favorite movies of all time.
    2) Regarding Mims: I don’t know much about all of that, largely because I’ve mostly stopped reading writing advice on the Internet. 😛 But plagiarism is stealing, and God was rather insistent on that being a sin, so yeah–he’s a thief. He should be punished. Should the writing community forgive him? Yes, because forgiveness is for us, not for him–forgiving allows us to move on without carrying that bag of rocks. But embrace him and welcome him back? Hmmm… Not so sure. We’d need to see some remorse, some admission of guilt, and some effort on his part. Otherwise, no. You can forgive and not return to the relationship. Those things are not mutually exclusive.
    3) Regarding my own life: I was a victim of a very serious crime when I was young, and I’ve had a lot to deal with in that regard. The perpetrator never apologized to me. As far as I know, he never suffered any punishment for what he did. He probably has done it again. I have no idea where he is, and it doesn’t matter. I had to forgive to move on. I have forgiven, because much has been forgiven of me. This is something crime victims deal with all the time, and you have to forgive. You just do. Holding all that stuff inside is destructive and poisonous, and it will ruin relationships.

    So, there. I don’t know if any of that answers anything, but those are my thoughts on forgiveness. If you read all that, thank you.

    *stepping down from soapbox*

    • Wow, Amy, thank you for sharing your experience. I’m so sorry you had to go through it.

      I think you’re absolutely right about the power of forgiveness for the victim. To me it’s like moving on from a bad experience. You’re not saying what was done to you was okay, but you are saying it won’t control your future.

      I can’t imagine how hard it is for crime victims to forgive. There must be so many conflicting thoughts. I’m glad you were able to move on.

      • Exactly. And it’s perfectly acceptable to insist that someone who commits a crime be punished for that crime while still working toward forgiveness in your own life.

        My experience isn’t really a big secret in my real life. A lot of folks know what happened. I just don’t necessarily want to broadcast it online, largely because I don’t want people to pity me. 🙂 It really is something I’ve moved on from, and it only comes up when relevant to something like today’s discussion. But I got to a place where I said, you know, that’s part of the package of experiences that made me who I am today, and I like who I am today, so while I don’t have to condone or be happy about it, I can choose to integrate it in healthy ways or destructive ways. I choose mental health.

        That should be a tagline of mine: “I choose mental health.” 😛

        • I like that tag.

          I read a book about a woman who was the victim of a violent crime and she spent a long time trying to deal with it. It affected every part of her life and almost ruined her marriage. Eventually, she realized she had to let it go before she could truly move on and her life was better because of it. That’s why she was able to write the book. I’ll bet it’s helped a lot of people.

  5. I believe in forgiveness. But I think it comes if the perpetrator is truly sorry for what they did and is willing to make amends.

    In the TM situation, I never allowed him to do anything to affect me directly since I found him to be untrustworthy from the start, so I don’t have to worry about forgiving him in my own behalf. The people affected (those who he took money from for courses he had NO business charging for, those who’s names he profited from) would have to determine what is right for them. If he accepted what he did, apologized, returned money to those he charged, etc…that would be the right path to earning forgiveness.

    Even if one affected chose to forgive, it takes a long time for anyone that loses trust in that manner to gain it back.

    So perhaps forgiveness, yes. Trust, well, that may never come.

    • Very true about trust. I have major trust issues, so when it’s broken, I take it especially hard. So, whether Terrell ever decides to respond in public or private, he’s burned all his bridges around here.

    • Trust is definitely a different thing than forgiveness. I can forgive, but I might never trust someone again, and that’s the other person’s responsibility to earn that back.

      I also think these two situations are different. When we talk about Mel Gibson, his treatment of his wife and his abhorrent opinions may not influence how he acts or directs. He’s still a talented actor and filmmaker. So it’s *possible* to hate the sins, but walk into a Mel Gibson movie and still appreciate the talent and artistry and entertainment. But if Mel were stealing ideas and claiming them as his own, well… then he’s burning bridges for his career. I mean, as disgusting as his behavior in his personal life is, it’s somewhat separate from his career.

      Mims is different. He built a platform on implicit trust. It’s totally reasonable to expect that even people who forgive him will never trust him as an authority on writing again.

      A funny note that’s kind of related… Years ago, I worked as a placement coordinator for a temporary service. Every now and then, we’d get a temp applicant who had a criminal record. Those who had been convicted of violent crimes and had served their time and such were fine to hire. Those who had been convicted of theft, fraud, etc.? Nope. We had to be able to bond people, and they weren’t bondable. I mean, it wasn’t always as cut and dried as that, but it’s just kind of an example of how some crimes can influence future career and some might not.

  6. Like Amy, I’m a Christian, and it IS all about forgiveness. But there are conditions in the Bible that people sometimes don’t think about. For instance, Terrell or Mel didn’t do anything to me personally, so there’s nothing really to forgive. I may not LIKE what they did, but it wasn’t done to ME. Also, according to the Bible, we are to forgive someone IF THEY ASK for forgiveness. It also says that if we are asked for forgiveness over and over, we should forgive each time. (This is speaking specifically of a fellow Christian.) I know many of your blog readers may not believe in the Bible, but I completely do.

    This is the thing with me…I have a really hard time holding a grudge against anyone. I’ve had to forgive some pretty bad things in my life. Holding a grudge and refusing to forgive only hurts me. I’m probably one of the most forgiving people in the world. I usually let things slide right off my back.

  7. Interesting subject! Definitely a tough one.

    I didn’t know Terrell that well. To be honest, after I saw that he was charging people 200 dollars for his editing services (which he mentioned at the end of nearly every post, if not every post), I kind of stayed away from him because I was pretty sure he was a scammer. I didn’t know he was plagiarizing, but I could tell that he was taking advantage of people, and it seemed to me that if he was a sincere person trying to make connections in the writing community, he would be more reciprocal, rather than trying to set himself up as an authority and *take* from people.

    And I think that’s something that we shouldn’t overlook. He wasn’t just taking people’s trust. He was taking their trust AND their money. If he hadn’t been looking for money, then I might be able to say – well, that was bad and dishonest, but there’s a lot of pressure out there to have a successful blog, and maybe getting the positive attention from posting these popular articles became a sort of addiction to him, as well a downward slope that he didn’t know how to pull himself out of. That I could understand and even potentially forgive.

    But once the money is involved, it becomes clear that this was about him scamming and taking advantage of people, and then it becomes really CONSCIOUS and DELIBERATE, and I just feel really badly for anyone that forked over 200 dollars to him.

    I think RDJ is an interesting case. As people have pointed out, male celebrities that clean up their act tend to get forgiven more easily than female celebrities. This breaks my heart because I so want Lindsay Lohan (one of my all-time favorite actresses) to deal with her stuff and then experience RDJ levels of success. And who knows, maybe she will.

    But there’s a difference between people like RDJ and LL and people like Mel. RDJ and LL are being self-destructive (and no doubt destructive to loved ones) but they’re not flat-out aggressive to other people like Mel has been. So in that way, I don’t think the two situations are comparable and I don’t know that Mel deserves the same sort of forgiveness. I mean, who do you feel more sympathetic towards – an addict or a racist? I know which one it is for me. And I know that Mel has had his alcohol problems, but the majority of the fall-out has been for his racist statements IMO.

    Still, if Mel ever showed genuine remorse, and evidence that he’s learned for his mistakes and has different attitudes, then I might feel less harsh. But right now I think that it’s a good thing that people experience serious repercussions in the professional world for behaving in legitimately discriminatory and offensive ways.

    Sorry for leaving the longest comment in the history of the world. It’s a tough topic to tackle.

    • No problem. Have you seen the comments my buddy Susan leaves? I love ’em all!

      I think Terrell wanted a shortcut to greatness. It’s possible he had no interest in writing a novel and only wanted his reputation big enough to make money giving workshops. And unless he’s learned the error of his ways, he could be working on his next scheme. Maybe it’s already in progress.

      As for Mel, I’m with you. Being self-destructive is way more acceptable in Hollywood than being hateful towards others. But I still wonder if he’d be in this much trouble if he was at the height of his career. I have a feeling if he ever stars in a hit movie, all will be forgotten.

      Thanks for you comment!

  8. I did a blog post last week about the Terrell issue and his victims, and I like how you looked at it from a different angle here. As others mentioned, sometimes I forgive for me (just because it’s too much work to hold a grudge – and in that case, the person often would never know that I did so) and sometimes I forgive because of their remorse.

    I’m trying to think if there’s anyone I haven’t forgiven, but none come to mind. So I guess for me, there is no point of no return. Because even if they don’t deserve it, in my heart I forgive them just because I don’t want the negativity. Interesting! Thanks!

    • Yes, that was a very good post.

      It’s nice to see most people are willing to forgive whether the person who wrong them isn’t sorry. You’re right, holding on to negativity doesn’t help us get past what was done to us. Better to just let it go.

  9. Is there a point of no return for forgiveness? No, not in my opinion. However, in this case, TM needs to speak up and publicly apologize. He not only hurt himself, but others that were not involved in the poor decisions he made. I feel bad for the guy, but just hiding under a rock isn’t going to fix it. He has major repairs to do, but it’s never too late for forgiveness.

    • Yeah, I think a lot of people want to know why he did what he did, besides the obvious reasons. No matter what he says, he still did a dumb thing, but it would be nice to hear his side.

  10. I forgive Terrell, but he revealed his character. We are all tested in ways that show who we really are. Terrell showed he was a coward, a thief, a liar and a snake. I hold no ill will against snakes, but I don’t invite them in close. I wish him the best and it makes me deeply sad that he made such poor and lazy choices. But, this business is hard and it is requires good character and a solid work ethic to succeed and Terrell Mims is clearly bankrupt on both counts.

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