Mel Gibson was recently arrested for drunk driving in my home town of Malibu. The press has been having a field day with this scandal, especially with regard to some inflammatory comments Gibson made at the time of his arrest. As I followed the news of his arrest, I felt tremendous empathy for him in his acute embarrassment.

Like Mel, every single one of us has a dark side—parts of ourselves that we deem unlovable or undesirable—that we try to ignore, push down, and disown. In Mel’s case, it looks like he’s dealing with a lot of repressed anger and prejudice from his childhood that causes him shame. During the heyday of The Passion of Christ, when asked about his father’s evident anti-Semitism, he answered,“I can’t answer for my father.” Prejudice is something we learn as children. Becoming aware of our own prejudices requires education; unraveling them requires work.

The more we try to push down and avoid unattractive and unacceptable parts of ourselves, the more likely they are to erupt in unexpected and embarrassing ways. In Mel’s case, he admits problems with addictive behavior, including alcohol. Abusing a substance of any kind is an action taken to mask uncomfortable feelings. At first it feels good and negative feelings go away. Later, as the addiction progresses, it begins to affect us in negative ways, and finally becomes a whole new problem with a life all its own.

We can avoid what happened to Mel Gibson by simply working every day to become aware of our own dark side. All we are looking for initially is awareness; not to be critical of ourselves or judgmental. We can ask ourselves: where are we prejudiced or ego driven or abusive? And while we are looking within, let’s take a moment and rate our own addictive behavior: do we have any addictions to food, drugs, alcohol, sex, or any other behavior that is harmful to us or to those around us?

At least Mel Gibson has had the courage to publicly admit he was wrong; lots of celebs in his position would have hidden behind their publicists or attorneys. Perhaps this regrettable experience has a positive side: it has put Mel back on the road to rehab, and has demonstrated the importance of self honesty.

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