My therapist recently told me about the concept of FHBs — fallible human beings. We all are fallible. From myself to President Donald Trump, we’re all humans who will inevitably mess up.
This concept was originally shared with me because I’m usually hard on myself when I struggle or fail. I tend to be a perfectionist who wants to be the best to everyone, and I kick myself when I fall short. But I’ve also been trying to use this concept to accept my family and friends’ faults and resolve conflicts we may have with one another.
While it’s justified to be angry about disagreements, the quickest way to get past them is to accept the person as human. When a disagreement occurs, I try to remember that the person was doing their best in their own mind. On the other hand, it’s difficult for the person you’re quarreling with to miraculously have a change of heart or do something different before you state your displeasure. They can’t read your mind.
It’s very easy to blame someone over a disagreement when thinking about a scenario retrospectively. This is why it’s good to discuss personal disdain for a controversial choice after it’s made. But there’s a difference between having empathy while voicing concerns and not giving a person a second chance. Not everyone shares the same backgrounds, perspectives or thought processes. Opinions don’t change unless we have productive conversations.
At the same time, this does not mean refutes should be weak in nature. Refutes should be firm while recognizing everyone is fallible. We all mess up. However, I do think increased criticism is viable when the decisions an individual or group makes are routine instead of an isolated slip up.
The concept of the FHB can be applied to many situations. Before I engage with an issue, I take a deep breath and play devil’s advocate. How would I feel if I messed up something important? I’m sure I would feel terrible and would appreciate constructive criticism.
Without acknowledging our family and friends as fallible, our concerns will not be heard. People are much more likely to listen when you meet them at their level and try to understand their situation.
I’ve had conflicts with friends and family when I messed up. I’ve said things I didn’t mean to friends and I haven’t always supported my family as much as I would like to. I was at fault. I’m sure you can think of a time when you did the same. What I appreciated in those moments was some time to reflect after someone met me where I was at, by being firm in resolving our conflict, while being honest and loving. I was being seen as a human being.
There is a difference between forgiving loved ones and people in positions of power or influence, but that doesn’t make them any less human or less likely to mess up.
Across many issues, people are justified in their pain and desire for change in a person or issue. I’m also speaking somewhat from a position of privilege as a Black man, where I’m able to speak freely as a student without an enormous amount of ridicule. Other groups of people in the United States and across the globe are in situations where the circumstances are much more dire. This message of aspiring for reconciliation is not for them because it may not be attainable and is more complicated than just recognizing that people mess up every once in a while.
I’m also speaking from a perspective where my conflicts and concerns I have with my loved ones have been minor. Others have bonds that have been broken over much more severe circumstances. In those instances, it may be more difficult or even impossible to forgive, which is justified.
I just wonder what looking at everyone as FHBs would look like when there are disagreements. Would potential denial or rebuttal be less likely, or would a calm, reasonable demeanor not quite grab someone’s attention? I believe our bonds with the people we love could be improved in the present and future if both see each other as fallible. It may unlock a potential to resolve conflict that resides in the affected person’s mind and with others. Seeing people as fallible is freeing, personally and relationally. It’s a path to self-esteem and decreased anxiety.
Chris Crowder can be reached at email@example.com.