As an Ohio State Buckeye country resident, I've learned recently that our highly regarded football coach, Jim Tressel was guilty of a rather embarrassing and serious NCAA rules violation. He is being punished with a 5 game suspension and a $250,000 fine, but more than that his reputation has been tarnished. He has certainly proven to be a fallible human being, or FHB. I suspect there is more to the story than came out in the media, and believe the coach to be a man of integrity—but regardless, he will suffer for his fall to FHB status.
The chairs are being refilled in NPR’s headquarters too. That turmoil might have been predictable, given the wildly misguided Juan Williams firing. Such events are the first indications that there were some FHBs in the executive suite at NPR.
I suspect many of us have felt that sinking feeling of seeing a police car with its revolving lights on, pulling up behind us, when we know we were driving to fast. It’s a bad feeling—that much is certain. And you do pay for it.
Then there are the celebrity FHBs—a target rich environment:
- Charlie Sheen and his meltdown on talk shows, his bizarre behavior on a major interview show, and his general excessive behavior brand him solidly as an FHB.
- Lindsay Lohan clearly has left her mark as a repeated FHB, and one who may still not be done with her escapades.
- Miley Cyrus was a surprise entry to the group when she was video recorded “sucking on a bong” with an alleged hallucinogenic substance. How could the clean-cut diva make such a mistake? She too is an FHB.
- Barry Bonds was clearly an FHB, no matter how many home runs he hit. And now he is paying the price for….something(s) he allegedly did wrong.
FHB is a tag that could apply to all of us at one time or another in our lives. In fact, what mere mortal isn’t an FHB? My answer is no one. The old saying starts with the words, “…to err is human…” What matters most is what the FHB who errs does after the mistake.
Do FHBs admit the error, and pledge to do better—and mean it? Or do they try to shift blame, make excuses, and evade taking responsibility for their misbehaviors. Politician FHBs who embellish matters in their stump speeches are particularly notable, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who “misspoke” about her recollection of a dangerous episode in her life. She was not alone, as several Congressional candidates proved. The House of Representatives found that Congressman Charles Rangel was clearly an serial FHB for his failures to report income, housing and tax issues, among other “failures.”
Even high-level political appointees are often FHBs, like Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner is surely an FHB. Ironically, he was still given a job that includes being responsible for the Internal Revenue Service. It seems he “overlooked” paying some of his taxes. Many other appointees in the Obama administration simply withdrew from consideration due to similar episodes of being FHBs, and violating one or more laws—often related to taxes.
One of the most vexing questions that arise when an FHB is discovered is, does s/he deserve a second chance—or even third chance? The answers are as many and as variable as the circumstances. A reasonable position on this would be based on the person acceptance of the responsibility, his/her remorse (if that’s appropriate), intent to reform/refrain in the future, and probable good intentions.
On this measure, Bernie Madoff (one of the biggest FHBs in recent years) doesn’t seem to deserve any more chances. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld got his second and third chances, and according to his recent book, “…it wasn’t his fault anyway…” Denial is the refuge of many FHBs and it only leads to more mistakes. More important that apparent intentions behind the misbehaviors or mistakes is the subsequent behavior exhibited by the FHB.
After all, “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.” As an FHB myself, I know the feeling of extreme embarrassment and sadness. Time helps, as does human nature—to put such past moments and events out of mind. However, they are buried just below the surface, and even writing about such happenings, brings back two distinct feelings: “What was I thinking?” and “I’m sure glad that mistake is behind me—I won’t make that one again.”
And to those who do make their FHB mistake a second time—or worse yet—a third time, perhaps you should examine the circumstances in which you repeat your FHB mistake, and avoid them. If the legal system is involved, “three time losers” are not treated well at all. I guess that is a good message to take out of this.
Try to become a RFHB—“Reformed Fallible Human Being.” A good phrase to learn is “I’m sorry, I was wrong!” Another is, “Would you please forgive me?” After all, it worked for former president Bill Clinton, so it could work for you too. But you’d better mean it, or you’ll just repeat your FHB behaviors again and again. Does Charlie Sheen come to mind?