Flaws Are Good

31 11 16

They really are.

We all have them.

Prejudiced judgements, jumping to conclusions, laziness, vanity etc etc.

Some of the things we see as flaws are actually positives. And some of the things we are proud of are actually flaws.

That's what it is to be human. Flawed.

What matters most is that we recognise our mistakes and try to be better people. We will never achieve perfection but it's important not to beat ourselves up too much about things we did wrong, and try to learn from mistakes. As long as we try, that makes us good people.

It's healthy to admit flaws. By doing so, you aren't saying you're a bad person. You're just admitting a mistake.

Recently, Liam Neeson revealed in an interview that when he was younger, growing up in troubled Ireland, he learned that a friend had been raped. When he asked who had done it, did she recognise him, she said no. He asked was he white or black, she told him the rapist was black. Consumed by anger and hurt for his friend, Liam stalked the streets with a weapon in his pocket, hoping a random black man would confront him so he could kill him.

I'm sure we all appreciate how racist and horrible that behaviour was, and Liam himself expressed this. He was disgusted at his own behaviour.

Yet the reaction amongst the public was to castigate him, label him a racist, and express anger and disgust. I think this sort of reaction misses the point. Shouldn't Liam be respected for admitting such horrible behaviour from his youth? He admitted a mistake, a big horrible mistake, in public. He confessed to racist thoughts. Thoughts born of anger and hurt that was targeted at the wrong people. I'm sure if the rapist had been white and blond, he might have had the same attitude towards blond men.

That wrong targeting of the innocent happens all the time. Politicians are complicit in blaming the poor, ill, and immigrants for the country's problems instead of pointing the finger at the real perpetrators - bankers, capitalists and fellow politicians. Yet these politicians don't admit a mistake. They want us to buy their lies.

Personally I applaud Liam for having the guts to share such a horrid prejudice. He is human.

I have my own prejudices, based on personal experience, we all do. I don't consider myself racist, sexist, homophobic or otherwise but I am guilty of the odd biased thought every now and again.

Have you ever walked past someone in the street and thought what on earth is she wearing, does she know she looks a mess?

If that happens, check your thoughts and think she can wear whatever the heck she wants, it doesn't matter what I think of it.

These sorts of judgements creep into our heads partly because of the messages we get from the media we consume. As I said in a previous chapter, these subliminal messages affect our opinions even if we aren't aware of it. The judgements they imply, such as what looks sexy, what looks cool, affects our own opinions of what is sexy or cool, ugly or stupid.

It happens to us all, if we admit or not. There's a good rule of thumb to go by:

The first thought you have of someone is how you've been told to think. The second thought is your own.

Thinking for yourself in a world where everyone around you is trying to make you think a certain way, buy this thing or that thing, vote for me, go here, do that, is a valuable skill.

And if you want the stories you write to be the best they can be, write your characters with flaws. Innocent, perfect people do not exist. Characters that feel real are more relateable than cookie cutter Edward Cullens and Bella Swans.

Give your character a prejudice. Make them lazy or selfish or vain. But it's important to make sure, by the end of the book, that they have at least begun to recognise their flaws and are trying to correct them.

To do this, it's good to observe where prejudices come from.
Sometimes it's just because you've grown up with adults who express these views and you believe them to be true. As kids, we copy adults, it's part of nature, part of how we all learn.
Sometimes, prejudice comes from fear.

Take my book, Rogue Rewritten. The heroine, Sarah, had a very traumatic event happen in her past. To protect herself, she then expects the worst of everyone. She is overly cynical, biased and sometimes cruel towards others who she believes have ulterior motives. This is all based on fear. It's not because she's a horrible, nasty person who enjoys being mean to others. She is just scared and trying to protect herself.

Which is why, even if someone's prejudices are horrid, we shouldn't assume they are bad people. We don't know what their bias is based on. There are many good people who behave in horrible ways.

I got comments from some readers who stopped reading Rogue Rewritten because they thought Sarah was cruel and they hated the way she treated Reed. So they gave up on the story before Sarah's truth was revealed. This inability to tolerate flaws is disturbingly common amongst many teens and young people today. I've seen it in social media posts discussing favourite characters or films, or reactions to celebs' tweets. It's worrying, because if you can't tolerate fictional flaws how will you deal with your own flaws and those of others? It's going to seriously impact your ability to make lasting relationships of any kind. You have flaws, how would you feel if your friends or family gave up on you when you expressed a prejudice or made a mistake? If you say something cruel that you don't really mean because you're scared, would you want your friend to leave and never speak to you again?

In every children's animation I can think of, the lead characters argue and then turn their back on each other, only to apologise and work together by the end of the film. It happens in Frozen, Mulan, Shrek, Monsters Inc, Aladdin, Despicable Me, How to Train Your Dragon, etc etc. So adults are trying to teach kids from a young age that we make mistakes and we must apologise and reconcile. We shouldn't forget this as we get older.

None of us are perfect and we never will be. The sooner we can accept that, the better.

Human - Rag'n'Bone Man

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If you want to share a flaw, or moment when you made a mistake, please do so. This is a safe space.

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