Little Lies Lead To Big Lies

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It was long ago when I was a freshman in high school, that I received a standardized multiple choice test that appeared to have the answers on the last page of the booklet. I did not notice this quirk at first but once I got to the the last few questions, I saw the numbers that corresponded to the test, and next to each numeral was a letter. When I compared the first ten or so to my own answers, I saw that they were the same. That’s when I became a bit nervous, thinking that perhaps the real test was to determine if we were willing to cheat. I quickly put hid the last page from view, and finished my answers without changing any of them from what I had determined to be correct based on my own knowledge. 

I suppose that the simplest thing to do would have been to ask the teacher if the answer page was supposed to be included with the test, but I was still adjusting to high school life and since nobody else seemed to be rushing forward to inform our instructor, just ignored the answers and turned in my own work. Still, I worried a bit that it would be impossible for the teacher to know whether or not I had been honest. 

Eventually the teacher somehow figured out what had happened. He never revealed whether or not someone had alerted him, but he announced that there were a few too many perfect scores to be valid. He had investigated and found the answer page which he should have removed before giving the test. He laughed it off, and then gave us another test. He later told me that he gave me my original grade because I had missed enough questions that it became obvious that I had not cheated. He added a bonus of ten points to thank me for my noble gesture. 

I’ve never really understood people who cheat. I suppose my mom instilled a spirit of honesty into me from an early age. Only once did I take something that did not belong to me, and I felt so much guilt that I returned it with interest, and confessed that sin many times over just to be sure that I was actually forgiven. I see our role on this earth as being one of sharing and caring. There is little need for such fierce competition that cheating becomes an option. I suppose that some would view me as a chump, but I prefer knowing that anything I have accomplished has been done so without guile. 

I suppose that nothing disappoints me more than learning that someone or some group that I have admired has cheated. I would rather lose than become a champion by illicit means. What is really the point of gaining glory if it has only been done with a lie? Still, I hear people boasting about hiding income to reduce taxes, or using someone’s work as their own. I am a firm proponent of honor, and of late we are too often in short supply of that commodity. 

As an educator I want to know what prompts an individual to cheat. I suspect that sometimes it comes from fear of failure or intense pressure to succeed. I’ve had students whose parents demanded such high grades from them that they ultimately found ways to game the system by cheating. I’ve known individuals who were willing to lie to find a pathway to economic success. Somehow I can’t understand how there can be a feeling of satisfaction from such actions. I wonder if people somehow begin to convince themselves that winning rather than hard won accomplishment is the actual goal of life. 

I’ve always told my children and my students that we have rules because, unfortunately, some people will otherwise take advantage of various situations. We are seeing so much of that right now. If someone does not wish to receive a vaccination for Covid, that should be their choice. I cringe, however, when they take advantage of relaxed rulings that allow vaccinated citizens to go places without masks by pretending to be among those who have taken the shots. They do not seem to realize that they are endangering themselves and others when they flaunt the requests of businesses that they stay masked up. They view their actions as asserting freedom. I see it as a form of cheating. 

Little lies too often lead to bigger lies. Cheating becomes a bad habit, particularly when it appears easy to do so without being caught. We too often forget that somebody invariably gets hurt by dishonesty. Nobody who uses devious means to achieve something is ever really a winner, even if they never get caught. 

Trust is the foundation of society. When that is gone or in question it destroys relationships, businesses and lives. Honesty is the mark of the true winner. There is no greater reward than being someone on whom people implicitly rely for truth. Perhaps this is something that we do not spend enough time teaching our children through our own examples. They are watching. Hopefully they will not see us lie.