I Confess. I Cheated.

cheat

You’re in school taking the most important and hardest class you’ll ever take.  There’s a lot of pressure because if you make an A you’ll be guaranteed a job.  A B might get you the job depending on how everyone else in the class does.  But you’re pretty confident because you’ve worked harder than your classmates.

First test you make a B.  A few of your classmates make Cs and Ds but the majority make As, and you wonder how they did that.  Soon, you hear that one of your classmates has a copy of all the semester’s tests, obtained perhaps by cleverly hacking into the professor’s computer.  The ones who are cheating ask if you’d like to come over and “study” with them for the next test.  You decline because you don’t want to be a cheater.

You study more than you did for the last test because you know you have to just to keep up.  You end up with a B plus.  They make As again.  They’re contacted by job recruiters.  You are not.  Even some of the ones who made Cs and Ds on the first test are now making As, moving you closer to the bottom of the pack.  You’d like to tell on them, but you have no proof.  Besides, that would really tick off the whole group, and they pretty much detest you anyway for your goody-two-shoes routine.

You do what you have to.  You join them.  You make your A.  You get the job.  You’re financially independent and so happy about that.  You get married and have kids, whose piano and tennis lessons you can pay for thanks to that good job.  Your family is happy.  No regrets.  You and your college buddies laugh about that class years later.

Now you’ve got this great job in a tight economy.  Again, you’re working your butt off, eating lunches at your desk, never taking sick days or personal days, yet the productivity of your co-workers is surpassing your own.  You know they’re cutting corners, backdating documents, shredding customer complaints and doing what they can to stay a step ahead of the curve.  One misstep and they could be fired.  They know that.  You know that.  At the same time, you know that management tacitly condones this behavior as long as they don’t make an obvious blunder that forces management’s hand.  You have a family and hate taking risks especially when it comes down to your livelihood.  However, you wonder that if you can’t keep up with the pack and their inflated numbers, you might lose your job.   You give up vacations, work on holidays, extend your work week to eighty hours just to do what your co-workers claim they do in a forty hour week.  You have your integrity.  You keep up this pace for twenty years, put your kids through college, watch them have families of their own, and finally you retire.

When you look back, you wonder what it would have been like to spend just a little more time with your kids?  You regret not spending more, because when it comes down to it, isn’t the family the most important thing?  You feel bitter at the rest of the world who seems happier than you with fewer wrinkles around the eyes.  They never faced the consequences of their misdeeds.  Or were they really misdeeds?  You wonder if making three follow up calls and fibbing on the required fourth would have made that much of a difference.

We face these kinds of tough decisions every day, sometimes without even considering the moral and ethical significance.  Cheating and getting ahead is the easy decision.  Choosing not to cheat is the tough one.  However, cheating does, after all, imply getting a competitive advantage.  What if you are at a competitive disadvantage if you don’t cheat because everybody else is?  It’s easy to justify it in our own heads when we are pursuing our goals to be successful and respected.

Let’s be honest.  What we all want is to be successful.  Society puts pressure on us to be successful.  In our culture, success is measured by the acquisition of things.  A businessman who nets one million dollars is more successful than one who nets a hundred thousand dollars.  No one asks to compare their bookkeeping or business practices.  An NBA superstar who has five championship rings is more successful than one who doesn’t have any.  Even successful parents are ones who produce successful children, children who are able to obtain a lot of things and money.  Sometimes we need to see ourselves as successful.

It’s time for me to come clean.  I am a Scrabble cheater when it comes to games played on my mobile device.  At first I just played against a friend at work against whom I racked up a record of twenty wins and no losses.  I branched out and began playing other players online.  I’d lose a few games here and there, but I was much more serious about the game than ninety-five percent of the other people that I played, so that in itself gave me an advantage.  There was one guy I liked to play.  We’d have close games but I’d win about eighty percent of the time.  Then his average score suddenly shot up by sixty points.  I’d been playing long enough to know the difference between making good use of the board and pulling insane words out of nowhere, and not just crazy two or three-letter goofy words like ZO and ZA that every Scrabble player with a hundred games under his belt begins to know.  These were words like ALUNITES or HODJAS or ORIGAN (no, not “origin” or “Oregon” but “origan”, in botany, another name for marjoram).  I didn’t want to directly accuse him of cheating but I sent him a message that said, “Are you a Muslim botanist and chemist?” to which he replied, “No.  Someone just played these words against me once, and I remembered them.”

Whatever.  I knew he was cheating.  It’s easy to hop onto the internet and use an anagram solver, and no one on the other side can ever prove it.  He started beating me.  It made me mad.  I watched my win/loss record fall below ninety percent, not that it really matters since no one but me ever looks at it.

So then, I started doing it, using the anagram solvers.  I started to beat him again.  And it felt good.   I didn’t feel guilty about it.  If that’s the way he wants to play, that’s the way I’ll play, I told myself.

The point of all this is not to suggest that cheating is the proper way to go but merely how easy it is to justify to ourselves that not only is cheating the better way but also the vital way.  There is an insane pressure placed on us from birth to succeed, and although many of us are brought up in the Christian tradition of humility and charity, we all know that piety and moral purity are not the main criteria society considers when labeling a person a success.

Since we are social beings, how others see us is so important to how we define and view ourselves.  We want others to like us and we naturally hide our flaws.

So now we come to Lance Armstrong.  Of course I had to watch his interview with Oprah.  I genuinely feel bad for him not because I sympathize with what he did but because I can only imagine how painful the fall from the top to the thorny pit of despair must be.  The truth is, we’ve all been in his situation.  You might say my Scrabble example is nothing like Lance Armstrong because there was nothing really at stake.  But really, that makes my actions even more preposterous.  The only thing at stake was my own vanity.

I’ve talked to some who might understand why he cheated, but cannot tolerate the way he viciously went after the people who accused him of cheating.  Anyone who has had an affair and is trying to hide it will scorch the earth before they reveal their lie.  It’s not noble or right.  It’s just a desperate attempt to stay above everything and scrape and claw at whatever might catch before the inevitable avalanche sends us tumbling down the mountain.  The deeper and more important the lie, the more people we are willing to hurt to protect it.  The way I see it, a man at his worst is usually no worse than most men.

To be clear, I’m not excusing Lance Armstrong’s behavior.  His titles should be stripped, a ban implemented, and his legend in the sport of racing tarnished.  But I don’t hate him either.  I’m just considering the reality that Lance Armstrong, like us all, is human.  Perhaps that is the biggest disappointment.

lance

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144 thoughts on “I Confess. I Cheated.

  1. I confess I have cheated many..many times on words with friends. MANY! I have to say you put this Lance situation perfectly though. I don’t find myself hating him either, I don’t even know him so how could I hate him? My only complaint is how big of a deal congress like people have made of it. I think it should have been handled by the sports association only.

  2. The key to all of your examples, though, is that other people are already cheating. There is no justification for the first person to cheat: it makes their own and everyone else’s hard work meaningless. It genuinely hurts others, and can lead to the sort of culture you describe, where not-cheating becomes harder than cheating.

    This is why we have severe penalties for cheating in college classes. Any good professor or TA is constantly on the lookout for cheating, and when we find it, you get in TROUBLE – an F, a note in your file, suspended or expelled. We have to catch the first cheaters to prevent a culture of cheating from taking hold.

    And your Scrabble example is not “worse” than Lance Armstrong’s. There is nothing at stake in Scrabble, so the only thing that your cheating devalued was a consequence-less game. Cheating at something with more at stake devalues others’ hard work: that is much worse.

    • I agree, cheating at online Scrabble is certainly not worse as far as societal harm is concerned. However, at a logical level it is baffling since there is so little to be gained from cheating against anonymous opponents except for my own personal pride.

  3. I disagree. we have not all been in his situation. End of. Few of us have the ability to even dream of being in his situation.
    I have a friend who ‘cheats’ at Scrabble/ words with friends. She always wins. And thinks I don’t know she cheats. A few weeks ago she gave me a Scrabble dictionary. Maybe a way of saying -I know you know I cheat. I now play words like ‘do’, ‘poo’ and ‘whatever’.
    None of this means I’ve never cheated. I have. But if I’d been lucky enough to be given a real sporting talent I would like to think it would mean something to me. More than a botanical word in Scrabble.

  4. Excellent. It is always the actions taken when nobody will see you that determines your character. We all suffer when somebody cheats, no matter when or where in life. Thanks for this excellent post.

  5. Does it help if so-called cheating is used as a learning opportunity? That one only plays known words, or if not known words, that those new ones are (truly) committed to memory? Does it make a difference if you’re playing against someone who you’re fairly certain is also cheating? Can you tell I’m crying out for absolution, here?

    Great post, by the way. :-)

  6. This… Is an outstanding post. Well played, brilliantly executed from every angle. And I’m going to go out on a limb here and bet these are actually YOUR words. I keep hearing people rant and rave about this Lance situation, and I can’t help but wonder to myself some of the same thing you have posed above.
    “I’m just considering the reality that Lance Armstrong, like us all, is human. Perhaps THAT is the biggest disappointment.”
    Yes. Just yes. The things we expect of mere humans sometimes blows my mind. We expect superhuman performances by people who are just… people. And let’s face it here, Lance Armstrong, drugs or no drugs, is still leaps and bounds more talented than the general population will ever be… And yet we persecute and repudiate him for trying to live up to the expectations we placed on him in the first place. I don’t excuse the behavior either, but still… It seems like there is a lot more gray area here than is generally considered.

  7. To me the bigger issue with Armstrong (and most other PED-users) wasn’t that they were doping. It’s that they bold-faced lied about it for years in many cases.

  8. Excellent post!Nobody is perfect and yet society presents perfection as the only acceptable means for success and happiness.Many people find it tempting to cheat in order to succeed.And they do so without any regrets.They can choose not to.
    We always have a choice!

  9. My sister threw down “telegony.” My sister, who got a big, fat C in Freshman Bio. I won’t let it go because although cheating at something as silly as Facebook Scrabble is ridiculous, it does rob the game of most of its fun.

    I love your writing, the message here, your whole big, bloggy take on it all. I also don’t hate Lance, although I do abhor the “culture of cheating” pervasive amongst the youngest and brightest of us. My boys attend a school with the motto: the hard right against the easy wrong. But they’re only going to carry that bumper sticker philosophy into adulthood if they… even occasionally… see examples of it.

  10. I’m not bugged by Armstrong because he’s human. In fact, I might say that this whole mess has demonstrated to me that he actually is above and beyond mere mortals in that mere mortals would not be so psychotically obsessed with winning what amounts to something of no inherent value to the point where they would do what he did. He was revealed as someone lacking freakish cycling skills but replete with an equally freakish imbalance that made him inject himself with any damned thing and screw the consequences just to win a race that meant nothing. Mentally well-balanced normal folks wouldn’t have gone that far over the edge.

    I’m bugged because of the arms-race quality of it, and how much, much further he shoved that boundary. He was the Isaac Newton of cheating, shoving it to new heights it had never before seen. And because of him and other people like him, there is no place for decent humans in athletic competition of any kind, not when people like him drug and dope out to that point, and thus force other less psychotic folks out of the sport entirely.

    Essentially, because of people like him and all those other athletes who `roid up like Clydesdales and pretend they don’t, I simply couldn’t give a crap about sports anymore. I like to pretend that hockey isn’t like that but it’s a big-ticket enough sport nowdays (as the lockout proved) that I’m kidding myself and I know it. They’re as drugged up as any other bunch of athletes nowdays, and the more I realize it the less I care about it.

    Sure it doesn’t matter, it’s just sports, it’s not life and death, big deal. In that case, what’s the point of it? Do we even need it at all? Is there anything at all positive about sports nowdays, or do we just come clean and admit it’s all of humanity’s worst instincts distilled down to a series of pointless events, populated by lunatics, and we’d be better off without it?

    This is where this ends up, particularly when it comes to things like athletics (and unlike school) where people defend it as “fun” and “no big deal.” If it’s no big deal, and it’s been poisoned, then you might as well chuck it out, because there’s no baby in that bathwater. And if there is a baby in that bathwater, then people are right to be outraged. Not because their “hero” was dethroned. He was never anyone’s hero really, except his own. But because he calls into question the whole point of athletics — what the hell do these activities even exist for if psychotics like him will invariably ruin them for normal people? Will there ever be such a thing as athletes that aren’t looney-bin freaks willing to shove their own grandmother over a cliff to win? Will there ever be room for people who are not like that in athletics? If not, then why should the rest of us saner folks even care about it?

    That was a lot of words, sorry. :-) But people like him call the entire existence of athletics into question, and it has to be stated out loud. It has nothing to do with him being a dethroned hero or whether cheating is okay. You need to deal with the cheating in school strictly because we all admit that school is far too important to society to be populated with cheaters. But sports? If cheating is that rampant, then why not just be rid of it completely? Unlike universities, society does not need competitive cycling.

  11. It’s only income tax. Are not we expected to ‘cheat’? Besides, it’s not me, it’s my accountant. If he can’t find enough loopholes, maybe it’s time to get a new accountant.

  12. Excellent point on Armstrong (he cheated, it’s wrong, but it’s understandable). I’d like to pretend that’s the kind of point I’ve been carrying around in my head, but that’d be vanity (and maybe deception). Well stated!

  13. Great way to put things in perspective for us. Everyone is making a huge deal out of his coming out about this, but honestly I think we are all just trying to prove that our ‘cheating’ isn’t so bad compared to what others do. But really, who are we to judge?

  14. I cheated once on a spelling test. It was about 7th grade. I, genius that I was, wrote the words on my fingers. The teacher began to wonder what I was looking at on my hand and caught me “red handed!” What was worse… my mom knew the teacher and forced me to walk to her house and apologize after school. That was a REALLY fun day.

  15. Well at least you admit it! I think some cheating is expected among friendly games between competitive people. That doesn’t bother me so much and I usually get a laugh out of it when I catch someone. But in the real world where money and trophies are concerned I suppose I frown upon it. But I don’t feel people should be punished for life either unless they caused serious physical harm to someone else. Also, I think the media should stick to the facts and stop making innuendos and stop trying to try a case in the news. Leave that to us bloggers! LOL

  16. Personally, I think they were seeking to make an ‘example’ of Lance Armstrong. I’m not saying that what he did is okay, but I think stripping him of his 6 Tour de France titles, banning him from future competitions, etc. is a bit harsh. However, this is a really well written piece.

  17. I got really good seats to a Springsteen concert some years ago just several rows back. The people in the front row all stood and remained standing for the entire concert. Those in the next row stood on their seats. I just wasted my money. No amount of enhancement/cheating was going to enable me to see. Lance was in the front rank as a cyclist. You were in the second row as a Scabbler (You had to keep up). Lance confessed because he was caught. You, I can’t tell why from reading your post. Neither is asking forgivness so why the explanation? Have you recently read Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart”? Instead of that Lance was watching Woody Allen’s “Crimes and Misdimeanors”. The post was thoughtful however.

  18. I’ve struggled with this since it all came to surface. I’ve considered blogging how I feel about it, but I haven’t been able to put into words exactly how I feel. Your post is the closest yet to how I am feeling about Lance. I love how you tied this all together. A wonderful post.

  19. Lance did more than ‘just’ cheat. He lied. He sued other people who he knew were telling the truth – for telling the truth. He ruined other people’s reputations, in the attempt to save his own. All of those things – affected other people significantly.

    On top of that – his interview with Oprah… in my opinion, made him look even worse because I didn’t see any real remorse or even understanding of the consequences of what he did. It wasn’t about the fact that he was doping and ‘cheating’… it was the fact of what he did in response to when he got caught. Like Lance himself said – he’s a bully.

    I wouldn’t define what happened with Lance Armstrong, as a simple mistake. He made multiple decisions…. over and over and over again.
    He lied…. over and over and over again.
    He hurt people…. over and over and over again.
    He betrayed people…. over and over and over again.
    This was no simple, singular mistake.
    This was no momentary lapse in judgement or temporary weakness of morality on his part!

    But…. it’s not ME he owes an apology or amends to. It is those people who he harmed. I was never a fan of Lance Armstrong to begin with but from the looks of it…. I can’t imagine most of those people who he truly did hurt and did betray are satisfied with his ownership of what he did. The interview with Oprah certainly didn’t regain any of my respect I had for him.

    Interesting post. Excellent writing and discussion on this topic. A+

  20. It is so tempting to cheat… especially with the high expectations that we place on one another. But most of us don’t talk about it. Thank you for your authenticity and honesty :)

  21. I don’t know why people are surprised when celebrities and athletes turn out to be less than honorable. So what? We think because we made them rich through commercial sponsorships and such that they owe us something? “They were supposed to be a model for our children.” Did they sign up for that? Just silly.
    You, on the other hand, sound like a good model for your kids. Few parents teach their kids through example like that. Whenever a cashier or waitress undercharges me, I always point it out to them and pay the extra. They are usually stunned. My parents did that, so I do that.

    The real question, I think, is what is success? It’s surely not money and fame – look at loser Lance. My guess is, your kids don’t lie or cheat – that’s success, in my book.
    And, of course, being Freshly Pressed is a great success! Congrats!

  22. This exactly resonates my thoughts. Our society that demands great expectations dictate that we stay competitive or lose out in the fight. It’s a sad reality we’ve all decided to live in.

  23. This was really thought-provoking. You would think as a society we would be guided by our own moral compasses and self-respect. Alas, this is a world which rewards success and shuns failure, and if you’re not the best at what you do, we are pretty much culture-bound to try and level the playing field however we can. Not that it’s the right thing to do, of course.

  24. A cheater will never succeed always..at one point of his life he will fail because he cheated…sometimes he may feel guilty n confess..or sometimes he will feel he is punished..a cheater always won’t get a peace of mind…may be at one point normal people like us may feel frustrated.. We need to be honest in lives, bu completely abiding by rules may also make us feel distressed as we don’t have anything to smile about , when we rest on an armchair in our grey hair days.. so..be honest, enjoy the small tit bits of life, help others, be generous, smile and pray to God..also believe in yourself..now as u lose ur time wiz kids..try to spent time with ur grandkids..as that will help u to cheer up :)

  25. I can see your point that the US creates an environment that everyone scratches to be at the top. But to me the victory is so much sweeter through ethical means. If there is a tiny voice in your head that says your wrong than your just wrong.

  26. Good article and thought provoking read.

    The world is results driven. Students cheating to get better marks on tests in school shows that they already have a grasp of this concept. They know the result they need to show on that test to get the opportunities they’re after. Whether they cheat or play fair on the test, they know they’re taking a huge risk. Cheating carries the risk of getting caught, playing fair carries the risk of missing an opportunity that could open doors to your future.

    When you’re young and staring down your future in a results driven world and you have to balance a moment’s worth of cheating against the rest of your life, it’s not at all difficult to see how cheating becomes attractive to so many.

    This of course extends to the work world and what it takes to keep your position, much less get promoted. Society’s value of competition comes through loud and clear in the workplace, whether it be employees pitting themselves against each other or the management putting the employees in competition with each other.

    Who gets those rare promotions and who gets to keep their job through the next round of lay offs all comes down to results more than anything.

    This can be directly connected to the likes of Armstrong and other professional athletes who need to keep their sponsors to be able to afford the costs of training, gear and travel to stay at the elite level of their chosen sports. Your sponsors will stay with you so long as you’re getting to the top and staying there. How many stay with you if you start to slip and lose your edge?

    All of the above are symptoms, not causes. If you look at the results driven world we’ve created for ourselves and how hard it can be to even get a position in it, let alone keep that position should we attain it, we really must ask ourselves in light of this status quo if it really is cheating or simply a survival instinct.

    You can draw all kinds of corollaries to the non-human world too.

    How many predators missed a meal because their chosen prey pretended it was something it wasn’t or was able to spray something foul at the predator? Does it make the prey a cheat?

    How many prey animals became a meal because the predator used an ambush tactic rather than direct confrontation? Does it make the predator a cheat?

    For all of what humans have done for themselves, for all of how we celebrate our greatness as a species and all of what we do to try to set ourselves apart from all the creatures in the rest of the world; are we really all that different when it come to the simple concept of surviving to another day in our world?

    So long as we value competition and so long as we value results, there will ALWAYS be cheating employed by someone in order to make it to the next day with their life as they know it intact.

    If humans want it to be any different, we must completely change what we value.

    P.S.

    Online Scrabble and Words with Friends both cheat. I can’t count how many times I tried to play completely valid and quite common words, spelled correctly, and had the games disallow them.

  27. Such a good post! It’s written so well, I really like the introduction which puts the Armstrong situation into context, but only at the very end, and after we’ve had to examine our own lives and actions.

  28. A chemistry teacher once told me that cheating is just using your resources wisely. She stated that in the real world if you were fixing something and had forgotten how to do it, you would be an idiot not to “figuratively look over your neighbors shoulder” and ask them for how to do it. She still told us if we got caught we would be punished but that she thought the policy of the school was silly.

  29. Great post.
    2 points to make.

    1. Lance Armstrong… Liar, cheater, charity worker,
    All of our lives are composed of the good, bad and indifferent things we do. Judging us based on only one or the other isn’t really fair. If one is overpoweringly bad or good I suppose it could be said to define that person. But for most of us we are a composite of ALL we have done. Armstrong has rightly fallen from grace. But I suspect those helped by his huge amount of charity work still see him in a positive light.

    2. Word game cheats… ahh lord I’ve seen a few of these. And been accused of it myself on a few occasions. Truthfully I’ve been a word game player for over 30 years and know huge numbers of weird words most have never heard of. The best way to avoid word game cheats is to find word games that cannot be cheated at in that way. My current favorite is Letter by Letter for android. Using a word finder isn;t going to help you in this game.

  30. lovely post…
    loved this part a lot – “Since we are social beings, how others see us is so important to how we define and view ourselves. We want others to like us and we naturally hide our flaws.”

    isn’t this the reason that people fall in the trap of having to excel it all…its very tough..difficult to stand up strong and say I failed.,.so we fall into this booby trap of lying and cheating – sometimes to save our face and at other times to save the face of the person who put so much faith is us!!! (not completely justified but happens to all of us..)

    great reading, once again!!!

  31. I don’t hate Lance Armstrong, I admire him in some point…
    A man never admits he cheated he will protect it with his life..
    Whatever made him decide to confess that he cheated I’m really sure he will be rewarded from above…
    The damage has been done, his name is already tainted, he will be banished from the world of sports, all his endorsements backed out, I’m sure he will be left penny less but nothing worst than being called a cheater the rest of your life….
    Lets just give a man a break, we Idolized him way back, lets just admire his honesty by simply admitting what he had done…
    There is always time to change and reclaim what was lost……

  32. Hahaha what a joke. The problem with these things is we always look at it from the outside in. It’s so easy to judge from the audience seat. What you may not realize is that EVERYONE in the sports world is probably on steroids at the moment. Even if not at first. From what I’ve heard coaches introduce their players to it immediately. You either take it or you can’t keep up with those that do.

    Imagine: Your teammates take it and pressure you to, your coach, manager, agent, etc. are telling you to take it. Your reputation and livelihood are at stake.

    When someone finally gets caught it’s usually some political thing in their inner circle, someone ratted or maybe one of head testers was feeling vindictive for some reason.

    We need to stop scapegoating the few people that get caught and instead make a bigger issue on catching everyone and stigmatizing society against cheating. The problem is the whole athletic world is driven by the mentality of “success at any cost.” We need to put ethics back into sports.

  33. Sometimes you never know who is lying or telling the truth. Humans easily fall into temptation, and yet when they do some are ready to judge before the facts are in.

  34. It is easy to rationalize away honesty and honor in today’s society. We “know” that everyone “cheats” and we try to rationalize ourselves into doing it. But in doing that we sell something of ourselves that can’t be bought back. I would hope that being honest regardless of the consequence would outweigh the implication of KNOWING that you have sold your “word of honor”. I am reminded of a saying by an educator, Karl Gottfried Maeser –

    “I have been asked what I mean by ‘word of honor.’ I will tell you. Place me behind prison walls–walls of stone ever so high, ever so thick, reaching ever so far into the ground–there is a possibility that in some way or another I may escape; but stand me on the floor and draw a chalk line around me and have me give my word of honor never to cross it. Can I get out of the circle? No. Never! I’d die first!”

  35. I confess that I was a cheater as well. Let´s say I played the saint to be the sinner. Teacher never had the intention to think that I might cheat. I tried to answer a few times during the lesson and kept an interesting face when I was daydreaming. So it was pretty easy to cheat during a test, while the teacher was looking to the once they expected to. Do I regret it? No, but in the end itw as more work to learn for the finals. It has good and bad sites but funny memories for me anyway. ;)

  36. This is a very interesting post. I remember there was a guy I liked, who also happened to be my best friend, and he always wanted to cheat off tests of mine in history. The only problem was that i was HORRIBLE at history. Then when I got a C, which I expected, he would get a lower grade. He didn’t get why, after asking me for the answers, dd he get a low grade. I tried to tell him that I was bad at history but he didn’t want to listen. It taught him a lesson for sure.

  37. *shrug* I should figure a different scenario, I guess. The one here is good, but not one I have any experience with. My college and university experience was very rocky for reasons I won’t list here. I did not begin a career, but struggled through welfare-to-work programs and finally down to full disability. I have more time with my kids, but they need that extra time because of some special needs.

    I am not too surprised Lance Armstrong cheated, or that he tried to cover it up. Barry Bonds being forced to confess (and Jose Conseco exposing him) is still fresh in my mind. I’ve given to understand even the late Hank Aaron was under some scrutiny of performance-enhancing drugs. Then there was Tiger Woods.

    And then I recount stories of those in movies, music, politics– I don’t think there’s anywhere the mass media spotlight reaches that doesn’t find corruption– and often has its own corruption in finding it. I don’t claim to be above it; I’m just glad that my own personal demons were not revealed in that harsh glare. At best, I would likely have been a crewman doing some of the grunt work, building the set, manning the lighting, etc.

  38. What would happen if our world were more collaborative and less man-on-man competitive? What if achievement was seen as a series of collective goals? It would make a big difference in our current “need” to cheat to stay on top.

  39. I understand one slip. We are all human and we all make mistakes. But constantly through life? Tell me. What’s a joy in winning if you know you cheated? You did not win anything, the internet did. What’s a point even playing then? Yes, I cheated for the exam once too. I got an A+ but I gained no knowledge and probably harmed others by setting a false expectation that such result was achievable. I was ashamed, learned from my mistake and never done it again.

  40. Many, many, many cyclists have doped. Lance is not alone. Even *with* doping, his achievements are incredible. The man was born with talent and has a physique with which most people can’t compare. I don’t excuse his what he did, but… Do I? Either all cyclists should be allowed to do it or none. And if most of them are doing it, anyway…

    I’ve cheated on things too. Or been tempted to. You’re right. We are pushed to succeed and often forget why we’re doing what we’re doing and what’s really important in life. It’s sad. Thanks for the reminder of some of the truly important things in life… And why it isn’t right for us to judge.

    Congrats on being freshly pressed!

  41. I cheated in high school and got caught. I never went back to the class out of shame and needless to say I never cheated again (other than Word with Friends). I ended up with a FAIL which I had to fix later in order to go to Uni. I always felt embarrassed for this. Yesterday there was a thing on the news where they talked about how rich parents buy good grades from schools/teachers – a friend told me when I watched it in shock “all rich parents do in latin countries, here [in Brazil] it is more important to have money”. Sad sad sad!!!

  42. If you cheat then nothing about victory has meaning. You play solitaire, get stuck, then break the rules to “win.” I would argue that if you actually believe you won then you are, at least partially, insane. If you go one step further and tell other people you’ve won, then you are probably sick and damaged in other ways, too.

    The examples you provide (like getting a job) are highly compelling. You can at least understand why the masses of lemmings in our society see no harm in doing it. It takes a serious concerted effort to make a different choice. That’s how I try to live my life.

    Yes, it is hard to watch the hypocrites enjoy their ill-gotten goods. That’s what makes the choice so isolating and rare.

    It is important to remember that most of our doctors cheated their way through school. Remember that the next time they have your life in their hands and/or send you a bill.

    • I totally agree with you. Humans using machines to beat other humans using machines is just a little pointless and a lot of a waste of time.

      In the Lance Armstrong example, however, we should all remember that the guy beat a bunch of other guys doing the exact same thing…. which is the definition of a level playing field and, as such, he was the better athlete. Lying about it and wasting millions of YOUR dollars in the legal system is another story.

  43. Pingback: The way I see it, a man at his worst is usually no worse than most men. | thee occasional rant

  44. You, sir, have a talent for writing. Society puts an enormous amount of pressure on success in America and the wake of that thought has spread from our soils in all directions across the globe (yay globalization). I recently returned from a 9 month backpacking trip between Mexico and Peru and noticed how differently I felt when traveling through places that don’t put that emphasis on life. I met families who have had next to nothing but were more connected to each other and happier than most people I know at home who are just unsatisfied with their career because of placing all of life’s emphasis on work. Great write up and congrats on well deserved freshly pressed piece!

  45. Perhaps it isn’t whether or not we cheat, but how we do it? There are 2 types of people. The kind that cheat and the kind that lie about cheating. I don’t hate the man for cheating, but the way he did it was disgraceful. Shame on him.

  46. I suppose that the old adage about winning not being everything but rather, everything, holds true for many. You raise some good points, and have a very well reasoned theme. Congratulations on the fine article.

  47. Great Post.

    I am not sure there are absolutes in the world of cheating… except that all cheating refer to some nebulous ideal that we all seem to want to agree upon, yet somehow recognize without admitting that this ideal is not as practical as we might want.

    There are lots of issues with Lance’s doping, but I think the main issue is ultimately a question of what is real. What can we believe or trust. I don’t think cheating is a problem per se. I think it is in grand scheme of things because we NEED everybody to agree on a simple, black and white version of reality. Even if we know it is not always important or practical. So when people twist the system we are furious because… we bought into it.

    Case in point: I call my girlfriend 5 minutes before I get to her house and tell her that I am downstairs. Why? because experience tells me that she is generally *not* ready… and that she will procrastinate until I am really there (or thinks I am)

    If for some reason I were to have a flat tire before reaching her place… I would be caught “cheating” or lying. I am ok with that. I just don’t want to wait downstairs… :)

    Does that mean that I am not trustworthy…? Truth is even if I get busted, I will keep doing because I am pretty sure she will keep procrastinating….

  48. We all seem to have our justifications for cheating in one way or another. From the biggest to pettiest cheats. The most common excuse of all seems to be “we are human” , “I am human” . But since when did being human mean compromising our values, beliefs, or integrity ? It really all depends what culture we live in. But ultimately we can CHOOSE if we want to be apart of the culture / society we live in. However I do appreciate your honestly and humility. Being conditioned to fit in to society is a curse IMO. Not to mention what a crappy society we must be living in if success is measured by being the “best” or making the most income in a year…its sad really.

  49. Nicely put. This gives us all some material for to mull over… or at very least, a pause to consider the quest for a life of integrity versus the pull to an easy, quick result. And regarding your Scrabble cheats, isn’t it funny how it became a competition about who could cheat the best?!

  50. Very truthful post,but it is very unfortunate line of thinking of the present day world. Check out the interviews of all the culprits and corrupt politicians – their only defense is that everybody else is doing it or somebody else is more corrupt. Very sad state of affairs.

  51. The Lance Armstrong situation is such a shame. I have read about his ‘accomplishments’ as a source of inspiration in many books. In the end I believe his life would have been way better than what it has been, had he not cheated. But then again a lot of people want to be successful and there is a lot of pressure on everybody; and not everyone is emotionally strong to do the right thing.

  52. Very well written – but I disagree entirely. Cheating is wrong. I refuse to loose my dignity and self respect trying to meet the impossible standards of an sick society. Money and the ability to dominate and acquire more things is not the meaning of life. Having financially rich off spring does not make me a successful parent. Living a life of purpose in service to others – loving my neighbour as myself -is why I am here. Anything else is an apology for getting it all wrong. At best it is delusional. At worst it is deadly. Lance Armstrong walked a fine line between the two and is lucky someone didn’t end up dead. He is not an Everyman anti-hero. He is a bully, a liar, a consumate cheater, and a Failure of Grand Proportions. I am nothing like him. And I would not cheat at Scrabble. Some things in life are just too important.

  53. Saying “I am sorry. I was wrong…” Is the hardest and most powerful thing we can say. It creates humanities most valuable feeling, FREEDOM. So why are there so many secret cheats? I feel bad for THEM. I am human, I lie, cheat, like the rest of us… (minor ;) ) and the opportunity to come clean is always a refreshing one.

  54. The lesson I am taking away from this whole Lance Armstrong debacle, as well as the cheating done by Barry Bonds and the like in the past, is that the integrity of the entire sporting world has been tainted for me. Is the new sports hero in the spotlight a true athlete, or one that hasn’t been caught yet?

  55. I caught a work friend cheating at WWF once. He has a 2-year degree and a parties every weekend but still he was coming up with those crazy words. Then one day I was in his office, showing him how to do something, and he minimized one window on his computer, and there was his website that he uses to cheat.

    I think Lance is deserving of the lumps he is taking, except for the scorn of so many people. We all screw up, some of us just cover it up better than others. I am quite bewildered by the anger that some people express. Disappointment is understandable, but not anger. And I know it is unpopular to say, but I feel a little bit bad for him, just as I do for most people who do stupid things and screw up their own lives.

  56. I’ve been thinking about the whole Lance Armstrong scandal lately and like you, I watched the Oprah interview. Although I know what he did was wrong I don’t even feel too upset about it. Everyone around him was cheating so was Lance really cheating or just catching up to the competition? I think the most disappointing aspect of the scandal was watching a hero fall. Everyone believed in him and he turned out to be a liar. But you’re right- he’s only human. And we all cheat and lie sometimes, right?

  57. After I started to get my ass handed to me in scrabble online, I knew people were cheating. Not that I was a great player, but as you said, people were playing ridiculous words I’ve never even heard before. YEAH RIGHT. Around that time, I cheated a few times and felt so disgusted I uninstalled the game. What’s the point? I’d rather play it in real life with people anyway :)

  58. If Lance cheated in the same manner you did; and among cheating peers (purely speculative) made the highest score in the class — seven exams in a row. Does that mean that in a non-enhanced field he may well have scored the highest grade on those exams anyway? Not excusing him either, but his aggressive defense was transparent. Those of us that chose to ignore the obvious signs of dishonesty are complicit. He sold us the story we wanted to hear.

  59. So true about the last line, I’m still not clear how he could cheat over and over again and not take responsibility for his actions. Thanks so much for sharing your insight!

  60. Great post! Maybe if we weren’t so obsessed with being better, faster, bigger at everything we could stop idolizing people like Lance Armstrong to begin with. He is human, with an incredible talent, but is clearly fallible. How can anyone who follows any sports at all be surprised by a pro athlete using performance-enhancing drugs? It’s old news. And yes, Armstrong was vile in his tactics against his accusers but you hit that nail on the head. Most people will defend themselves by any means possible if they can’t face admitting their own truth. It’s an ugly truth but Armstrong is not the first and won’t be the last person to behave in such a shameful way.

  61. Thank you for the post. You make some great points here. We are all pressured. Society defines success for us. It’s hard to live up to expectations. We aren’t perfect. However, I am concerned about the reasons why we are not more shocked and put off by these massive scandals that blow a huge hole in basic ethics. Lance isn’t the first one. Does everyone remember Enron? When did we stop crying foul and demanding our leaders behave ethically? When we start rationalizing unethical behavior, we can expect to see more scandals.

  62. I can see perfectly the point your trying to make about cheating. We all know that you can’t cheat yourself, or fake it through life and not eventually get exposed for who you really are. And eventually, your going to have to accept your fate for who you are and how you arrived in the first place. To go as far as to say that you met your wife and had a family because of cheating on a college test is kind of far fetched,..but ok I see your point. For me, dropping out of high school moving 3000 miles away from home put me in the situation now where i met the mother of my child and found my wife and my destiny. So I do believe whatever path taken in life was the proper path.

    We all have life lessons and learn from them and accept the consequences for our actions and cheating to get ahead is clearly wrong from a moral standing. However, in life nothing is fair. We’re not all giving the same equal opportunity to succeed in life. Some are born with handicaps, raised in a poverty, a broken home, which are disadvantages. If your raised in a home with 2 successful parents, private schooling, healthy suburban environment and are financially in a position to attend the best colleges, isn’t this an advantage? Doesn’t the advantage receive ‘super humor steroid’ help in forms of good genes,wealthy parents, good environment, better position to succeed. And doesn’t have to work as hard as the disadvantaged.

    So my point i’m raising here is this: We all need a little help in life to get where were heading. Don’t lose sight of how you arrived and do away with the arrogant prideful ego. because just like you said Salvador, we are human. And in the beginning we didn’t do it on our own we needed a bottle raised to our faces. The college we graduated from with high honors… is because you received some help along the way

    Great post buy the way! You have me thinking!!!

  63. Cheating at words with friends is one thing, especially if you know that your opponent is cheating. If you know your opponent is cheating, then doing what they are doing is not cheating.
    Lance Armstrong cheated. He did something that gave him an advantage over his opponents. They followed the rules, (maybe), he cheated. This is a whole different animal. He denied people the chance to be true champions in the sport by cheating, while they followed the rules. They did not know he was cheating. They played the game by the rules and his cheating ass beat them. So cheating is not a trivial matter. I would say that it’s fine if you know that everyone around you is bending the rules, then you should do the same. But if you know that you are creating a competitive edge by doing something that is not allowed and you know that your competitor is following all the rules, then you are sinning. By that, I mean that your are breaking one of the ten commandments, IE, “You shall not steal”. Cheating someone is stealing. If you don’t believe me, ask Richard Madoff. He’s the guy that stole billions from people in the largest ponzi scheme ever concocted. Now he is in prison for the rest of his life.
    So, I am ok with cheating with other cheaters, but you can’t cheat innocent people because it’s the same as theft.

  64. To err, is to be human. It shows that Lance Armstrong lied is due to pressure from society to be successful. I don’t condone what Armstrong did, and he should be stripped. I hope he has learned a valuable lesson.

  65. Great post. I loved the writing style through and through. Your sentence balance kept the read fluid and entertaining. Your words rang true and deep.

    I agree with plenty of the points here. It’s a competitive world we live in and the curve always seems to be that tiny bit ahead of where we currently are.

    But, like I always said when it came to the MLB and their steroid scandal, if everyone is using performance-enhancing drugs, then what’s the problem? Fair game.

    Keep it up!

  66. Great read! Wonderful writing. I agree with a lot of the points made in this article. It’s a very competitive world we live in. But, like I said when it came to the MLB steroid scandal, if everyone is using PED’s, then what’s the problem?

    Fair game.

    But, you struck at the core of what makes people take that extra mile to achieve their success and that’s what makes this article so good.

    Keep it up!

  67. Pingback: Bad Blog Review | Sarah's Unlimited

  68. Although, if my children grow-up to be honest people who help people, I will consider them to be helpful. And I have respect for people who believe in piety and following the Ten Commandments.

  69. I just want to point something out: to cheat means to gain an unfair advantage, yes? So technically, given that someone uses anagram solvers to beat you at Scrabble, it would not be an unfair advantage if you start using anagram solvers too, right?

    Similarly, I don’t believe Lance Armstrong was the only rider on performance-enhancing drugs. I’m sure many others, if not all, (sorry have to disagree with casemill here) were also on performance-enhancing drugs, some way or another. Technically, (if anything) Armstrong was leveling the playing field. Yes, his integrity is at stake, since he vehemently denied the use of drugs, and people are disappointed. But if cheating simply means gaining an unfair advantage, then I don’t think Armstrong cheated. He flouted the rules of the sport and lied about the drugs.

    However, we all have our commitments to a moral standard (e.g. dishonesty is fundamentally wrong). I don’t like what Armstrong did, but I don’t think I can blame him for doing what he did. I like to think the best of people, and I think he lied about the drugs because he did not want to disappoint all those who put their hope and trust in him.

    Other than that, thank you for this really insightful post! I really enjoyed reading it.

  70. Pingback: Cheating my way out « silent

  71. Ouch! You’ve stirred some anger and sadness over here. I hate injustice in whatever form it takes. I feel anger at the unfairness to the victims who just want to do what’s right and appear to lose out. I feel sadness that humanity can justify it’s actions under the guise of creating “healthy competition” to get ahead while others are hurt. Yes, we are all human, but being human can’t be an excuse for wrong actions. Yes, we all do wrong, so we have have no place to sit as judge and jury over others either. I truly believe that what goes around, comes around. The ones who hold tight to doing what’s right will have a far greater payoff than those who cheat. For those who do cheat, I also believe forgiveness is real. Talk about a weak muscle. Forgiveness is a muscle that humanity could use for a workout like no other. Keep on doing the right thing out there! Thanks for your post!

    • This is a difficult topic, and sometimes there’s a fine line between explaining and excusing behavior. I think too often we are unfair in our assessment of cheating and mischaracterize it as irrational or unthinkable behavior. We all rationalize misdeeds, and no decision is irrational (from our own perspective) in the moment that we make it. I’ve often argued that a world that accepts the possibility of “irrational thought” and “unthinkable behavior” is the scarier world because it means that human behavior can neither be predicted nor explained. Only if we accept the idea that all individual decisions and actions are rational can we have hope that we might be able to dig down to the root causes and change society for the better.

      Thank you for your thoughtful comment.

  72. Next topic:defining the importance of character? I respect and appreciate the incredibly tactful way you have approached this topic but feel it is over simplified. The issue with Armstrong (and cheating in general) is that what he accomplished (under the pretense that he didn’t cheat) made him look god-like. We all need our heroes. And when we find out our heroes are not who or what we thought they were, that it wasn’t really their ability that caused them to succeed but some artificial device, then it is that fall from grace that defines the tragedy. We loose just a little bit of hope in humanity. Humans need hope. We desperately need hope.
    I may be a just another romantic, but I believe a life worth living is definitely one you don’t need to cheat your way through. What fun would that be? Where’s the challenge? Where’s the satisfaction which leads to content?
    Thank you for causing us all to reflect on this. I think it’s good for the soul! :)

  73. I cheated on my first husband. It was the worst thing I could have done to him and by far the worst thing I could have done to myself. I still haven’t forgiven myself. I’ve had friends walk up to that precipice and I’ve shrieked DON’T DO IT! You will never be the same.

  74. When I get an invitation to play Words with Friends, I always tell them right up front that I cheat on that game – and they STILL want to play!! Go figure.

  75. hmm i still disagree with cheating, many people have worked hard to study for their exams if someone cheats then the people who worked hard will look like they didn’t work hard because the people who cheated are getting better marks. recently one of my friends cheated as well that’s why we are debating on how we should respond to that. cheating isn’t good so i think the sooner the person wakes up from that dream it would be better for them.
    awesome post still, an interesting point of view

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