Monday, January 30, 2023
35.0°F

The cheat is on

by HARVEY MACKAY
| January 22, 2023 1:00 AM

Once upon a time in a tiny French village, the townspeople decided to honor their parish priest by each bringing a bottle of wine the following Sunday for the pastor's empty wine barrel. The pastor was delighted, and he asked all in attendance to join him for a glass of wine from the now full barrel. But when the tap was opened, only water came out.

Each villager had brought water instead of wine — thinking that all the others would bring wine and the one bottle of water would never be detected.

Alas, they all had decided to ignore their agreement, and they were all exposed as cheaters.

What is cheating? Simply put, it is breaking the rules.

Cheating has become so normalized in society that people are hardly shocked by it anymore. There has been a consistent, gradual decline in ethical business practices in the United States for about 50 years. And it's reached new extremes lately in almost every institution that can be measured. Business leaders, politicians, religious institutions, sports heroes, college students trying to get better grades and parents cheating to get their children into college are just some of the examples that are easy to spot.

That's why I always advise everyone to "Act like your mother is watching."

Many people cheat in one way or another to get ahead in life. For example, some people cheat to pass exams, while others cheat to win games. In some cases, cheating can seem to be beneficial, but it is often illegal and always unethical. As cheating becomes increasingly common in schools and workplaces, more people are beginning to ask themselves if cheating is becoming acceptable because it is overlooked so often.

For example, a new study has found that more than 90% of college students have cheated somehow. The survey, conducted by the NCAA, surveyed over 4,000 students at various colleges and universities across the United States and found that cheating is not just a problem on one campus — it's a problem nationwide.

A teacher was talking to his colleague and observed, "The worst thing that can happen to a student starting school is to get caught cheating."

"Not at all," said the colleague. "The worst thing at the start of a person's life is to cheat and NOT get caught."

A mechanic whom I have patronized for years explained that his profession is frequently mistrusted by customers who question why certain repairs are needed because some greedy competitors try to "sell" services that are unnecessary.

Ask a hundred human resources managers if they have ever seen a suspicious resume — exaggerated credentials, fake degrees, questionable experience — and I'd bet you can count on both thumbs how many say they have not.

Performance-enhancing drugs in sports? Athletes know they are banned, yet some still try to cheat their way to success. Clean athletes who turn in stellar performances know there is no substitute for training and talent. But because some refuse to follow the rules, everyone has to be tested to prove they haven't cheated.

Cheaters spoil the fun for everyone, regardless of the situation. A tainted victory is never a victory; it's an admission that you don't trust your own abilities or aren't reliable enough to be trusted by others. It's a difficult habit to break, but it can be done.

Here's a final story to illustrate my point. A baker bought his butter from a local farmer. After some time, the baker began to suspect that he wasn't receiving full pound bricks of butter from the farmer.

For several days, he weighed the butter after it was delivered. His suspicions proved correct. So he turned to the law to settle the matter.

The farmer was brought to court to answer for his act of fraud. "What kind of scale do you use?" the judge asked.

"I don't have a scale, your honor," replied the farmer.

"Then how can you weigh the butter that you sell?"

"It's pretty simple," the farmer said. "I have balances, and I use the one-pound loaf of bread I buy from the baker as a weight."

Case dismissed.

I learned a long time ago that by not cheating — and doing the right thing, you will live a much happier life than trying to cheat your way through it. Just tell the truth. It's so simple, so basic — and the cover-up is always worse. You'll also sleep much better at night.

Mackay's Moral: People don't cheat by chance, they cheat by choice.

• • •

Harvey Mackay is the author of the New York Times bestseller "Swim With the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive." He can be reached through his website, www.harveymackay.com, by emailing harvey@mackay.com or by writing him at MackayMitchell Envelope Co., 2100 Elm St. SE, Minneapolis, MN 55414.

Recent Headlines