Why do people cheat?

Do you cheat?

Let me be more specific. After all – there’s cheating and then there’s fudging a little, right?

  • Did you ever cheat in school?
  • Did you ever cheat at a game?
  • Do you rationalize cutting corners?
  • Did you ever cheat in a relationship, and how “far” is cheating?

How do you define cheating?

No, I’m not going to address the issue of marriage and infidelity. It’s complex, and deserves a discussion on its own. I am asking questions about values and behaviors. Cheating in a relationship is a matter of definition (like cheating at anything) and just one example of stepping beyond social norms of what we should and shouldn’t do.

I’m asking because I’m curious. I’m asking you as an individual. I’m also asking as a parent – and addressing you, as parents. Because we set examples by our behavior, not to mention the disconnects between what we say and what we actually do.

Do you make distinctions between cheating and fudging a little? Only in certain circumstances? Is an ace up your sleeve cheating, or just planning for contingencies?

Good girls, bad girls, the “good girl syndrome”

I’ve been looking at my own behaviors lately. And my belief system. Tossing my preconceived (and conditioned) notions into the air to see how they land, then poking around in the scramble of my usual frameworks trying to uncover new ways to think, perceive, act, and accomplish. Why? It seems to me that I’m expending tremendous energy getting nowhere. That means I need to change what I’m doing, how I’m doing it, or both.

Is there a Good Girl Syndrome? If not, there ought to be. I’ve been pondering my “good girl” past. Yes, I was one of those. Never lied. Never cut school. Never cheated. Always did as I was told. Always followed the rules. I learned very late in life that most people do lie, cut corners, outright cheat, and many make their own rules – causing destruction in their wake (leaving others to clean up).

And they were not vulnerable as I was. They were not an easy mark.  In fact, not only were the “bad girls” (and bad boys) having much more fun, they were more successful, in all ways.

Why do people cheat?

Why do people cut in line, cut corners, and disregard rules as though they don’t apply in their case? Is it the desire to win at all cost? Is it narcissism? Some unique combination of ingredients that creates a sense of entitlement, mixed and percolated in childhood, then ingrained in routine adult behavior?

What about those like me – following the rules, still believing in “the system,” in Karma, in nose-to-the-grindstone hard work to earn the fruits of our labor? When some follow rules and others don’t, you no longer have a level playing field.

Those who don’t cut corners lag behind. And then what?

What do we teach our children about cheating?

As adults, do you “cut corners” when you can? In some instances? Only if your back is up against the wall? Do you move the golf ball in the sand trap when no one’s looking? Profit from the cashier’s mistake at the checkout line that gives you an extra $10?

As parents, how do we deal with issues of cheating? And those murky areas of “cheating by omission” (like the $10 example above)? What do you do when you see your child cut in line or try to get away with a foul in sports? What about those “cheat codes” in video games that our kids access to bypass levels where they’re stuck?

Do we judge those things differently than cheating on a test, or stealing an idea for a paper? Is there a spectrum of cheating that we teach through our behaviors and our terminology? Including:

  • Fudging
  • Cutting corners
  • Everyone does it
  • Taking advantage of an opportunity
  • Dog eat dog world.

Value systems, personal integrity

I’ve learned a few things in the past eight years, as I’ve tried to hold together my house of cards through layoffs, financial problems, an expensive and ineffective legal system, and societal frameworks that no longer fit.

In some ways, I do make my own rules. Now. And I fudge a few things, in the hope of being able to take care of my family. My age, for one, as I look for work.

When I make my own rules, it has to do with seeking creative solutions within a structure of ethics that I stick to rigorously, despite everything. Because it is who I am. And I cannot compromise my integrity or I shall be lost in a world that is – let’s face it – a bit lost. Or is that just moral relativism? Am I rationalizing my own behavior?

And you?

  • Do you cheat?
  • Do you “cut corners?”
  • Only in certain circumstances?
  • Do you justify your actions in some instances, and not in others?
  • How do you explain these distinctions to your children?



© D A Wolf