In a dark musty hall sat a forlorn girl with tears on her cheeks and fear in her heart. She used the back of her hands in a futile attempt to dismiss the wetness from her cheeks. In between each wipe, she looked towards the door and awaited imminent doom. Eventually, the reaper of fate would emanate the gate and render due judgment.
This girl was me (circa 1990) and the setting was a junior high school hallway outside of a math class. I had just gotten kicked out of class for allowing another student to copy my homework answers. I remember sitting outside of that classroom sad and angry. As a straight-A student with model behavior, it was the first time I had ever gotten into trouble, let alone kicked out of a classroom. As I awaited the impending confrontation by the teacher, I sat in my misery pondering how my parents would react while trying to wrap my mind around why I was the one in trouble. After all, it wasn’t me who had cheated. I had completed the homework for crying out loud!
Finally, the bell had rung releasing me from my agony, if not from my grief. After the last student exited the classroom, the teacher came into the hallway and sat down next to me. Before I could utter a word, she began to explain that she did not tolerate cheating in any form. When she finally paused for a response, I blurted out, “But, I am not the one who cheated!” With a soft tone she replied, “No, you didn’t. But you helped someone else to cheat, which is just as bad-if not worse.”
Although her words were piercing, a light turned on for me that day. I realized that, while I hadn’t committed the crime of cheating, I certainly was the accomplice, thus, making me a part of the act. This would become a lesson I would have to learn several times in life before the actual meaning would stick. But, stuck it has, like honey on the hive. And, as the greatest teachers will share, we are all tasked with sharing what we have learned with our peers.
I have learned a lot about cheating since that day in 7th grade, and many of my lessons have not been easy to bear. I could go into every event, but ultimately each experience has taught me one essential and fundamental truth. When you cheat, you cheat yourself out of the lesson and, more importantly, out of the learning.
On September 2, 2013 Dyana Nyad made history by swimming from the shore of Cuba to Florida among the most treacherous of waters. She braved sharks, jellyfish, and strong currants to swim the 110 miles to the finish line. And did I mention, she did all of this at age 64? While her accomplishment of completing the swim is, no doubt, spectacular what impresses me most about this dynamic individual is her training technique. During her preparations she always met her training goals regardless of the obstacle. She was so intent on arriving at her destination that she would re-do a training exercise if her timing was off or if her goal was not met. In sum, Dyana Nyad was not a cheater; and, consequently, she reached her goal and mastered her lesson.
What would have happened if Dyana Nyad had cheated on her training exercises? What if she had stopped 1 inch short of her practice swim? Would she have still reached her ultimate goal? My intuition tells me no. Ask any personal trainer what will happen if you cheat on completing the exercise routine and they will tell you that you will not get the full benefits of the program nor your desired physique. Likewise, I have found that when you commit yourself to a goal you are in essence bonding yourself to the attainment of that goal and, most importantly, to the acquisition of the lesson.
And, once the lesson is learned, you truly become the victor. So whether you’ve committed yourself to attaining a goal, being in a relationship, achieving a specific weight, or simply taking life lessons as they come be aware that while cheating might make the course seem easier, the path can only be finished by allowing for fidelity, love, and determination.
So, if cheating is so bad why does it feel so good? Think about it as two opposing teams. You have the underdog aka “fidelity” and the reigning champion aka “cheating”. Cheating often provides pseudo-wins because short term gains often trump long term results when it comes to gratification. As humans, we want to feel good all of the time and the one-night-stand, the skipped push-ups and that one extra donut satisfy our short term wants. The problem is that these short-term fixes often serve as nothing more than bandages on a gaping wound. Eventually, the injury will get so bad that the bandages will stop working and the roots of the wound will have to be addressed lest more, and deeper, suffering ensues.
Another reason people cheat is out of fear. This fear stems from a false sense that we don’t deserve to have success; that we are not worthy of winning; that we don’t deserve to be in a loving relationship; that we are not enough. And, if we are not enough, then the only way to cross the finish line must be to cheat. But, as the adage goes-Life isn’t a race; it’s a marathon! And this marathon can be a beautiful, strengthening experience if we allow ourselves to honor the journey by feeling the beat of every step along the path and not hitching a ride.
It is really as simple as this:
Don’t give up what you want most for what you want now!
Refuse to cheat yourself out of the lessons you were sent here to learn. Soak in everything that an experience has to offer whether that be joy or pain; relief or discomfort; sickness or health. Choose not to cheat and you will embrace the true essence of success.
If this pathlight resonates with you, I invite you to further ignite your spark by engaging in one or more of the following activities:
Think about a time you did not fully commit to an experience. How did it make you feel? What could you have done differently? What will do in the future to ensure you don’t cheat yourself out of the lesson?
I embrace the journey.
I am appreciative of the opportunities to learn the lessons I am here to receive. I ask for wisdom to recognize the lesson and for grace to accept the learning with a grateful heart.
Quote Inspired reflections
“Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but whoever takes crooked paths will be found out.” Proverbs 10:9
“He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much.” Luke 16:10
“And so it is, that both the Devil and the angelic Spirit present us with objects of desire to awaken our power of choice.” -Rumi