Monday, August 14, 2006

a society of cheaters?

Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, and Sammy Sosa – the greatest home-run hitters of all time? Or the biggest cheats ever to put on baseball uniforms and sully the game? Pete Rose should go into the Hall of Fame for his skill? Or into permanent exile from the game because of breaking its rules about gambling?

The Tour de France makes more headlines for suspicions and charges of doping by cyclists than for any other feature. This year’s winner, Floyd Landis, cried foul when charged with cheating on the basis of drug testing. Now his team sponsor has fired him, and he has been stripped of the coveted yellow jersey.

Track and field is notorious for its ability to create new ways to take unfair advantage through designer drugs and performance-enhancing tricks. Sprinter Justin Gatlin is in trouble now for failing a drug test and could be banned for life from the sport that has made him famous and wealthy.

Ah, fame and wealth. Those seem to be the driving forces behind the sordid phenomenon of seeking unfair advantage in competition. And there is little comfort in being reminded that it is nothing new in sports. Do we simply accept it?

A survey last year by the Center for Academic Integrity says that 70 percent of American college students it surveyed admitted to some form of cheating. Plagiarism, stealing exam questions, crib sheets, hiring someone to take an exam, buying a research paper – all sorts of creative ways have been found to try to defeat the purpose of education. One doesn’t learn by cheating – except, perhaps, how to be a less-likely-to-be-caught cheater.

This really isn’t meant to be an exercise in venting my spleen. It is intended to be a plea for those of us who aren’t professional athletes or college students to recommit ourselves to being people of integrity in our little corners of the world.

Give a full day’s work, even if you don’t think you are being paid enough for it or appreciated for your effort. Don’t claim someone else’s effort or contribution as your own. Don’t cut corners in quality or service. Represent your service or product as truthfully as possible. Stand behind your word or your warranty.

In the fundamental relationships of your life, be upright and honorable. Let your word mean something. Keep your commitments. Never cheat on a mate or violate the boundaries of trust with a parent or child. Let your word be your bond.

Here is how Jesus put it: “Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one” (Matthew 5:37). That isn’t just a good motto for the coming week. It is an ideal to embrace for all you do in life.

Reprinted (by permission) from Rubel Shelly's FAX of Life.