Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Liars and Cheaters, Oh My!

Are we a society of cheaters?
Last week, Cameron van der Burgh admitted to cheating in the 100 yard breaststroke at the Olympics by using an illegal dolphin kick. The south african gold medalist was quick to say that he was not the only one and that it is widely known that if you want to win, you have to cheat. The report came on the heels of a New York Times story about a hospital that was performing unneeded cardiac surgeries to defraud medicare and insurers out of millions of dollars. And today, a report of a young competitor caught cheating at...Scrabble.

As the mother of two daughters, I try to teach my kids to do the right thing.  Honesty is the best policy. Cheaters never prosper. But more and more I see liars and cheaters proliferating in the highest echelon of our society. Our leaders and heroes, caught red handed, issue less than heart felt apologies and act as though their behavior is business as usual.

It begs the question, is our world so complex and competitive that people have to cheat to win? And is winning so important that it's worth compromising your soul? I mean, if the boy came in second at Scrabble, would a room full of puppies die?  And by what stretch of the imagination does a hospital justify risking lives to enhance the bottom line?

I think we often hear about fraud on an individual level, but perhaps cheating has become systemic. Maybe the bar has been raised to a point that no human being can reach it without a little help. But I think the bigger issue is that people still believe the bar is worth reaching.

So, I tell my kids, there is nothing wrong with living a simple life. To be loved and to love yourself, to look yourself in the mirror every morning with a clear conscience, goes a long way toward authentic happiness. And I have to think, if there was someone in the pool swimming against Cameron who did not cheat, that person will have a story to tell to their grandchildren about how they didn't win the medal but earned a more valuable prize--their integrity.

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