Tuesday, September 27, 2011


Q - Can you write about what is wrong with cheating? Thanks.

A - Thanks for the question. There are several questions here:
  • What is cheating?
  • Is cheating a sin / bad / unethical / wrong?
  • Why is this a big deal or not?
Let us start with some definitions. Cheating can take on many forms. Athletes cheat by taking steroids. Accountants cheat by fudging the balance sheets. Students cheat on exams and papers. Spouses cheat with another person they aren't married to. Journalists cheat by making up stories. Cheating is acceptable to many modern people as long as you get away with it (taxes anyone)? It is seen as a shortcut or an opportunity to the easy way to do things.
It is pervasive in our culture.

In many ways teaching "ethics" doesn't help much because they tend to raise questions without giving concrete answers to many unclear situations. This can confuse students further (in some cases).

So, how to define it for everyone? How about this:
To defraud, to deceive, to elude, to violate the rules, to swindle, to act fraudulently or dishonestly.
I think that covers all of our bases. Now, is it wrong to do these things? Do the good ends justify the means of getting ahead?

There is no good reason to cheat. It is a sin in every case and can be grave matter and if done with full knowledge and full consent, then it can be a mortal sin. (see CCC 2413)

When dozens of A&M students cheat on an ethics test (happened in '07), something is definitely wrong. Furthermore, almost 75% of students admit to cheating.

A culture that allows cheating as if it isn't a big deal is a sick culture. There is a disconnect between our idea of what honesty is and the reality.

The person who wouldn't lie to a priest in confession has no problem lying to a teacher by cheating on a paper. The person who would never steal out of the collection basket, will download music or movies illegally. The principles are the same.

It is a very big deal. Think of it this way:

  • Stealing = taking what isn't your own. How would you feel if someone took something you own?
  • Lying = purposefully telling an untruth to someone who has a right to the truth. How do you feel when you are lied to?
  • Cheating =  not playing by the rules established or agreements agreed to. How do you feel if someone cheated you?

The answer is found in Christ's call to us to " So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets." - Matt 7:12 Christ defines truth as part of the nature of God - "I am the way, the truth and the life". We must be true and honest as Christians in every way.
We are sure that we have a clear conscience and desire to live honorably in every way. - Hebrews 13:18