It Isn't Cheating If You Don't Get Caught

That is a quote from the Jim Rome Show (Jim Rome is a nationally syndicated Radio and TV Sports personality). I don’t give any citations because he repeats it on a regular basis. When it is stated in such blatant fashion, we recoil in objection. But let me site two instances where this idea has permeated our moral underpinnings and effects our decision making.

My third son got his license to drive this last Wednesday. If you don’t have teenage drivers in your home, or it has been awhile since you have had a teen driver around, there are some new laws regarding teen drivers. They are initially issued a “provisional” license that has some restrictions. They cannot drive with friends for a year. They can only drive themselves or someone over the age of 21. They also cannot drive between the hours of 11pm and 5am. As a parent and a driver I love these laws.

So, last night my son asks me if he can run over to Jeff’s house. Jeff lives about a mile from our home. It was 11:10pm.

So I told Caleb, “it is 10 after 11.”

To which he responded, “It is?”

Then he asked me: “Can I go?”

Now I have a few problems at this point. I am a cool dad, and I hate telling my kids “no.” We live in a rural area, and it really isn’t a big deal. I am a parent trying to teach my children responsibility. But I am experienced as a father, so I don’t fall for the trap my son has unwittingly laid for me. In his head, as in mine, we have the same thought: “It is not a big deal…it is only a mile…his older brother is at Jeff’s and he could drive home…we live in Nuevo and farm kids drive at 6” and on and on it goes. But this is an issue of responsibility, and he is old enough to make his own choices and face the consequences. So I tell him:

“Caleb, I am not going to tell you if you can go or not. That is your decision. You and I both read the provisions on your license, and it is after 11pm. It’s up to you if you want to break the law. Do you know the consequences of being caught, and are you willing to pay them? More importantly, can you change the rules whenever they don’t suit you? I am going to leave it up to you.”

Now, he stayed home. I was proud. But I have to tell you we both struggled with the title. “It isn’t cheating if you don’t get caught.”

The second issue where I saw this permeating our decision making was standing in line this morning for my wife’s wristband at Barnes and Noble so she can go back tonight at Midnight and buy her copies of Harry Potter. I struck up a conversation with a 20-something young man standing in line ahead of me. He told me that he has already started reading the book online. (People have gotten the book illegally and posted scans of the entire book online).

Here is the problem with that. The book was illegally acquired and illegally posted. Now this young man had nothing to do with that. But he did go ahead and take advantage of the stealing, and read the book online. We would probably absolve him of the “crime” because all he was doing was reading something he was going to legitimately pay for tonight anyway…what is the harm. We wouldn’t have actually gone into a store and stolen the book, but we have less compunction to read a stolen book online. Is it because we don’t run the risk of being “caught” and are free therefore to indulge ourselves?

Is there any difference between that and, let’s say, watching two movies at a theater in a day when you only paid for one. You know, when your movie is over, just slip into another of the 15 theaters and watch another? Would it be any different if I stole the actual book from the store with your knowledge, and loaned it to you to read?

What is the big deal? It’s only a few days. I am not hurting anyone. It’s not cheating if you don’t get caught.

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