In a race it’s right to want to win but not cheat. So in life; strive for what’s yours, but don’t take others have striven for. – Chrysippus
What does that mean?
This was another interesting quote to research, as it is quoted by Cicero to illustrate a point, and is paraphrased for use on Twitter, the full body of which is included at the bottom of the post.
This quote is a defense of enlightened self interest. It says that we have a right to try, and to do our best, to get what we want from life.
But it also reminds us that it is not proper for us to cheat or work against the chances of another, even if they are attempting to win the same prize.
To seek, to strive, to try to get what we want, that is all natural and human. To cheat, unfortunately, is far too common, and something we should strive to eliminate from ourselves.
Why is not being a cheat important?
We have all seen it, someone cheating to gain an advantage. Sometimes we are tempted to cheat, just a little, to make sure we get something we want so very badly. Yet in the act of cheating, we disqualify ourselves from winning it, at least morally. And that is a very serious blow.
Cheating steals not only from the others, but from ourselves as well. We lose the ability to truly feel we earned what we now have, and that is a huge loss. But those whom we cheated also know we cheated, and they will never look at us the same again. We have stolen our character from ourselves.
Because, ultimately, it comes down to character. When we win by good and just means, our character and our fame increase. But if we win because we cheat, our character is tarnished at the least, and diminished to some extent as well. If we repeatedly cheat, we become known as a cheater, and avoided by others.
How often do you interact with known cheaters? Or do you tend to keep your distance from them? What about those who are suspected of cheating, who seem to have luck that is too good to be true or attributed to skill alone? Do you avoid them? What is their reputation (what character is to others)? Do you want be known as a cheat?
Where can I apply this in my life?
There are temptations in life, and they are all around us. Some of them we have mastered, others seem to have mastered us. But if your desire to have mastery over the urge to cheat, you need only practice. For those who have already achieved mastery over cheating, please feel free to add your tips in the comments section, below.
Cheating could be as trivial as rearranging cards while playing solitaire. I do that sometimes, but I also recognize first that the game is lost. In that way, in my mind, I’m not cheating, I’m just exploring the deck after having lost. To some it is a distinction without a difference, but it lets me sleep at night.
Other people might find that too much to bear, and not do that. Others actively cheat at card games. Once I was playing a card game where suit had to be followed, but we caught a guy claiming he was out so as to be able to play trump and win the hand. Not only was the game over at that point, no one would play with him after that.
This is what happens when you give up your character for a quick win via cheating. Your reputation, which is what others think of your character, takes a massive hit, and others begin to avoid you. You have to find new friends, ones who have not yet heard of your nefarious habits. Sounds like a lot of work.
Why not start by resisting the temptation to cheat in the little things. No sneaking cookies for a midnight snack. Or make it not cheating by remembering to write them down in your food log, or telling the rest of the household that you will be having midnight snacks. Sometimes being open about it can turn it from cheating to being acceptable.
Whether it’s tripping someone in a race or looking in the back of the magazine for the solution of the puzzle, cheating and winning are mutually exclusive, even if you do finish first. It isn’t worth it, and you feel that much better when you finish, even if it’s somewhere other than first, if you did it without cheating.
What will you do today to build your character or to help another build theirs? We can all improve or help others to improve as well. Just be willing for them to decide you need a little help as well. After all, turnabout is fair play, right?
“When a man enters the foot-race,” says Chrysippus with his usual aptness, “it is his duty to put forth all his strength and strive with all his might to win; but he ought never with his foot to trip, or with his hand to foul a competitor. Thus in the stadium of life, it is not unfair for anyone to seek to obtain what is needful for his own advantage, but he has no right to wrest it from his neighbour.”