This is Michael Josephson with something to think about.

Chad and three of his friends were college seniors and they all had to take an important physics exam on Monday. Chad persuaded his buddies to take a weekend trip several hundred miles away to go to a rock concert. They all agreed they would study in the car driving there and back, but it never happened that way.

Instead, the boys partied all weekend and when they got back home late Sunday night they began to panic, knowing there was no way they would be ready for the exam. 

Chad called the professor first thing Monday morning and told him that they were all ready and prepared for the exam but they couldn’t get there on time because they got a flat tire, didn’t have a spare, and couldn’t get help. Chad convinced the professor to let them take a make-up exam.

When the boys showed up for makeup exam, the professor handed each a test booklet and put them in separate rooms. The first question, worth 5 points, was easy, but the second question, worth 95 points threw them for a loop: “Which tire was flat, and what time did the repair truck finally come?”

Chad’s exam booklet had an additional note:  “You took two exams today. One on physics; the other on integrity. By the way, I just received a reference request from Harvard. How you do on this exam will determine how I fill it out.”

This story teaches two lessons:  First, “you can dodge your responsibilities, but you can’t dodge the consequences of dodging your responsibilities.”  Second, attempting to avoid the consequences of irresponsibility by lies and cover-ups always makes things worse – much worse.

Think about this: Was Chad’s lie or little? How big does it look from the professor’s point of view? Is it fair for the professor to hold the lie against Chad on the Harvard reference? Finally, fair or not, do you think the professor’s reaction is something Chad should have considered before he decided to lie?

This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character really does count.

Comments 15

  1. I think that the professor did the right thing by not allowing the boys to get away with an obvious lie; however, I think there should be forgiveness for such things (In other words, the professor should let them know what he thinks without punishing them so severely). Young people do all sorts of things without first thinking about consequences. When they are forgiven, it actually may prevent them from doing it again. Why harm their future permanantly? I have a personal experience where I took some candy from a small corner store and put it in my pocket (I was old enough to know better- around 10 or 11). The owner had me come to the checkout line and quietly told me to put it back…the embarrassment of him knowing made me never even think about doing it again. As an adult, I think about all that he could have done–call the police, my parents, yelled at me in front of other customers…but, he did not….I was so fortunate to have learned a very important lesson without any major consequences…and I was able to go back to his store for many years to make up for what I did wrong….Thank you Mr. shop owner is all I can think about!

    1. I am only playing the devil’s advocate here. I am very proud of how the store candy situation turned out for you. This story and yours are wonderful examples of how guiding adults can truly make a difference in the formative years of a young adult/teenager. As a mom of a teenager myself, I do feel torn sometimes between what is appropriate punishment for a life-skill teaching moment. Should I forgive my teen and give her a second chance or should I make a truly important statement by not caving in to misguided sympathy? As is your question on the matter, should the professor have given then a second chance or should he take advantage of this teaching moment? My opinion on the story is that the professor is truly wise in giving the integrity test as it obviously will determine their future in one way or another. Tacking on the Harvard reference is also wise because my understanding is that if they did tell the truth, then they pass the test and will earn his respect and potential recommendation. Otherwise, the professor is merely taking an important stand on integrity. He did give them a choice. They can own up to it, or continue to lie. And therein lies what we all have to struggle with, having the courage to understand life’s lessons through our bad choices and mistakes. For some teens, it will only take one mistake (like yourself) to learn and/or change, for most others, it will take more mistakes (teens are notorious for pushing limits), and still some, unfortunately, will never make it… Each individual, each circumstance, is different for everyone. The beauty of life is capturing the right moment to learn (integrity and other lessons) before it’s too late. And that, despite anyone or any adult’s efforts, rests solely on the individual.

  2. Joy, while I agree that it would be nice to all be treated lovingly and forgiven whenever we make a “simple” mistake. But let’s just say that your “simple” mistake was to drink and drive. It’s the first time you’ve ever done this, so according to your philosophy you should be forgiven for disobeying the traffic laws. But your “simple”, “first time” offense just happened to kill or seriously injure someone. Now should we be so forgiving and not punish you for your first time offense? That being said, I’m a christian and would forgive you for your mistake, but I would certainly want some sort of punishment metted for the crime you chose to commit (first time or not) as there is a consequence (good or bad) for every choice we make whether good or bad.

    1. Every situation has to be weighed by mitigating factors and the seriousness of the crime. However, I still maintain my stance that most things are understandable and forgivable…sometimes the only punishment needed is one’s conscience. I am 45+ now and I still feel embarrassed by what I did and have never ever thought of stealing or doing anything illegal since that moment. Would I have learned the same lesson had his punishment been stricter or more embarrassing? I can’t tell you, but; what the shop owner taught me that day was priceless. (By the way…he was a Muslim fellow from what I can recall). Today, I am not a bleeding heart; however, I can feel the human condition and have forgiven countless things…and I feel great about it. As for the above story…I still think the professor handled it incorrectly. Why punish them so much? If they are truly bad kids, they will fail eventually for sure! I tried to give my child advice based on my experiences in life. I hope she makes good choices; however, I hope someone can find it in their heart to forgive her if she doesn’t…depending on the situation.

  3. I think that the lie was pretty big cause they partied all night, didn’t study, try to cover it up by saying they had a flat tire. It was a big deal to the professor because he was wanting to get the tests graded i bet. It was fair that the professor put Harvard against him cause it teaches him not to stay out all night.

  4. i think that was a good thing to do for the professor. they should have to the truth then ask to have a some more time or something. but no they had to say a lie and end up having to take a little quiz type of thing and had a question number two and they could not answer it. they had to lie. just like they did when they got in this mess

  5. Chad’s lie was little. From the perfessior’s point of view it was a big lie and he shoun’t have lied. No it wouldn’t be fear to hold the lie againts chad for the Harvard refrence. Yes he should have thought about it before he had lied.

  6. I think he should of done is not party all that weekend because he had a chance to go to Harvard. They all agreed to stay home and study for the test but they went to the party. He lied to his teacher about his car and the test was two test’s. They told the teacher that they had a flat tire and that they had no ware to go after that.

  7. They lied.
    To tell the truth is better.
    To never party before a test.
    It is not fair and they should learn their lessons.

  8. I think the lie is a little thing to deal with for people all around the world for honesty. It looks big from the professor’s point of view it looks big. No, it isn’t fair that he got away with lying.

  9. I think that Chad’s friends shouldn’t have listened to him because they could of study for the exam and be prepared for it that day. And I think the professor did the right thing by giving them the fake test because he know what they did the day of the test.And next time they may not listen to chad and study.

  10. The professor lied twice in the story, not just the Harvard reference but he deceived Chad about allowing him to make up the test.

    Perhaps the real second lesson is- You can make yourself a fool by using your position of power to make a fool of those under your authority to prove that they can’t make a fool of you.

    I agree, the professor failed the integrity test.

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