COMMENTARY 973.4: The Pressure to Cheat

What’s causing the growing hole in our moral ozone? Why are cheating and lying so common in schools, on the sports field, and in business and politics? Apparently it’s a thing called pressure.

Kids are under pressure to get into college, athletes and coaches are under pressure to win, and, according to a survey by the American Management Association, the pressure to meet business objectives and deadlines is the leading cause of unethical corporate behavior. The desires to further one’s career and protect one’s livelihood are the second and third reasons people lie or cheat.

In other words, we take ethical shortcuts to get what we want. DUH!

Why are we so willing to shift responsibility for every form of human weakness from ourselves to the system? We don’t blame the liar; we blame the law. We don’t blame the cheater; we blame the test.

The implication is: Don’t expect me to be ethical when personal interests are at stake.


What we call pressures today used to be called temptations. Everyone knew that the test of character was our ability to resist them. Calling enticements pressures doesn’t change anything.

We must believe in and expect integrity and moral courage and not surrender when our principles are challenged. We need to expect good people to do what’s right, even when it’s difficult or costly.

Yes, lots of people act dishonorably in the face of pressure. But pressure is an explanation, not a justification. Pressures, temptations – call them what you will – are part of life. Sure, it would be helpful if we had less pressure, but it’s far more important that we have more character.

This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.

Comments 6

  1. Great topic with a fundamentally sound conclusion by Michael. The complexities of consistently good charachter sometimes become exhausting, resulting in breakdowns that damage and harm real people and their “interests or goals”. I have been very fortunate to have been tremendously LOVED by my Mom and Dad; effectively, toughly, dearly, and even sometimes gloriously !!! :):):) These honorable and universally omnipresent acts of LOVE will enrich, nurture and make STRONG CHARACTER in people. When we effectively love ourselves in a POSITIVE, CREATIVE manner; our character is also strengthened and nurtured. Solid, championship character seems to also be a gift from God ! :):):)

    1. I don’t think we can be divided up into little sections or pieces in our Psyche’ or hearts. If character and integrity is important to us, it will affect and impact every other area of our lives in every action, thought, and word. Our performance will reflect our character. To seperate the two is schizophrenic.

  2. This is good to think about. Great men and women are those of great character who did what they believed was right, even if it was not necessarilly popular. Look at Wilburforce, MLK, Rosa Parks, Ruby Bridges and others. I fear that with the rise of internet social media sites our young people sometimes form a “group think” culture, a consensus of opinion that meets with everyone’s approval. This is bland and non offensiveness but can be sterile and passive rather than active, brave or even truthful. The honest thing may not always be the popular thing. It may even be hidden by the sometimes cruel pressure to conform.

  3. I think Michael Josephson always has his head on straight.
    I wrote about how it’s sometimes important to recognize that students who cheat, particularly young ones, can also be viewed as needing the skills to perform and that perhaps we can start forgiving them and start helping them to properly be prepared. Yes, it’s important to have good character, good character is always being developed and some children don’t have the support to learn how to make good choices first-hand – whether from family or peers.

  4. Again from my earlier comment I made, one’s atmosphere & the surroundings is responsible for how people conduct themselves. You go into a tough neighborhood for example, one learns from early on that you have to be tough yourself to survive in that area. Same as cheating/lies. You hear lies & are told lies, you see people cheat to get ahead, etc., is an invitation for most people to bring themselves to that level as well. We are all interconnected in many ways.

  5. I don’t believe athletes are pressured to cheat it is just that cheating pays of tremendously. Case in point (at least now for me) is Lance Armstrong. Not only he cheated but time and again he lied. When the dust settles, after he is found guilty and paid hefty fine he will be better off financially than had he had a normal job.

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