We all have heard about the most recent case of cheating – wealthy people lying, bribing, and spending huge amounts of money just to get their children into elite universities. Yes, it seems pathetic, but they aren’t the only ones who cheat. In the TV show Cheaters, people go to the Cheaters Detective Agency when they suspect infidelity from their significant other. Using hidden cameras and surveillance, the Cheaters team investigates the accused and then confronts them when they are caught. What would be discovered if the Cheaters team zeroed in on us as leaders? What would they find? Remember, cheating is not only limited to the high profile examples we hear about. Here are some of the more common ways we as leaders can shortchange ourselves and others.
Cheating our relationships
We cheat our relationships when we fail to listen to or see the needs of those we claim to care about most. We can miss the practical needs someone has because we are so pre-occupied with our own busyness and needs. And, we can consistently take far more from our relationships than we give to them. Have you ever felt let down by someone you thought would be there for you – not just during a crisis but also with ongoing friendship, loyalty, and encouragement? If so, you have experienced the bruising that comes from a cheater.
Cheating our future
Most cheating involves directly harming others. However, sometimes we actually cheat ourselves and don’t even know it. The most common way we do this is by failing to invest in our own professional development, thereby hindering our future potential and even income. Another common way we cheat ourselves is by failing to plan for the financial future of ourselves and our families – when we don’t seek professional financial guidance or when we fail to delay the vacation or car purchase this year to be better prepared for five years from now.
Cheating our family
We can cheat our families or significant others in multiple ways. First, we can work so much that we don’t have any time to invest in them and just be with them – like the parents who neglect to nurture their child’s spiritual and character development or the child who seldom has mom or dad show up at their sporting or musical events. Or second, we can work too little and fail to provide adequately for their financial needs – like the parents who intentionally choose to not work harder or invest in their career, passing over opportunities that would have allowed them to assist their children who are now in massive debt for education. We can also cheat our children by doing everything for them and not giving them the opportunity to develop on their own – like the example of high profile parents using bribery to get their children into elite universities. All of these families have been cheated.
Cheating our employer
When we think of cheating an employer, we normally think of “really bad” things like embezzlement. But most employees don’t steal money from where they work, at least not directly. However, a lot of passive stealing takes place that results in the same long-term outcome – not doing the right thing on behalf of our employer. One way this happens is by not staying engaged in our job or in the organization’s mission. Another example is using our time in ways that doesn’t contribute to productive results such as excessive time on Facebook, Twitter, or internet shopping. These actions (or inactions) result in companies losing billions of dollars each year. That’s why it’s called cheating!
Cheating God sounds pretty bad. But, in reality, we cheat God regularly. In fact, all of the above are cheating God in some form. And when we cheat God, we also cheat ourselves. One way we cheat God is when we neglect to listen to him and what he has to say about our lives (this is called pride). Another way is when we allow people or things to edge God out of his VIP seat in our lives (this is called idolatry). We also cheat him when we get too lazy or too busy to make room for him in our lives (this is called being lukewarm). We may not completely disconnect from God, we just make him a peer to the many other things we deem important, cheating him out of his premier role. However we do it, the end result is the same: God gets cheated.
So, what can a cheater do?
It’s great when we can quit cheating habits cold turkey. But, sometimes that can be hard to do. Here are a few suggestions of how to stop cheating yourself and those around you:
Identify where your cheating is causing the most harm and go after it.
Start somewhere. When it comes to bad behavior, any improvement is better than none.
Ask yourself, “What short-term benefit am I getting from my cheating, and why do I believe that benefit is so important?”
Have someone help you since changing bad behavior is hard to do alone.
When you fail, and you will, don’t quit. Cheating is hard to overcome but it is not impossible.
“Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but whoever takes crooked paths will be found out.” - Proverbs 10:9
Jay Desko is the Executive Director of The Center Consulting Group and serves on the Senior Leadership Team at Calvary Church in Souderton, PA. Jay brings experience in the areas of organizational assessment, leadership coaching, decision-making, and strategic questioning. Jay’s degrees include an M.Ed. in Instructional Systems Design from Pennsylvania State University and a Ph.D. in Organizational Behavior and Leadership from The Union Institute.