Dealing with Disappointment

One of my fans asked me for advice the other day. She is taking a college course and a person she admires and uses as motivation to do better herself, turns out to be cheating on her course work. She wanted to know whether she should report her friend or let it go.

I keep saying, to fix your problem, you have to first properly identify the problem you are trying to solve.  In this case the problem was less what to do about the friend who was cheating and had more to do with how she herself should deal with the disappointment she felt in learning that someone she admired was cheating and that the success they were having was based on bad ethical decisions. How can she motivate herself to continue to do the right thing in the face of others behaving badly?

It is very easy to be disappointment when we find out someone we admired was cheating. Lance Armstrong comes to mind as a major example of this, but really, we encounter this problem throughout life.

The advice I gave her was to recognize that the person being the most hurt by the cheater taking shortcuts was that the person who was cheating because it was preventing them from learning what they were paying good money to learn. 

The next thing I told her was that this shouldn’t dissuade her from putting in the effort herself to learn the material properly. She can still use her friend as a motivation, just now, instead of trying to be as good, she should see if she can be better by doing the work properly. Is this harder than succumbing to temptation. Yes, But, you will feel better about yourself and you will have learned important skills the cheater won’t.

Now, as for whether to report or not, I’m told by college professors that yes, indeed, they do want to know if one of their students is cheating. Professors want to help, but they  can’t if they don’t know there is a problem. So the advice is to report. Not to get them in trouble, but to get them the help they need to do better. Will it work. It might not, but the ethical thing to do is to at least make the effort.

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