When Is It Okay to Cheat?

Jello de los Reyes

August 27, 2019

A student messaged me one day: “Kuya, I’m answering an online exam right now. I found out that our teacher just copied the questions from the internet, and I saw the answer key to the exam. He didn’t really teach us how to do this, and he rarely attends our class. What should I do?”

Situations like this are very tricky and can shake our convictions. Many of us (myself included) have either tried or have been tempted to cheat on exams, quizzes, assignments, or projects.

Here are some sticky situations that you may have encountered in school.

Situation #1: The Unpleasant Surprise

We’ve all experienced this: the dreaded surprise quiz! We’ve all felt the panic, heard the collective “Whaaaaaaaaat???” of our classmates, and summoned our favorite superhero, “Bahala na si Batman.”

The surprise becomes even more unpleasant when you haven’t reviewed at all or have not understood a thing. Sometimes, the “help” that “Batman” gives comes in the form of a little kodigo from the back row, a reliable seatmate, an open notebook under your desk, or a mobile phone with fast and reliable data. Can you relate?

Situation #2: The Accidental Look

Maybe it wasn’t really your intention to cheat, but as you we were looking around trying to remember the answers through your photographic memory, your eyes landed on your seatmate’s paper. Then, lo and behold, the answer found you! Does this make you a cheater or just a lucky guy? Haha.

Situation #3: The Permissive Prof

I’ve had this teacher way back in high school and we call him “The Sleeping Guard.” After distributing the test papers, he just tells his students, “Bahala na kayo dyan ah.” Then he would sit on his table, read the newspaper, and pretend not to notice what was going on. When your professor himself permits you to “cheat, will you grab the opportunity?

***

When we get to the bottom of it, the question isn’t really about whether the situation permits us to cheat or not. The question is about whether our beliefs and convictions see cheating as morally acceptable. It’s not about what’s going on around us that will tell us it’s okay to cheat or not; it’s about what’s going on in our hearts and minds that will either drive us to cheat or keep us from cheating.

What drives you to cheat?
As technology gets more advanced, students also become more “creative” and “enterprising” in carrying out their evil schemes. Cheating comes in different forms, as well as the reasons behind why people cheat.

  • Peer pressure. In the name of pakikisama, many students fall into the trap of cheating. Others have even come up with elaborate “cheating arrangements” involving the entire class, and when you refuse to cooperate, you’ll be kicked out from the “tribe” or the “in” crowd.Because of this, some would rather cheat or compromise than be alienated or lose their friends. Cheating, then, becomes a result of one’s fear of rejection. Have you ever compromised this way because you’re afraid that people might reject you?

 

  • Pressure from people’s expectations. The pressure may come from different sides: your parents, teachers, classmates, or friends who expect you to be perfect or excel in your studies and exams. In order to meet these expectations, some students would rather cheat to pass their subjects than fail and disappoint the people around them. The desire to meet people’s expectations or to keep their reputation is just too strong.Cheating, in this case, becomes an issue of self-worth. When we measure our worth based on our grades, we will be tempted to cheat in order to maintain our reputation or to please other people.

 

  • Pressure because of one’s circumstance. Sometimes, the pressure does not come from people but from our personal circumstances. For instance, some students need to maintain a scholarship, others can’t afford to retake a subject, while some students are already pressured to graduate for various reasons.I’m sure there are many other reasons why students cheat—fear of failure, low self-esteem, or deliberate negligence. But, is cheating ever excusable?

The quick answer is NO. Why?

1. Cheating is an issue of integrity.

Cheating is a form of dishonest gain. The Bible says unjust gains bring trouble on its doer (Proverbs 15:27) and this could “rob them of life” (Proverbs 1:19, NLT). Cheating is unjust, even if the situation seemingly permits it.

Integrity is doing the right thing even when no one is looking. It’s about doing what’s right even if you’re the only one who’s making the right stand. I love how Job said this, even in the midst of severe sufferings and the judgment of his friends: “I will defend my integrity until I die.” (Job 27:5)

According to John Macdonald, an American author, “Integrity is not a conditional word. It doesn’t blow in the wind or change with the weather. It is your inner image of yourself, and if you look in there and see a man who won’t cheat, then you know he never will.”

Will you stand up for your integrity even when everyone around you is compromising toward unjust gain?

2. Cheating can become a destructive habit.

All habits start with a single, seemingly harmless deed. When you get away scot-free from one instance of cheating, it could lead you to repeat the act, until it becomes a destructive habit that shows up in other areas of your life. Worse, it could lead to other things as you spiral into the habit of cheating, such as chronic lying or willfully deceiving people.

3. Cheating is an issue of faith.

When we think that our future relies solely on our hard work and human effort, we could be tempted to compromise when our efforts don’t pay off as expected. But when we see the power and sovereignty of God, we can come to Him for help when our human efforts fail us.

Every time I see or hear students worrying about an upcoming exam, I always tell them to just do their part, be diligent in studying, and then leave the results to God. He is powerful enough to make you pass your exams, even if you don’t know all the answers. But if He allows you to experience failure, His purpose for your life will still stand. Be in faith that your failures will never forfeit or nullify God’s purposes. There’s no need to cheat your way to your dreams when God has already written your destiny.

Jesus has freed us from the need to cheat. On the cross, He has restored our honor, sealed our identity, settled our worth, and secured our future. Because of this, we can be assured that we have a bright future ahead of us and that our self-worth will never be diminished even by a failing score.

Your worth is more than just the grades on your report card. It is forever sealed by Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.

Back to my story: I asked the student what he thinks is the right thing to do, and he did it. Instead of copying the answers to the online exam, he studied the lessons by himself so he can answer the test with integrity and without guilt.

I hope that whenever you are faced with the same situation, you will choose to anchor your faith and hope in Jesus, not on something that you think will help you in a sticky situation but will actually harm you. Cheating is never the solution.

Photo credits: Shubham Sharan

2K Shares

The Author

Jello de los Reyes

Jello is an introvert who loves to spend time with students. He once dreamed of becoming a journalist to expose evil in government, but God’s destiny for him is to root out evil in the hearts of men as a minister of the gospel. For him, nothing beats the joy of seeing young students surrender their lives to Christ. Jello currently serves as the editor-in-chief of ENC.ph and the campus director of Every Nation Campus Imus.

VIEW OTHER POSTS BY THE AUTHOR