Thinking through temptations

When we can see that we're going to be cheating ourselves if we choose the tempting option, lots of good things happen. As I listed yesterday, choosing with this awareness of cheating ourselves has the effects of:
  • self policing: we catch ourselves before we pay in the long run, cheat ourselves or kid ourselves about the ultimate consequences
  • self-regulating: we limit how deviant and disruptive we can be before we cross the line of attracting suspicions, censure or confrontations
  • self-enhancing: we look after our best interests and long term benefits which are also good for the community over the long term
  • self-replicating: we do what works again with less uncertainty or hesitation which frees us to be more considerate and responsive to others
When all this occurs, our minds of functioning very differently than when we fall for the temptation to cheat others in some way. Here's some of that functionality:

  1. When encounter an apparent sucker we can take advantage of, we hesitate to jump to that obvious conclusion. We wonder if there is a relationship that can deteriorate from our "winner takes all" approach. We question whether we will gain a negative reputation or hurt a good one by proceeding arrogantly.
  2. When we find a loophole in the requirements and an easy out from all the workload, we catch ourselves getting tempted. We consider how the requirements offer some benefit to us personally. We wonder what pattern might get established by skating through the rigorous set-up.
  3. When we discover a reliance on an honor code without any oversight, we stop ourselves from assuming we'll never get caught. We consider how we may experience a sudden eruption of scruples, conscience or guilt in our own minds. We wonder how the payoff from the escapade compares to a penalty for opting for some dishonorable conduct.
  4. When we're handed a mischievous opportunity that will do no immediate harm to anyone, we question our appraisal of the potential damage. We consider the long term, systemic and hidden consequences of taking this action. We wonder whether the harm gets worse over time, builds up momentum before appearing significant or goes undetected until its too late to undo the damage.
We cannot think in these cautious an conscionable ways when we're under siege, faced with enemies or dealing with threats. Our strategies for coping with adversarial pressures preclude these thought patterns. We're compelled to over-react, misjudge the situation and leap at opportunities to cheat. We experience strong irrational urges which seem impossible to defy or dismiss. We compelled to be short sighted, impulsive and selfish.

We do not want to think these conscionable ways when we're getting manipulated, mistreated or disrespected. We're capable of thinking through these considerations, but we lack the motivation to do so. We feel like getting even since we are not getting understood, seen clearly or respected.

We successfully deploy these thought patterns when we really relating to, respecting and reciprocating among each other. We feel we can trust others and value their respect of us. We foresee the loss if we trash the relationship, escalate the context or raise suspicions about our motives. It's obvious we would only be cheating ourselves. We're pleased to be playing a winning game that's loaded with personal significance. We value how we play, how we come across to others and how we collaborate on mutually beneficial outcomes.

Of course, these are not the circumstances in many classrooms, factory floors and workplace cubicles. Cheating goes unchecked when people either cannot catch themselves or do not want to. We ask for that trouble by neglecting the parameters which support the elimination of cheating.

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