“I’ve never quite understood how people cheat on their loved ones. Seems like the ultimate selfish, immature act. Put those you love first.”
I posted this on Facebook and Twitter yesterday and received a few contrasting replies, but mostly a consensus agreement with the sentiment. I don’t understand cheating. I’ve written about it on this blog in passing twice before – see Quit With the F’ing Excuses and The Modern (Insecure) Man - but have never devoted an entire entry to the act. Unfortunately, it’s the first time that I’ve actually been personally exposed to cheating, having dealt with it recently – so that explains my inspiration for this post. I’m not attempting to make this a veiled passive-aggressive attempt at airing grievances – I’ve already done that and moved on. Instead, I’m legitimately interested in evaluating the whole concept of cheating – why it happens and how you should react to it. I’ve certainly given it plenty of thought over the past month.
The problem is that every attempt to explain it rationally seems like a stretch. In my mind, there is no justifiable reason to cheat on another human being. Selfish reasons? Lustful reasons? Immature reasons? Certainly. Valid and rational reasons? Not so much. Honestly, I think the primary issue with cheating is that it shouldn’t be viewed as a uniquely poor act. Cheating can be related to any form of action that causes someone else harm. While emotional pain doesn’t manifest itself in the manner of cuts, scrapes, and bruises – it is certainly no less painful or malicious than physical harm. In fact, it has been argued by many that an attack of an emotional variety is generally worse than a physical one – not that either should be condoned.
To cheat is to make a conscious decision that you are willing to take a course of action that you know will harm another human being. It is as simple as that. The thought process has determined that hurting this person that you seemingly love or care for is an appropriate and acceptable course of action. If it’s not deemed an appropriate course of action, then the chance exists that the cheater is either being ignorant to their own morality or that a person just has decided that they want to make a bad decision – and recognize that it’s a bad decision. The former seems more likely, and honestly is a bit less malicious. I hope the latter, however, is a much less frequent occurrence.
I have faith in people to be good. I subscribe to the John Locke tabula rasa theory that people are born with a blank slate, and are not inherently bad or evil. I firmly believe that. I would even venture to extend my own belief to the fact that from a biological standpoint, we are inherently good. That one is more an extension of my own optimism about our nature than something that should be looked at factually. The problem with the argument that we’re all good people at heart is that the definition of good is a societally founded one. Good can mean a lot of different things for a lot of different people. However – I don’t think it is an extension of my optimism to believe that anything that causes someone else harm could be misconstrued as a good act. That only further compounds my annoyance with the entire act of cheating – there really is no way to spin it to be deemed as an even neutral act, much less a good one.
How to respond to cheating is an entirely different animal unto itself. From my prior words on cheating in the two articles that I linked above – I am very black and white on the issue. ”Zero tolerance” was my purported stance. I honestly don’t think that my stance has changed much, but being on the poor end of the situation has certainly softened my view on what seemed to be a clear issue to me before. While I still don’t tolerate it, I acknowledge the difficulty in handling and processing what has happened – particularly if, like me, you’ve never cheated on anyone. Beyond the initial pain and sting of the betrayal, which was fairly overwhelming, I’ve drifted through a sense of shock and anger. Shock that someone I love has the capacity to behave in such a manner and anger that someone would take our relationship and my feelings for granted.
It is a cruel and vile act – but unfortunately one all too common. We are not perfect. I am certainly not perfect. However, I’ve never had difficulty in restraining or controlling my emotions and affections.
This is a major reason that I have espoused internal growth in my life, to my friends, and on this blog for the last 10 years. A profoundly deep understanding of your own emotions and thoughts is integral to living a happy life. If you can understand the things that affect your day-to-day, you can appropriately react to them. I cannot stress the importance of being self-aware enough. I cannot stress the importance of challenging yourself enough. I cannot stress the importance of learning about all of your strengths and flaws enough.
Lack of comfort and knowledge of one’s own mind leads to insecurities. Insecurities lead to poor decisions. Poor decisions harm those that you truly care about and care about you. Why would you not do everything in your power every single day to minimize that risk? Shutting your mind to the reasons you behave the way you do or the actions you take will only serve to perpetuate and exacerbate the problem.
Of course, I could be completely off base. Perhaps the act of cheating isn’t viewed as highly negative as I’ve portrayed it here. Perhaps the resulting pain shouldn’t be as profound as I’ve felt and conveyed here. I’m certainly not impervious to overreacting. It’s hard, though, to imagine given my philosophy on life – that love and passion are the most important things of all – that I am embellishing the issue here. For that reason, it will remain to be a very important distinction and act that defines a person’s character in my eyes.
Love isn’t hard. It is a singular word, an entirely self-sufficient verb on its own. The world spends a lot of time expounding on, romanticizing about, and describing love… but none of it is needed. If you ever want to know how to behave, look at the word itself as an action…