CHEATING ON TASKS
My theory on ethics is that the meaning of life is to fulfill your potential, and anything which helps you do that is good, and anything which hinders you is bad. Furthermore, it’s equally good to help other people fulfill their potential as it is to fulfill your own, and it’s equally bad to hinder other people as it is to hinder yourself.
Completing the overall goal of fulfilling your potential requires you to complete trillions of little goals throughout your life. Often times in life you’ll be assigned these tasks by people, like when a teacher gives you an exam. If you need to know the information on that test to accomplish a more important goal in the future, then cheating doesn’t benefit you. However, if the information being tested isn’t important, and the test is just a formality then it would behoove you to pass the test by any means necessary regardless of how you’re told you’re supposed to pass it.
Sometimes rules are best practices and should be followed because they guide you to success. Sometimes rules are just obstacles individuals put in your way for their own reasons. Rules exist to serve people. People don’t exist to serve rules. So if a rule doesn’t benefit you, then it negates its authority. You have no moral obligation to follow arbitrary rules. In those cases, the best thing you can do for yourself is to think outside the box, ignore the rules and take the shortest path from Point A to Point B.
However, just because you can cheat, and just because a rule may be illogical, that doesn’t mean it’s always in your best interest to cheat because rules usually come with consequences. Anytime you take a risk, you need to do a cost/benefit risk analysis. If you stand to lose more by getting caught than you stand to gain by succeeding, then it’s illogical to take the risk. Sometimes, the quickest shortcut is years of hard work and dedication.
CHEATING ON LOVERS
Marriage/commitment isn’t commanded or ordained by God. It’s a cultural practice that gives structure to people’s lives. Marriage laws are just rules people thought up and wrote down on paper.
It’s only right to follow a rule when it represents the best instruction to follow to accomplish a goal that helps you fulfill your potential without harming anyone else. When the rules become obstacles between you and your potential, then they’re not a moral imperative. They’re bad ideas, and it would be irresponsible to follow them.
This doesn’t mean you have permission to do whatever you want as long as you justify it by saying you’re fulfilling your potential. The reason we fall in love and make commitments is because it helps us fulfill our potential. It’s a tactical decision we make subconsciously. Our brains analyze other people, size them up, and determine if their assets can help or hinder us achieve the goals that are most important to us. 99.9% of the people we meet fail Cupid’s cost/benefit analysis. Those who score the worst, we ignore, avoid, dislike and even hate. Sometimes we don’t even know why we dislike a person, and we may feel guilty about it, but the reason is because a little “angel” on our shoulder whispered in our ear to beware of them.
Falling in love is the most selfless thing you’ll ever do in the sense that you’ll have to share your destiny and all your worldly assets with another person. On another level, it’s the most selfish thing you’ll ever do, because you’re not just giving away all your stuff to a stranger as a gift. You’re investing your resources in an opportunity that your subconscious speculates will give you the highest return on investment.
This may sound like a stoic speech on love from Ayn Raynd, but the difference between my philosophy and hers is she believes selfishness is the greatest good, and other people are only valuable to the extent that they can help you. I say everyone is equally valuable. Doing things that help you is the definition of responsibility, and being completely selfless is throwing the baby out with the bath water. Virtue lies in finding a healthy balance. So if you and your lover decide you can achieve more together than on your own, then join forces. Just don’t delude yourselves; b honest about the symbiotic nature of your relationship and make the most out of it.
If you take a lover as an ally in your quest to achieve your goals, be wary of the fact that everyone’s goals change as they grow older. The best life-partner for you as a teenager isn’t necessarily going to be the best life-partner for you as an adult. When culture and laws dictate that relationships have to last forever, and partners should endure whatever miseries it takes to stay together, people end up staying in relationships that aren’t good for anyone. We should be consciously analyzing our lovers to make sure the cost/benefit analysis of staying together continues to add up, and when it doesn’t, we should move on.
If you find yourself in a relationship that is holding you back more than it’s moving you forward, your subconscious Cupid will start whispering in your ear, telling you to leave. No matter how hard you try to consciously convince yourself you’re still in love, your subconscious already did the math and determined you shouldn’t want to be with this person. If you don’t just die inside and accept a life of unfulfilling cold comfort, your heart and hands may stray to another person.
If the new person really is better suited to you than the last, then you should give into temptation and be with them, but you should formally end your previous relationship first. Its purpose for existing is over. So staying with them isn’t helping either of you, but betraying your ex-ally just hurts them and wastes your time by making your life unnecessarily complicated. Yes, breaking up hurts too, but the benefits outweigh the cost.
If you do decide to cheat, and you feel guilty about it afterwards, then you’re hurting yourself unnecessarily, and you’re not going to be able to give your all in your existing relationship, which hurts your partner and lowers their ability to give their all, which leads to a downward spiral of dysfunction and unhappiness.
You may be able to cheat guilt-free and never get caught, and you may tell yourself as long as your partner isn’t hurt by the knowledge of your infidelity, then you can have your cake and eat it too. It may look like you’re maximizing your potential happiness, but if you stand to lose more than you have to gain by cheating, then cheating is illogical. Plus, cheating isn’t free. You have to sacrifice time, effort and honesty to pull it off. If monogamy isn’t your thing, then you should just be with someone who is polyamorous, polygamist or a swinger. Then you won’t have to pay anything for your cake. Or maybe we should all lighten up a little and give each other some leeway.
If you’re single, and someone who is already in a relationship tries to cheat on their partner with you, technically you’re not breaking any divine law by giving into temptation. However, if your actions hurt the person being cheated on, then you’ve undermined the purpose of life, which is bad and thus wrong. Even if the partner never finds out, the cheater might return to their lover stressed, guilty and distant, and if that doesn’t cause conspicuous pain, it can still degrade the quality of both people’s lives. In that case, the cheater is guilty of their part in the crime, and you’re guilty as an accomplice.
But life isn’t always so simple. If someone wants to cheat on their partner with you, then their heart doesn’t belong to their partner. They’ve already got one foot out the door, and cheating is just a formality that confirms what was already true. Their relationship could have been dead for years. Their partner could be an abusive cheater themselves, in which case, why should you honor a social contract that they don’t? If the contract they have with their partner isn’t important to them, then it’s not important. Fidelity is just a rule someone else told them they have to follow and they pay lip service to but otherwise ignore.
If you fall in love with someone who is perfect for you, and you’re perfect for them, but they’re committed to a terrible person, then by all means, take that lover for yourself. But do it in a way that causes the least harm. Sneaking around with a married person isn’t good for anyone, and neither is waiting for the situation to blow up when the jilted lover discovers the truth.
Life is complicated, and every moral decision needs to be made on a case-by-case basis. Cheating isn’t wrong because someone once wrote in a book that it is. The morality of your actions is based on the fact that life is valuable, and if you value people, then you should help them maximize their life as much as your own. Staying with your lover may not be the quickest path between Point A and Point B, but infidelity tends to be a much longer route… but there are exceptions to every rule.
P.S. Every person I’ve ever known who was a serial cheater, acted extremely possessive of the person they were cheating on. They would constantly check up on them and accuse them of wanting to cheat because they were projecting their guilt and paranoia onto their victim. If you know someone who acts like that, they’re probably cheating.
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