Speaking of... Life, Hope & Truth

How About Performance-Enhancing Morality?

Another shameful scandal has now captured the headlines, with over a dozen professional baseball players suspended for cheating and/or lying. Potential Hall of Famers and newcomers alike were all connected to using PEDs—performance-enhancing drugs—banned because it gives an unnatural and unfair advantage. They are only the latest in a long string of sports figures caught cheating this way, many of whom compounded their problems by arrogantly lying about it.

So these guys will be all over the news, and we’ll hear renewed calls to clean up the game. But instead of acting as if our entertainment is somehow unrelated to the way we live, it’s time we—as a society—hold up the mirror to ourselves.

It’s time for some performance-enhancing morality because, frankly, we’re not doing very well on a lot of character issues. Are we ready to take a long, hard look at our own lives and engage in a serious discussion, not about sports corruption but societal corruption? If not, castigating these athletes while turning a blind eye to our own sins is hypocritical because, frankly, if you think the report on cheating in baseball looks bad, you ought to read the reports about Americans cheating and lying in everyday life!

James Patterson and Peter Kim wrote one such report after they anonymously interviewed thousands of people around the United States, asking them to honestly answer questions about a number of behavioral habits and beliefs. They published the findings in their book The Day America Told the Truth: What People Really Believe About Everything That Really Matters. 

“Disturbing” only mildly describes the level of dishonesty among Americans, by our own admission! “Lying has become an integral part of the American culture, a trait of the American character,” Patterson and Kim wrote. “Just about everyone lies—91 percent of us lie regularly. We lie and don’t even think about it. We lie for no reason.” Maybe this comes from the fact that “only 31 percent of us believe that honesty is the best policy.” Sixty-four percent admitted, “I will lie when it suits me, so long as it doesn’t cause any real damage.”

Another self-admitted truth is that we cheat in all areas of life, the worst being on our spouses, but also in virtually every level of society—school, journalism, government, law, business—you name it. Closely related to cheating is stealing, and 74 percent agreed with the statement, “I will steal from those who won’t really miss it.” Apparently, they think they won’t miss their own integrity and honor either!

The character problems are not just limited to cheating and lying, though. “What would you do for $10 million?” the survey asked. 

  • 25 percent said they would abandon their entire family.
  • 23 percent would become prostitutes for a week.
  • 7 percent would kill a stranger.

Come on, America! (And the rest of the world too—are we really all that much different?) It’s time to accept the fact that we have some serious problems, far bigger than cheating in baseball!
Why? What’s happening to us?

Could it have anything to do with some of the other survey results? For instance, only 13 percent of us believe in all of the 10 Commandments, and only 40 percent believe in any five of them. In fact, 77 percent agreed with the statement “I don’t see the point of observing the Sabbath”—commandment No. 4. In other words, “What’s your point, God?” Maybe that’s why 93 percent said that they—and nobody else, not even God—determine what is and isn’t moral in their lives.

What I didn’t tell you about The Day America Told the Truth is that it was written 22 years ago. What would the same questions reveal about ourselves today? Does anyone really believe people are more moral today than they were two decades ago?

We need some performance-enhancing, all right—in morals and character. Instead of focusing on some athletes injecting drugs, it’s time to start focusing on ourselves keeping commandments.

For Life, Hope & Truth, I’m Clyde Kilough.