I was caught cheating on an exam. My teacher offered to forget about it for $100, which I can well afford. He would then let me re-take the test. What should I do? I need the class to graduate.

Stand in front of a mirror and ask yourself: Can I look myself in the eye, knowing that I made it to graduation not because of what I learned but because I cheated? Does my diploma represent my real achievement, since I paid a bribe to complete a class?

That was hard to do, wasn’t it?

Both you and your teacher made poor choices, but two wrongs do not make a right (or, in the language of Catholic moral theology, one cannot do evil that good may come of it.) Now you both have an opportunity to change direction. Tell the instructor that you will admit to cheating and accept the consequences, even if that means delayed graduation. Your school’s disciplinary proceedings will probably give you a chance to explain what you learned from the incident and how you will behave differently in the future. Honesty will not only make it easier to look yourself in the eye but will also indicate your growth in character. As you go forward in life, your integrity will be a much greater asset to you than any gains you might have falsely secured by cheating on the exam.

Neela Kale

Neela Kale is a writer and catechetical minister based in the Archdiocese of Portland. She served with the Incarnate Word Missionaries in Mexico and earned a Master of Divinity at the Jesuit School of Theology. Some of her best theological reflection happens on two wheels as she rides her bike around the hills of western Oregon.