It’s been almost 20 years ago now. I still remember the name of the class: Psychology 2017 – Advanced Experimental Statistical Psychology. It was the final exam of the lab part of the lecture/lab class. Although I had pulled an all-nighter to prepare for the final, my mind went blank when I needed it the most. Little did I realize, the decisions I made next would impact my family forever.
After looking on the computer screens around me and plainly copying their answers to make them my own, I turned in my exam. I walked out of the room feeling disgusted with myself, but hoped that feeling would wear off a few hours after class.
It wasn’t until the next week that I realized I had finally been caught. The professor, who I had never spoken to prior to my final exam, asked if he could briefly speak with me after class. He explained to me that I had Form A of the exam, yet all my answers lined up perfectly with Form B. Ever the smart aleck, he went on to explain the statistical probability for arriving at the opposite test’s answers without cheating – practically zero.
Needless to say, I was caught red-handed.
Have you ever reflected back on horrible decisions you made in your past, and how God – in His infinite grace – somehow took it and used it for His good? This is one of those cases for me. I think these points in our life should not quickly be forgotten. Instead, we should find the lessons learned in the midst of the failure and build from there.
Here are a few of mine:
1. Humility – I was a christian at the time. In fact, I was growing in my relationship with Christ. I knew that cheating was sin, but in the situation I panicked. My cover was blown. I was far from perfect. Since I grew up in Baton Rouge, I remember feeling like Jimmy Swaggart when he publicly confessed the sin in his life. I felt cheap, small, dirty and outcast. From that point on, when I read stories of the adulteress woman, or of a dishonest tax collector, I now related to the “dirty” people. As a husband, I don’t see myself as better than my wife. Instead, I am grateful that God has provided such an amazing woman that I can share life with.
2. Confession – In my case, I was forced to meet with the Dean of Students of the university. I was told that the minimum penalty for cheating on a test was failure of the course. Once that was explained, they asked for my plea; guilty or not-guilty. I didn’t just plead guilty. I explained to the Dean that I was a christian, and that this action was unacceptable. I assured him I had learned a big lesson and was ready for whatever consequence was coming my way. As a husband, I need to be honest when I sin. Being honest with my wife about my sin doesn’t allow a wall to build up between us.
3. Consequences – The material in the class was not interesting to me in the least. I know that very well, as I took that class TWICE, with the exact same professor. In fact, on the first day of class the second time through, the professor explained to everyone that he hated cheaters, and that there was one in the room from the previous semester. I just about crawled under my chair. I had never been so embarrassed. As a husband, I need to think about the aftermath of the decisions in front of me. The consequences I faced have been an ongoing reminder to me to live a live that is above reproach.
4. Forgiveness – The day that I got caught cheating, my parents brought me spaghetti to my apartment. I still remember that clearly. They hugged me, reminded me they loved me, and showed genuine concern for me. When I expected shame, anger or ridicule, I received grace and mercy. As a husband, I want to be quick to forgive, knowing that I have received forgiveness already. I can apply this to both my wife and kids.
5. Protection – That day sitting in that classroom, I saw what I was capable of. I was able to lay down what I knew to be right, in order to pick up what I knew to be easy. If I did it then, then I could surely do it again today. As a husband, I have put in place many protective barriers, to guard my family. I never meet with women alone. Never. I invite the wisdom and accountability of friends and mentors. I don’t cheat on my taxes, or other present-day opportunities to cut corners.
What have you learned from some bad decisions in your past?