Cheating delivers a big, fat, juicy, nothing-burger. Another definition for cheating is, “I don’t care.”
Like human students, horses learn to cheat when they think they can get away with it and don’t have a significant relationship with the teacher. Cheating horses only do what’s necessary to remove the pressure, to satisfy. No foundation, security, leadership, trust, or confidence is established.
The complicating issue is figuring out what’s missing. “I don’t care” — about what? The person? The task or topic? The art form? The goal?
The biggest hammer against cheaters is relationship with the teacher. When you revere a teacher you work hard to gain his or her approval and master the lesson material. In right relationships, students never dream of cramming because it so disrespects the teacher.
I was a figure skater for years. My skating pro, Lou Atwood, was tough. But I respected her and worked my tail off to deliver perfection. When needed, I invested endless hours on the ice between lessons.
Any positive comment from Lou was ample motivation to keep me working. Lou always gave her best and expected the same in return. She never yelled or demeaned, but only accepted students with a significant work ethic and proven commitment.
Having Lou Atwood as a coach was HUGE.
Cheating as Self-Sabotage
Without the motivation to do more, there’s no reason to work harder for horse or human. Some folks cheat on things they do care about with disastrous results because it’s a form of self-sabotage. Which accepts less than what you’re capable of doing or being, which then becomes an option and even a new habit. When you cheat, forward movement comes to a full stop before slipping silently into reverse.
It’s human nature, not the horse’s nature, to believe everyone and everything else works the same way we do. If I’m greedy, I believe everyone else is greedy. People who trust assume that others do, too. If I cheat, I take it for granted that everyone else cheats. Everyone who loves looks for love in others.
Research proves that you get more of what you reward. If you reward cheating, horses learn to be more creative and frequent cheaters. If we reward “adequate”, then we’ll get more adequate performance.
Trust me, both God and horses know the difference.
Cheating is a Character Flaw
No one makes you cheat. You don’t cheat because you can’t do something, but because it isn’t worth it to expend the effort. The noble thing to do is just say, “No.”
My skating pro eventually retired and a younger woman took her place at the rink. She was accomplished and good natured, frequently complimenting my work and offering tips for improvement.
Which drove me nuts.
Motivation is Everything
On lesson days, Lou Atwood examined my form and tracings, noting every flaw with laser focus. Until I mastered something, she showed me the evidence of what I’d done imperfectly so I could judge my performance on non-lesson days objectively, gave instruction, then went on to her next student.
Every morning I worked to be just a bit better than I was the day before. On the next lesson day I wanted Lou to see that I listened to her instruction, applied it, and practiced it. It was all about respect for her and for me.
Defeated by “Good Enough”
The new, more personable pro, gave compliments and encouragement with her instruction. She never held me to the standard she knew I could deliver. Good enough was good enough.
I never cheated, but I quit working as hard because delivering the best I was capable of didn’t matter. If you happily accept 80%, then that’s what you’ll get.
God doesn’t accept good enough. He knows what you can do and is capable of helping you do things you can’t imagine. Your best effort, doing the highest you know how, is the only answer He accepts.
No Reserve, No Regret
Respect the Lord and yourself, never leave anything in the locker room. Bring it all to the field and push forward. The more you know and apply His word without reservation, the further up the holy mountain you climb.
Related post: 6 Reasons Why Your Horse Doesn’t Trust You
Another related post: Do You Worry You’re Not Doing Enough?
If you’re a new visitor, welcome! Many subscribers are horse folks so I often use horse illustrations. What’s true is always true and horses are great teachers.
Some of this content was originally published in Amazing Grays, Amazing Grace—Lessons in leadership, relationship, and the power of faith inspired by the love of God and horses.