It only matters if you’re caught

Yesterday I went into a 2nd hand furniture store since I’m considering buying a 2nd-hand couch. One of the questions I asked the guy was if there are bedbugs. I know, dumb question because of course he was sure to explain to me that of course none of his stuff has those horrible pests.

I said, “Because the last thing I would want would be to infest a whole building with bedbugs.”

He said, “Don’t worry, no one would ever know that it was you anyway. If one of your neighbours says they got bedbugs, you just act innocent, wondering how that could have happened.”

Him and I were talking about totally different things! I was talking about doing something inconsiderate to other people and he was talking about getting caught! His perspective was that it only matters if you get caught!

This is far from the first time I’m hearing this attitude. Over and over again I hear people talk about doing things that are immoral and/or illegal and the immorality of the act isn’t what matters, only the getting caught. As long as they know they won’t get caught, it’s fine for them to do it.

Where does this idea even come from?!

In Judaism there is an idea that you should try to do kind acts (chesed חסד) without people knowing. One of the reasons being that many of us are at least partially motivated by the virtual pat on the back we will get from doing a nice thing for someone else. But it’s important to do nice things just because it’s the right thing to do.

It’s the same thing here. It’s important to do the right thing, even if no one else would have known if you’d done the wrong thing. Even if you wouldn’t have been caught.

Actually, to make it even sadder, sometimes it feels like people do these immoral things also partially with the motivation of telling others about it afterwards when they get away with it.

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