I used to cheat at online Scrabble.
I've written about that before, without admitting what it was.
I was not proud of it, and continue to be unproud of it.
And then, I figured out, with the help of a good friend, that the easy way out was that I could quit playing online Scrabble, which would eliminate the cheating from my life, since, generally, I'm not a cheater.
It totally worked.
More than a year later, I eased back into playing online Scrabble, with a couple of trusted friends. I was completely honest with them about why I'd quit playing before, and made the deal with them that if I felt inclined to cheat, I'd quit again, rather than cheating and feeling horrible about it.
And I have been tempted a couple of times, when I was losing a game I thought I should be able to win, but it has only been a couple of times, and I have not succumbed. And here's the thing: My score, my ranking, has suffered almost not at all.
Which means I cheated all that time, felt awful all that time, beat myself up all that time for no reason. Cheating didn't actually make me better at Scrabble. It only made me feel like crap.
Now, that's not quite literally true. The other thing it made me feel was safe. It made me feel like other people might not know how dumb and inadequate I was. But that safety was a big lie, because my ranking was the same. Cheating bzzzzgrrrl appeared exactly as dumb as non-cheating bzzzzgrrrl appears.
I have a similar story about artificial sweeteners: After decades of consuming them, I quit them completely a little more than two years ago. I have gained no weight as a result, even though I now drink nasty soda full of corn syrup (which I will also some day quit). That's because I'm not messing with my metabolism anymore.
I've struggled with other demons, addictions, more serious moral dilemmas, and I am coming to see how often the struggle itself is a lie. So often, what feels safe offers no real benefit over the thing that feels scary.
Day 4 of our month of gratitude: I'm thankful for those little glimmers of awareness that the harder right thing to do is actually, often, not that much harder than living with the consequences of the easier wrong thing to do. Those glimmers aren't always evident, but when they are? I'm thankful.