Monday, July 15, 2013

Do we have a Conscience?

First, let us look at the dictionary to understand what a conscience is.  My Webster’s from 1982 states: conscience is a moral sense or a knowledge of right and wrong.  When one is conscious-stricken we feel guilty or remorseful because of having done something wrong.

I looked at the word conscience which can be divided into: con and science.  Con comes from contra which is Latin for against.  Could it mean also against science or against knowledge (intellect)?  To follow one’s conscience is a very heartistic (coming from the heart) matter, often it doesn’t make any sense.  I believe that we all have a conscience but it has to be nurtured.  It takes discipline to keep a clear conscience, to keep out lies, false opinions, going with the flow of the majority, etc.  Here are some tips to strengthen your conscience, 10 steps to get a conscience.

“Conscience is not an infallible guide to behavior because it works according to the standards we have adopted.”
~ Alan S.L. Wong

In the tradition of the Abrahamic faiths (Judaism, Islam, and Christianity) conscience is a
God-given faculty.   Sigmund Freud, (1856-1939) the Austrian neurologist, thought that the conscience is part of the Superego which is the sum of things learned early in life about right and wrong.

In any case it depends on a standard of right and wrong.  When we consider the universal, natural laws, we might find an absolute, otherwise it depends on which society, tribe, organization one identifies with.

I read Susan Cain’s book “Quiet.”  She accounts for a historical view on how as a society we changed from a “culture of character focus” to a society being fascinated by extrovert personalities  and charisma.  In a loud world where the focus is on competition, success, and impressing one-an-other the quiet, withdrawn person is all too often overlooked.  That doesn't mean that the introvert has always a clear conscience.  I only observe that it takes quietness to nurture one's conscience.

Where does that leave the conscience?  I believe as a society we lost conscience.  When I look at our society today, I see people who are confused about right and wrong.  A standard of right and wrong has to be reinforced, not just with laws which are important if they apply for everybody in the same way.  We used to adhere to the “Golden Rule.”  As we have turned away from a “Nation Under God,”  (America is not the greatest country anymore) we find ourselves more and more drifting and people start to take the law in their own hands.

"The media must be free and must be self-governing. And self-governing media must also be a moral media. A moral media use their freedom to project, preserve and promote God-given human rights and dignity….A moral media must lead the fight against drug abuse, pornography, and the many other destructive vices of society. Thus, the media must become the conscience of society.”
~ Rev. Sun Myung Moon

A standard of integrity and honesty can only be followed when both mind and body work together focused on principle and ideals (like the constitution).

Part of an effective conscience is that we may feel guilty when we have done something wrong.

How to get rid of guilt?

Guilt is an emotion that occurs when a person believes that they have violated a moral standard that they themselves believe in.  Contrary to shame which is believed that: I am bad, guilt comes from behavior.  Guilt is both a cognitive and an emotional experience that occurs when a person realizes that he or she has violated a moral standard and is responsible for that violation. A guilty conscience results from thoughts that we have not lived up to our ideal self.

The benefit of feeling guilty is that it can be removed through remorse, rightful actions and forgiveness.  In the Christian tradition we talk about grace which comes from God to anyone who shows regret and removes himself from the wrongdoing.   Regret thinks, "What can I do now to repair past damage and prevent future harm?" Since we only can change things in the present, regret focuses on the present. 

Regret acknowledges the goodness of oneself in the present, rather than identifying with negative images of oneself from the past and the future.  Regret is self-affirming rather than self-hating and feeling responsible for any offense.

“The root of conscience can only be in God.”
~ Rev. Suyn Myung Moon

We are humans having a spiritual experience in this physical body.  On our journey here on
earth we are bound to make mistakes.  I believe that we are not responsible for what happens to us only how we respond to it.  If we act in good conscience we can achieve a level of peace and mental freedom which we all desire.

“Words can never adequately convey the incredible impact of our attitudes toward life. The longer I live the more convinced I become that life is 10 percent what happens to us and 90 percent how we respond to it.”
~ Charles R. Swindoll

No comments: