Why You Don’t Have a Conscience
We all want to “do the right thing.”
We want to make ethically and morally sound decisions. (Most of the time.)
But how do we know what the right thing to do is? How do we decide?
Most of us rely on vague intuition mixed with general social pressure.
We basically try to do what everyone else does.
Some of us have a highly developed inner moral voice that cracks the whip and dangles us over the fiery flames of hell.
This usually comes from early (sometimes abusive) religious training that focused more on strict and rigid moral codes than God’s loving forgiveness.
Most people “do the right thing” out of shame, wanting to be liked, or fear of punishment.
That doesn’t seem like a very sound foundation for living a good life, especially one that abounds with joy, peace, patience, and the other fruits of the Spirit.
As Christians we rely on conscience to help us make moral choices.
But most of us have not taken the time as mature adults to reexamine whatever childhood images we had of “the still small voice.”
Conscience is not just the internalized voice of the parent or the authority figure. That’s a child’s vision of conscience.
It’s a good place to start—we all learn how to care for other people by coming up against structure and boundaries as children.
But moral decision-making as adults should have a spiritual character deeper than a memorized set of rules.
(And many times, those most obsessed with “the rules” use them mostly to build up their own power and beat others down with shame.)
So how do we explore conscience as adult actors in a moral universe? Continue reading