Nothing can produce so great a serenity of life as a mind free from guilt and kept untainted, not only from actions, but purposes that are wicked. By this means the soul will be not only unpolluted but also undisturbed. The fountain will run clear and unsullied.Plutarch
When we decide on which actions we’re going to take, often we are also deciding on what’s going to be in our minds afterwards. If we decide to do something that will hurt other people, we are also deciding to live with the guilt that’s inevitable after such actions. If we decide to steal or harm or cause pain, we decide also to live with ourselves after that act, and to live with our own consciences, no matter what they may tell us.
The only way to have a “clear and unsullied” mind is to make sure that our actions are not harmful to others. The only way to be free from guilty feelings is to keep ourselves free from actions that will cause us to feel guilty.
We all know that there is a lot of unjustified guilt in the world–people and institutions try to make us feel bad for things that we really shouldn’t feel guilty about at all–but that guilt takes a different approach to deal with. Plutarch is talking about the guilt that results from us knowingly doing something that we should feel guilty about, and keeping ourselves free from such actions. If I yell at one of my step-child for something she doesn’t deserve to be yelled at for, then the guilt that I feel later is of my own doing.
We can’t always control our actions and reactions as much as we’d like to, but most often, we can. We can think of what we’re about to do and ask ourselves if it’s the right thing for ourselves and for the other people affected by our actions. We can try to make sure that our actions will not make our minds “unclear”–that they won’t cause guilt to cloud our minds and keep us from feeling at peace.
Questions to ponder:
1. What kinds of actions cause you to feel guilty?
2. Can we truly go through life with a clear conscience?
3. What kinds of actions can you take to try to keep your mind clear of feelings that you’d prefer not to have?
For further thought:
Conscience, as a mentor, the guide and compass of every act, leads ever to happiness. When the individual can stay alone with his or her conscience and get its approval, without knowing force or specious knowledge, then he or she begins to know what real happiness is.
William G. Jordan
Credit: Living Life Fully