Conscience, as I understand it, is the impulse to do the right thing because it is right, regardless of personal ends, and has nothing to do with the ability to distinguish between right and wrong.-Margaret Collier Graham
May my conscience be my guide, but only if I trust it and follow it truly. My conscience knows what’s right and what’s wrong, but my rational mind tends to play around with all that my conscience tells me is right and true. It’s right to do this, but doing it doesn’t help me financially; not doing it holds financial rewards that may benefit my entire family. So by not doing it, I help my whole family, even if I’m not doing what I know is right.
When we try to judge the differences between right and wrong, we fall into the trap of passing judgment, and that rarely helps us out. Margaret puts it simply: conscience is the impulse to do the right thing because it is right. If we leave the idea there, many of our decisions become much simpler, less bogged down in the right/wrong argument. We don’t have to define our terms, and the grey areas are fewer and less foggy.
What is the right thing? Sometimes we do the right thing and we see disastrous results; perhaps the disaster was the most important thing that’s happened to the people involved. Sometimes we do the right thing and see no results at all, but we never know how our actions will affect other people years down the road. The question becomes much simpler when we don’t have to define “right” and “wrong,” when we trust ourselves to do what we know inside is right.
Questions to consider:
Why is it sometimes difficult to do things that we know are right?
What are some of the positive effects of doing the right thing based on our conscience? What are some of the negative effects? Which effects tend to be long-term, and which short-term?
Why do we feel that we need to have clear definitions of right and wrong? Is ours a black-and-white world in which distinctions are easy to draw?
For further thought:
Conscience is the root of all free courage; if one would be brave, let one obey one’s conscience. -James F. Clark