Jiminy Cricket had it right when he said to Pinocchio, "Let your conscience be your guide." But the naïve and trusting Pinocchio was still led astray to the sinful Pleasure Island.
The concept of conscience is prominent in most world religions including Hinduism, Zoroastrian, Buddhism, Islam, and Judaism. In the literary traditions of the Bhagavad Gita, conscience is the label given to attributes composing knowledge about good and evil, that a soul gains from the completion of acts and consequent accretion of karma over many lifetimes. (Thankfully, I do not adhere to the prospect of reincarnation… this one life is hard enough!) For thousands of years, philosophers and scientists have agreed that human beings possess a conscience, but they disagree about why we have one and the brain function that creates it.
Our conscience leads us to feel remorse when we commit an act that conflicts with our moral values. As Christians, the Holy Spirit lives within us to guide us toward righteous behavior. The problem is that we often don’t listen to that still small voice and allow the loud voice of the world to influence how we conduct ourselves.
Remember the cartoon of a horned devil with a long, pointed tail wearing a red cape and holding a pitchfork perched on one shoulder and a winged angel dressed in white on the other shoulder? Both are whispering in the ear of some poor soul trying to convince him or her to their way of thinking. It is a wonderful image of the moral dilemmas we face every day. My advice? Listen to the one with the halo.
Until next time,