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Most men sell their souls and live with a good conscience on the proceeds.
Logan Pearsall Smith, American-British editor and essayist (1865-1946)

All of my life I have had a conscience that worked overtime. I can remember only two lies that I told as a child (though there may have been more–but I don’t remember any.) Both involved getting into something that I shouldn’t have, and fearing to tell the truth about it. The first was my mother’s colored bath oil beads. I was fascinated by the beautiful rainbow colors, and must have put some in the tub (it’s all rather fuzzy.) But when I was asked, I declared that I did not. The other time was when I put M&Ms into a coke bottle. Much to my shock, the candy caused the drink to foam over like a raging volcano. My stepfather, who I was greatly afraid of at the time, inquired if I had put anything in the drink, and once again I denied my actions. I guess I still remember those times because they were so contrary to my nature. I was a very compliant and trustworthy child, who did not make a practice of telling lies. In fact, to this day, if I tell a willful lie, I will start to throw up, until I tell the truth. (A very good deterrent to lying, I might add.)

I believe that trust is essential in relationships. It means that I can count on you to demonstrate consistent, reliable character over time. I can depend on you, and place my confidence in you. And while none of us are perfect, if I trust you, I know that you will not purposefully deceive or hurt me. I think marriages, and most friendships, are built on that kind of trust.

People who are not trustworthy will continually break your heart. As they engage in lies over and over, their conscience becomes seared. It is easier and easier to tell a lie, because they have pushed down that inner voice for so long. It becomes a matter of just turning off the switch, and repressing the feelings that guide what is right and what is wrong. They say that animals do not have a conscience, and indeed, man becomes an animal without one.

It is also necessary to explore where the rules (that guide the conscience) have come from. I imagine that a great deal of what we describe as “listening to our conscience”, is actually living our lives based on what we have been taught is right or wrong. Certainly we could become very liberal in our thinking, based on society’s morals, and convince ourselves that what we want to do is okay. We could also come to feel that something perfectly acceptable and good, is not okay.

But that’s where I think the real conscience kicks in–and it resides deep down below the noise of society or oppressive religious bondage. There is a knowing instinctively about what is right and what is wrong. I think that God places it there, and when we become believers, it is the Holy Spirit, who becomes our truest Guide–more reliable than our own conscience. The Bible says that He leads us into all truth. When we come under the conviction (not condemnation) of the  Holy Spirit, it is an unmistakable feeling. Though we certainly can choose to ignore (or override) that voice, which is often a still, small voice.

As a society, we certainly need to find our conscience again. As a child of the 50s, I remember that all our friends and neighbors had basically the same ethics, (religious or not). A parent didn’t have to be afraid, generally, of what another family would expose their child to, because there was a common belief system about right and wrong, and what was appropriate, and what wasn’t. There was a basic morality that was shared by most good and decent people. (But today, those kind of neighborhoods are hard to find.)

It seems that nothing is black and white anymore. Situational ethics rule, and there’s always some kind of rationalization for breaking the formerly acknowledged rules of living. It has left some unsure of their moral compass. God can’t go to school anymore, and political correctness is our new Constitution.

As I consider all these things, I’m glad that I grew up when I did, and I’m glad that lying did not come easy for me. I’m grateful that my conscience worked overtime, and that it still does…



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