The Voice in Your Head: Conscience or Conviction?

by Craig Lounsbrough

A conscience is that pressing sense that unerringly guides our choices and pricks us when we don’t heed it’s prompting.  It’s that mysteriously universal compass that relentlessly points true north when we don’t have any idea where true north is, or when prefer to take some other direction altogether out of a sense of convenience or selfishness or fear or just plain stupidity.  A conscience won’t bend, it won’t be compromised, it’s sternly resistant to smooth talk, and it listlessly blows off the most compelling justifications as pithy nonsense.  It refuses to be unsullied by selfishness, it won’t succumb to the flighty arguments of politically correct pabulum, it won’t sell itself out to the most convincing of arguments, and it can’t be bribed.  If indeed our conscience does compromise itself in the face of any of these, we can be assured that it’s no longer our conscience that we’re hearing.


A conscience can be very demanding.  It can be life-altering if heeded and life-halting if ignored.  It can generate a deep sense of well-being and rightness when we obey it.  Likewise, it can infect us with a gnawing sense of uncertainty and guilt when we disregard it.  It can save us if we let it, and bless us if we bend to it.  More times than we can count we end up in places wondering how in the world we got there.  Such a mystery is quite easily solved by simply realizing that the trajectory to this less than appealing place was determined by the degree to which we adhered to or rejected our conscience.


Ignoring Our Conscience

Because our conscience is immovable, our only choice to deal with it when we don’t like it is to either ignore it or aggressively edit it.  Despite the priceless nature of our conscience, we can most certainly snub it.  It’s rather amazing that something so precious won’t demand that we give it audience, and that it will allow us to discard it.  Our conscience will not force itself upon us or demands its way with us.  It graciously makes itself available to us, but it will move into the background if we deny its voice.  Therein lays the terribly frightening reality of it all.  If we turn a deaf ear to our conscience, its voice will become ever smaller and ever thinner.  In time it can become such a whisper-thin murmuring that we can’t even make it out anymore.         


Constructed Conscience

We have a core sense that we need to have some sort of opinion.  We don’t do well simply meandering through life without some ethic or presumed sense of morality that guides us.  Without an internal compass of some sort our decisions become chaotically disjointed and our direction as dictated by those decisions leads us to a life of meandering meaninglessness.  Therefore, each of us has something that we would describe as our belief system or our moral guidelines that provide us that guiding function. 


It seems that we all have a deeply inbred conscience that is a core part of our shared humanity.  Yet, too often we ignore those belief systems or morals.  While our conscience is typically a highly reliable compass, it might direct us away from what we want, or direct us to what we don’t want.  It might get in our way, or spoil our fun, or make us look the fool, or delay our gratification, or place us someplace other than where some politically-correct position would put us.  Our conscience might set us apart from the very crowd that we so desperately want to be a part of, or call some cherished goal into question, or prompt us to repent of choices that we’d prefer to ignore.  However, because we need some guiding principle, we subsequently borrow or manufacture a new set of beliefs or morals that more readily accommodates our agendas.  And quite often, these are borrowed or manufactured because we didn’t like what our conscience was telling us, or it didn’t work all that well within our social group, or it didn’t support our cultural agenda, or it was just plain irritating. 



Borrowing a belief system or set of morals is frightenly easy simply because there are so many of them available to choose from.  The options appear utterly endless.  We live in a culture that wants to press questionable agendas, or justify spurious actions, or grant permission to choices that would otherwise be less than acceptable.  To circumvent any objections and release us from the irritating pangs of guilt, there are an innumerable array of entities and countless causes that have crafted their own beliefs and morals so as to grant themselves unbridled permission to proceed in whatever manner they choose.  Subsequently, the selections are incredibly innumerable and at times quite tantalizing.  Yet, what we’re selecting are justifications for our agendas rather than cultivating core principles by which to live our lives.    



Or we take a bit of license and we create our own beliefs and morals.  We figure that we’ll take our conscience and we’ll update it just a bit.  We shave off the demanding corners so that it’s a bit more palatable and a whole lot more comfortable.  We edit it sufficiently so that it doesn’t interfere with our cherished agendas.  We do a bit of nip and tuck it so that it gives us permission to do what it didn’t give us permission to do before we rigorously applied our justifying scalpel to it.  We can become rather creative and somewhat innovative so that the finished product has a perceived sense of morality while granting us the fullest permission to function as we please.  And despite our perceptions to the contrary, all we’ve done is to create justifications for our agendas rather than cultivate core principles by which to live our lives.


Conscience or Convenience?

And so, the main question is will we will live guided by our conscience or compelled by convenience?  The trajectory of these two choices are entirely different and the destinations that they lead us to are likely to be diametrically opposed.  More times than we can count we end up in places wondering how in the world we got there.  Such a mystery is quite easily solved by simply realizing that the trajectory to these less than appealing places was determined by the degree to which we adhered to or rejected our conscience or opted for convenience.  Since that is clearly the case, we’d be quite wise to attend to that inner voice, whether we find it appealing or whether we find it utterly irritating.  For where we end up will be dictated by that incredibly important choice.   

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