Sensitivity about right and wrong is in-built in every human soul. Be it among the mortals residing in secluded tribal lands or those dwelling atop tall skyscrapers in modern cities, all are privy to moral laws etched in the human heart by the Creator.
When I heard the word ‘conscience’ for the first time in the Moral Science classes at primary school, the concept was a bit intriguing. With the cognitive functioning skills yet to attain the fullest extent of maturity, it took some grappling to get to the bottom of the big word with a difficult spelling (at that time 🙂 ). But, I vividly remember the examples cited by my teacher. To quote one of the examples, “If Mummy has asked you not to touch the sweets kept on the dining table and you quietly grab one and rush into another room when no one is watching, how do you feel? Do you feel your heart racing? Do you feel afraid that Mummy would either give you a piece of her mind or a spanking, when she finds out what you’ve done? If you feel such pricking within you, that is your conscience. Your conscience is pricking you because you are guilty! You have done something wrong.”
It was very easy to understand the concept with such examples. Thanks to such teachers who helped instill moral values in tender minds!
Conscience is installed by default programming within each of us by God, the Intelligent Programmer. It is further shaped and nurtured as we build on our relationship with Him. And, it dies off when the connecting wires are chipped off. I prefer calling it the ‘Guilt Indicator’. This indicator beeps within when there are certain erroneous acts of omission and commission by us. How we respond to these beeps shapes our character and personality.
There are two possible responses to the pricks of the conscience:
- To scan within
- To ignore
When scanning within to explore the probable genuineness of the Guilt Indicator, there can be two outcomes – one, a confirmation of the wrongdoing and a desire to admit, repent and make amends/ face the consequences or two, a confirmation of the wrongdoing followed by plans of covering up or burying the cause of the pricking. To give examples of the above two outcomes – A man murders his wife and responding to the nudges of his conscience, he realizes that he is guilty and so he goes to the Police Station and turns himself in ready to face the consequences. Another man also murders his wife, but schemes to hide the evidence so that he won’t be caught. Both scan within, both realize that they are guilty, but then, respond to their guilt in two entirely different ways.
There are many who give a cold shoulder to the beeps of the Guilt Indicator. They refuse to acknowledge the pricks within. Most of the anti-socials, psychopaths and sociopaths fall into this response category. They lack remorse or guilt for their actions. No wonder we amaze at certain people saying, ‘How on earth can someone be so barbaric!’ Statistics show that a majority of cold-blooded murders are committed under the influence of alcohol. Most confessions of serial killers reveal that they consume alcohol in excess quantities before executing the commissioned task and that they wouldn’t be able to kill while sober. Alcohol snubs their conscience! It numbs their guilt pangs temporarily.
I remember having presented a paper on an in depth study on Psychopathic Personality Disorder during my Post-Grad studies in which I had referred to the movie – ‘The Silence of the Lambs’ and to the Noida serial murders at Nithari (it was a hot topic in India that time) as my case studies to make the audience have a clear understanding of the disorder. My point in mentioning this here is to draw home the point that ignoring one’s guilt pangs eventually brings out a cruel form of the self which was never meant to be so in the first place.
God has not embedded the conscience within us by accident. He knows that when His created human beings respond to this nudge from within, they would be sensitive to His voice and thus would refrain from deviating from His ordained path.
How many times a day do we lie in some way or the other? How many times a day we cheat in some form or the other? How many times a day do we allow our eyes to feast on illicit content? And, how many times do we hoodwink ourselves to justifying every such act of ours?
I look at the world today and see many events which were naturally meant to evoke guilt in people being justified, rationalized, in some cases even legalized and made into acceptable norms. No, these are not indicative of liberal post-modern mindsets. These are simply acts of rebuffing the divine design without remorse. How else would you explain the mushrooming of strip clubs and casinos in most known pleasure resorts of the world?
Keeping the conscience alive and nurturing it with Godly wisdom is the way to live lives in consonance with the norms of the Creator. Ignoring the nudges of the conscience leads it to a slow death, thus turning hearts of flesh into hearts of stone.
However, once the guilt is accepted and atoned for, it should be bidden a farewell and not carried on forever. When you feel guilty, deal with it and then leave it. Do not ignore it. Do not dwell on it for an indefinite period. Do not feel guilty simply because other people make you feel so. Do not feel guilty for things that are beyond your control. Don’t push others to feeling guilty.
The best way to start dealing with guilt is confessing the wrongdoing before God. He forgives and gives second chances to those who truly repent, no matter what the severity of the guilt may be. And, He comforts those who harbour unnecessary guilt by lifting up their burden. He cancels the guilt of the guilty!