What's the use of a conscience?
- Category: Loud and Clear
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It's quite simple, actually. It's kind of like a tool God uses to talk to you... and He uses it constantly. You have a doubt, and somewhere deep down, if you are ready to listen, you will know the answer. Beautiful, right? It's a deep and sometimes slightly hidden knowledge, but it's there.
However, for it to work well, you need to know how to use it. It is very important not to talk over your conscience after you ask it a question. You know you're talking over your conscience when you say (or think) things like, "I mean, c'mon, it's not that bad," "I'm not really even hurting anyone else," "No one can even see me," or similar statements. When a man repeatedly ignores his conscience, and "talks over it" with countless excuses, eventually he will not be able to hear it. This is quite a tragedy, and a hazardous one, because slowly but surely he becomes capable of horrendous things.
So what if you ask a question and there is no answer? Don't worry. Some people have more competent consciences than others. The competency of a conscience is directly impacted, I think, by two factors: first of all, the percentage of times you heed your conscience and make the better choice, and second of all, the formation you have received (beyond these factors, God can give whatever graces He wants whenever He wants to). So if there is no answer, you should do two things: clean your conscience (to erase past rejections of the counsels of your conscience), and form your conscience to understand goodness and evil better. In order to clean your conscience, the best method is to find a conscience-cleaner, a.k.a., a priest. The cleaning of the conscience is commonly known as confession, and it's a "super-strategy" because it is supernatural: God forgives you through the priest, and you are left with a clean conscience. In order to form your conscience, the best method is to find a conscience-former, a.k.a., a priest, or a religious, or a lay member who lives a strong spiritual life and knows church doctrine, and ask him or her to be your "spiritual director".
The best way to begin said methods (and I suggest both) is to simply go to your parish and explain that you have an incompetent conscience; express your desire to find a priest and a spiritual director. Don't be embarrassed. It's a common issue. Someone will know how to help you.
But there’s one more warning. Make sure your pride doesn’t get in the way while your conscience is trying to learn. Pride is something in most of us that constantly works against our consciences. Your pride will tell you, “Why should you listen to this loser? What does he possibly have to say that you can’t figure out? C’mon, you’re smart. Deal with your problems yourself.” If you find yourself saying this, you should be worried. It is a clear sign of pride. DO NOT stand up and walk away from your conscience-cleaner/former. The desire to do so is an example of what is called a temptation. Temptations must be rejected immediately-- always. Ignore such thoughts and listen closely to your conscience-cleaner/former.
So now you know how to talk to your conscience, or at least how to start. You can do it all the time. The more you practice, the easier it gets. And if you constantly say yes to your conscience, an amazing thing could happen. You could be so tuned in to the inner movements of your soul that you hear faint traces of the whispers of the Holy Spirit…