What is the conscience?
Your conscience is your inner sense of right and wrong. It is “like a law written in the human heart,” says the Bible. (Romans 2:15, Contemporary English Version) A good conscience helps you evaluate a course you are about to take or one you have already taken.
Your conscience is like a compass. It guides you in the right direction so that you can avoid trouble.
Your conscience is like a mirror. It reflects your moral condition, revealing the kind of person you are inside.
Your conscience is like a good friend. It can give you good advice and help you succeed—if you listen to it.
Your conscience is like a judge. It convicts you when you do something bad.
The bottom line: Your conscience is a vital tool that can help you (1) make wise decisions and (2) make amends for your mistakes.
Why train your conscience?
The Bible tells us to “maintain a good conscience.” (1 Peter 3:16) That’s difficult to do if your conscience hasn’t been trained.
“I would lie to my parents about my whereabouts and keep it a secret. At first, my conscience bothered me, but over time what I was doing didn’t seem like a big deal.”—Jennifer.
Eventually, Jennifer’s conscience moved her to tell her parents what was going on and to stop deceiving them.
To think about: At what earlier point could Jennifer’s conscience have prodded her?
“It’s difficult and stressful to lead a double life. Once your conscience allows you to make one bad decision, it becomes easier to make another bad decision.”—Matthew.
Some people ignore their conscience altogether. They are “past all moral sense,” says the Bible. (Ephesians 4:19) The Good News Translation renders it: “They have lost all feeling of shame.”
To think about: Are people who have no feelings of guilt for wrong actions really better off? What problems will they inevitably run into?
The bottom line: To hold a good conscience, you need to have your “powers of discernment trained to distinguish both right and wrong.”—Hebrews 5:14.
How can you train your conscience?
To train your conscience, you need a standard against which to compare your actions. Some people follow standards set by:
family and culture
However, the standard for living found in the Bible is superior. That isn’t surprising, since the Bible is “inspired of God,” the One who created us and knows what is best for us.—2 Timothy 3:16.
Consider some examples.
THE STANDARD: “We wish to conduct ourselves honestly in all things.”—Hebrews 13:18.
How can that standard affect your conscience when you are tempted to cheat on a test, lie to your parents, or steal?
If your conscience moves you to be honest in all things, how do you think that can benefit you now and in the future?
THE STANDARD: “Flee from sexual immorality.”—1 Corinthians 6:18.
How can that standard affect your conscience when you are tempted to look at pornography or to have premarital sex?
If your conscience moves you to flee from sexual immorality, how will that benefit you now and in the future?
THE STANDARD: “Become kind to one another, tenderly compassionate, freely forgiving one another.”—Ephesians 4:32.
How can that standard influence you when a conflict arises with a sibling or a friend?
If your conscience moves you to be merciful and compassionate, how will that benefit you now and in the future?
THE STANDARD: “Jehovah . . . hates anyone who loves violence.”—Psalm 11:5.
How should that standard influence your choice of movies, TV shows, and video games?
If your conscience moves you to reject violent entertainment, how will that benefit you now and in the future?
TRUE STORY: “I have friends who played violent video games, and I did too. Then my dad told me that I couldn’t play those games anymore. So I would just play them when I was visiting my friends. When I came home, I would be quiet about it. My dad would ask me what was wrong, and I would say that I was fine. One day, though, I read Psalm 11:5 and began to feel bad about what I was doing. I realized that I had to stop playing those video games. This time, I did. Seeing my example, one of my friends was also moved to stop playing violent games.”—Jeremy.
To think about: At what point did Jeremy’s conscience begin working, and at what point did he begin listening to it? What do you learn from Jeremy’s story?
The bottom line: Your conscience reflects who you are and what you stand for. What does your conscience say about you?