Rising Leader Series: Week 41 - Conscience
Updated: Oct 22
On any given day, we might choose the easy thing– to be our false selves, that confection we whipped up to “win” at the game of life. Falseness comes from a place of greed, envy, wrath, lust, gluttony, sloth or pride. Of course these motivations come well hidden– behind a camouflage of happy talk, false interest, bravado or a devil-may-care demeanor. In brief interactions, in the short term, we might get away with it. But if we act too often from our false selves, in time people will figure it out. They’ll begin to expect us to act in a small-circle, all-about-us way. That’s what it looks like when we keep God at arm’s length.
Or we might choose to act from our true selves. Our true selves aren’t camouflaged. What you see is what you get. The true self is what remains once the false self is stripped away– a free and naked soul. It lives in an authentic relationship with God and people. When we act from our true selves, we know we’re imperfect. And so we take our choices to God. In the silence of our souls, we attend to that prick of conscience, the nudge that edges us ever closer to the good thing, the better choice.
But where does the conscience come from? It’s interwoven into who we are as human beings– part of our original goodness. It needs curation and refinement, which can only happen through instruction. Parents teach us our first explicit moral code, through both word and behavior. We learn from our church’s teachings, and from the Bible itself. Parents, church doctrine and Holy Scripture all bring rigor and richness to our moral sensibilities. They are important contributors to a well-developed conscience.
But in the end, handed-down rules only take us so far. In the crucible of choice, it is to God Himself that we must turn. We must mull over every choice with God by our side, seeking His guidance in prayer. Chances present choices. In choosing, we shape who we become. Richard Rohr says it this way:
“If we can trust and listen to our inner divine image, our whole-making instinct, or our True Self, we will act from our best, largest, kindest, most inclusive self. There is a deeper voice of God, which we must learn to hear and obey. It will sound like the voice of risk, of trust, of surrender, of soul, of common sense, of destiny, of love, of an intimate stranger, of your deepest self. It will always feel gratuitous, and it is this very freedom that scares us. God never leads by guilt or shame! God leads by loving the soul at ever-deeper levels....”
The siren calls of our modern world are loud. “You can have it all.” “Morality is what you make it.” “Dress for success: impressions matter most.” “Faster and cheaper means better.” “If it can’t be measured by science, it’s not real.” “I read it on the Internet, therefore it’s true.” It takes real discernment, in quiet prayer, to sift past the world’s wisdom so as to find God’s.
When we block out these siren calls and seek God, He helps us move beyond them and ourselves. We realize we exist in relationship with Him— and, by extension, with everyone and everything. This draws us into a form of love much bigger than before. We widen our circles of care. We sense His challenge: "Leader of goodness, go in faith to love and heal the world." And so, when next we encounter need, our hearts are ready for the moment– to hear God’s call in the gentle nudge of our conscience. Out of our chance circumstances, the nudges of conscience lead us towards our call.
Our call might be to serve inside our own home. Or to serve within our existing workplace. Or in our church. Or to go into our community, our nation or the work of our planet. In our discernment, we let our consciences guide.
To be guided by your conscience is a life choice– a fork in the road. Turn to your conscience in all your choices, good leader. It will lead you to better decisions. The conscientious soul listens for His voice, then follows– no matter what. Choice by choice, you will unveil your true self and find your calling– and so become a blessing to the world.
Next week, we'll open ourselves to be challenged.
“The LORD came and stood there, calling as at the other times, "Samuel! Samuel!" Then Samuel said, ‘Speak, for your servant is listening.’”— 1 Samuel 3:10
In conscientious thanks,
P.S. When we place our choices before God, we are guided towards the good. And so we become a blessing to the world. This poem is about that.
CHOICE AND CONSCIENCE
One hateful comment sparks a hate-filled trend;
contagion grows in righteous fury spires.
One love-response to the hate and hearts bend;
Cool splash of water to quell raging fire.
Each day, our acts big and small bless or curse.
Choices are made in all we do and say.
Will we seek the better, or fall for worse?
Gather and grab, or give ourselves away?
Conscience, o conscience, return me back home
In God-centered guidance mark out His trail.
Before every response, whisper His poem,
so in my choices, the good will prevail!
Rule my conscience, Lord; show me the true
So I may forever only serve You
Previous Weeks' Letters: