I don't know why I am writing this post, or who this is for exactly but I keep getting the feeling I should write something about the topic of developing sensitivity to one's conscience. My inclination to write this and to follow through seems fitting for the topic of the post, don't you think? ;)
I consider myself to be not only deeply religious, but a spiritually "in-tune" person as well. I believe God has given me special gifts that make certain spiritual realities more clear in my mind. For this statement, some might call me crazy and that's ok. We can still be friends. In any case, I have spent the majority of my life learning to listen to that voice in my heart, and to fine tune my abilities, a never-ending process, it seems. When that voice in my heart tells me to do to something, or to stay away from something, I just do what I'm told, and look in amazement at the ways God has used me as an instrument in His hands or protected me from danger. I have recognized incredible, breathtaking, intricate good that comes from listening to that voice; the protection, the blessings in my life and others' lives, the peace, the fulfillment . . . so I don't spend much time second-guessing it as I used to.
Everyone is born with that good voice inside, telling them what to do and what not to do. It can be damaged or muted by willfully ignoring it. It can also be dulled or quieted with substances, sarcasm, anger, unhealthful eating, constant noise, and many, many other things. I don't need to go in to all the details of what makes the voice quiet, but I have learned several guiding principles that have helped to keep me sensitive to my conscience and to its messages for me that I am going to share with you today.
"Never suppress a generous thought." - Camilla Kimball
This is a great key to staying open and sensitive to spiritual promptings. If something is a nice thing to do, and you have a thought to do it - just do it. No one will be the worse off for you having done something kind. Much more often than not, those thoughts to do good, kind deeds are in fact the voice of your conscience giving you direction to help another person in need. Never let over-thinking, embarrassment or laziness get in the way of fulfilling that deed. I have been amazed at how many times, following the simple thoughts to do or say something kind, has turned out to have been an answer to another person's heart-felt prayers.
"Never do anything you feel nervous about, as to the correctness. Always do what you know you should do, especially when you don't feel like it." - Joel M. Skousen
So eloquently stated. It is my belief that no one does something morally wrong, without first feeling nervousness about the action they intend to carry out. On occasions where I have powered through nervous feelings, about whether or not something I was doing was right or wrong, I have always found disappointment. Conversely, when I have gotten away from a situation or action when I have felt those nervous feelings, I feel an outpouring of peace and relief. The second bit of Joel's advice is perfect, too. The times when I feel least like doing something I know I should, but push through and make it happen anyways - those are the times when I see the greatest rewards for myself and others.
As you come to recognize the good voice in your heart, you should follow its guidance immediately. Waiting too long makes it quiet.
I have made this mistake several times. I have had experiences where I have been warned to not do something with a nervous and sharp burning in my heart. But because I ignored the warning, I was left with a brief moment of fuzzy confusion - then the feelings stopped completely. I have found on more than one occasion that my willful disregard, laziness, or pride (all sorts of things get in the way) to follow a feeling quickly has either caused pain for someone or myself, or been a lost opportunity to help someone in need.
"I believe that you can leave the most precious, personal direction of the Spirit unheard because you do not respond to, record, and apply the first promptings that come to you." - Richard G. Scott, "To Acquire Spiritual Guidance"
Recording the tender feelings and lessons learned from that good voice is essential. Sadly, we humans forget things - even really important, significant things. It is too easy to forget the ground that has been gained, and the lessons that have been learned in following one's conscience - or as we call "the Spirit" or "Holy Ghost" in my faith. But recording, then applying the lesson, and going back and studying what was learned yields greater spiritual insight and direction. It is also helpful in moments of doubt or difficulty, to be able to look back on times of spiritual connectedness - in our own writing - to remember God's presence in our lives, and what was learned, so that spiritual back-tracking doesn't happen.
Remember who you are. Remember who others are, too.
"Remember who you are!" is the phrase that my mother told me every day before I left for school. It has really stuck with me. Remembering that phrase helped me make good choices. It put me in a spiritual place to be willing and open to the promptings of my conscience. Everyone on Earth - are spirit brothers and sisters - children of God. Remembering our own divine heritage helps us to feel empowered to reach our potential, and to view things with an Eternal perspective. Remembering this about others, helps keep us sensitive to the promptings about how such special and divine beings should be treated. When I have a hard time with someone, I pray to see them as God sees them. My heart is always softened, and once I am soft, I find the voice in my heart is able to communicate how I might help or reach that individual.
Prayer to God, every single day - the first thing of every day - helps to keep a heart open and humble to guidance.
This is such an important aspect of developing a healthy conscience. Ultimately, developing one's conscience, is about helping a person align their will, abilities, desires, and actions with God's will for them. I know that recognizing God's presence on my knees with faith each day, has strengthened that spiritual connection with Him and my ability to follow through on the promptings He sends to my heart through that still, small voice. I know that this gift of strength and connectedness is available to everyone through honest prayer.
I hope my insight on this topic is helpful to someone. If to no one reading it now, perhaps to my own children someday. :) I know that learning this skill began first with my mother - who discerned when my siblings and I were experiencing those sensitive feelings, and let us know that they were good and that we should follow them. I hope I am able to help my children develop this essential life skill - and that I can continue to develop it in myself.
What is the best advice you have heard about developing a sensitive, and healthy relationship with your conscience?