Giving Your Conscience A Chance
The night was coming to a close. A young restaurant server of 20 was sitting across the table from me, for we were both doing our nightly checkout. We were in a deep conversation about the meaning of life and about what the key to a good marriage was. At one point in the conversation I said to her, ‘You will never find true tranquility until you face your deep conscience about what you have done and what you are about.’ This statement shocked her. She had never heard anyone say this, but she nodded in agreement.
I went on to tell her that her conscience is there not to so much to beat her down, but rather to point her to true happiness. Not the happiness of gushy emotions, but the happiness in possessing the true, the noble, and the good. The happiness that comes when we are living our lives in accordance with right reason—as God had created us to live. Not as a pond in a meaningless and vacant universe, but as a beloved person created as a gift and to be a gift to others. This is the type of happiness even those in great suffering can have.
I told her that her conscience seemed oppressive and nagging because its primary function is to assist her in finding her truest-self —a self not given to the whirlwinds of youthful passion. I told her that as long as she resisted the cries of her conscience that she will ever be a slave to a self living in the shadows of rationalized lies. And this will be why tranquility will not settle in her.
To illustrate this for her I told her about a very important chapter in the real story of Pinocchio (as written by Carlo Collodi as opposed the Disney movie version). In chapter 30, Pinocchio is supposed to be come a boy because he had repented of doing wrong and had returned to the Fairy. He was to invite all his friends, so the Fairy gave him permission to go out into the town to hand out invitations to his friends to a celebrator breakfast on the condition that he is back before dark. As the dialogue goes:
‘I promise to be back in an hour’ said the Puppet.
‘Take care, Pinocchio! Boys are always very ready to promise; but generally they are little given to keeping their word,’ said the Fairy
At this Pinocchio insisted that he is not like other boys, to which the fairy replied, ‘We shall see. If you are disobedient, so much the worse for you . . . because boys who do not listen to the advice of those who know more than they do always meet with some misfortune or other.’
Pinocchio had invited all of his friends except Candlewick, ‘who was the laziest and the naughtiest boy in the school.’ After checking at Candlewick’s house, Pinocchio found him waiting for a coach:
‘Where are you going Candlewick?’
‘I am going to live in a country . . . the most delightful country in the world: a real land of Plenty . . . called Toyland. Why don’t you come with me?’
‘I? No Never!’
‘You are wrong, Pinocchio. Believe me, if you do not come you will be sorry for it. Where could you find a better country for us boys? There are no schools there; there are no masters; there are no books. In that delightful land nobody ever studies. There is no school on Thursdays; and every week consist of six Thursdays and one Sunday. Only think, the autumn holidays begin on the 1st of January and finish on the last day of December. That is the country for me! That is what all civilized countries should be like!’
The temptation had been set for Pinocchio, and as the story goes on, the reader finds Pinocchio fighting with his conscience through a series of rationalizations:
‘No, No No, and again no. I promised my good Fairly to become a well-behaved boy, and I will keep my word . . . But seriously, continued Pinocchio, ‘are you really certain that there are no schools in that country, no teachers, and no one studies?’
‘That is what I am telling you’
“What a delightful country!’ said Pinocchio, his mouth watering. ‘What a delightful country! I have never been there but I can quite imagine it.’
‘But it is useless to tempt me. I promised my good Fairy to become a sensible boy, and I will not break my word . . . Good-bye Candlewick . . .’ and the puppet made two steps before stopping and saying, ‘But are you quite certain that in that country all the weeks consist of six Thursdays and one Sunday?’
‘What a delightful country!’
In the end, Pinocchio ends up going to Toyland with Candlewick and turns into a Jackass to be sold as a slave.
Recognize the symbolism, I told the girl. If Pinocchio would have listen to his conscience and obeyed the Fairy, she would have turned him into a real boy, the very thing his heart truly desired. But instead, Pinocchio followed his youthful passions through a series of rationalizations only to find himself turned into an Ass. This is always the result of not following what we know to be right.
For this reason, I told her, she must have courage to face her self truly. No more buts, no more excuses, just rare access to the light. I told her she must come to grips with the ever-provocative questions of what the meaning of life is, why there is something rather than nothing, and what will be her response to the answers? I reminded her of Socrates’ words that ‘an unexamined life is not worth living.’
She was taken back. She sat silently for many moments. Then she stood up and said, ‘You have given me much to think about.’ And she walked away after saying good-bye.
Have you faced your conscience? Have you let the light shine in the dark areas of your soul? Do you have the courage to let truth set you free? Or, do you still just wish to live in lies? Has it occurred to you that your marriage and family life might be suffering because of these lies? Facing yourself can be scary, but we are here to help. Make an appointment today if that is what you need to do. Appointment or no appointment, give your conscience a chance to set you in the right direction.
Brandon Wall is a counselor in Cedar Rapids, Iowa: http://www.cedarrapidscounselingcenter.com/
Dr. Bing Wall is a therapist specializing in marriage and relationships and issues facing single adults with a practice in Ames and Urbandale, Iowa. To set up a time to see Dr. Wall click here or call 888-233-8473. For more information about Dr. Wall click here.