Conscience, Why Do You Torment Me?
“O COWARD conscience, how dost thou afflict me!” Those famous words, uttered by King Richard III in Shakespeare’s play of the same name, describe the remorse that the human conscience can provoke. In real life the conscience has unsettled and altered the lives of many.
The power of the conscience was illustrated by the recent case of a young Italian. His work as a security guard involved transporting large sums of money. All went well until, one day, he gave in to temptation and stole a sack containing 300,000,000 lire [$185,000]. Since he was working with two colleagues and it was impossible to determine which one of them had taken it, all three were fired.
He hid the stolen money, intending to use it after the storm had calmed. Instead, an unexpected torment began: He couldn’t stop thinking about the firing of his innocent workmates. His conscience would not give him a moment’s peace. He couldn’t sleep. He couldn’t eat. He became impossible to deal with.
Finally, overcome by guilt and exhausted by his internal struggle, he went to the police and handed over the stolen money. He told them: “The remorse was too much. I can’t put up with it any longer!” He added: “Better in jail and honest than free with a conscience that condemns you as a thief.”
The conscience is God’s gift to all men. It may accuse or excuse us. When we listen to it, it may save us from making mistakes, rationalizing away serious wrongdoing. So instead of ignoring its proddings or resentfully railing against it as Shakespeare’s King Richard III did, we should cherish and safeguard our conscience.—Romans 2:14, 15.
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