“Let Your Conscience Be Your Guide”
IN QUESTIONS about human relations, particularly where honest, fair and upright dealings are concerned, people often are told: “Let your conscience be your guide.” The person giving this advice usually does it with a shrug of the shoulders, partly because he hesitates to give sound counsel and partly because he feels that definite advice would not be followed anyway.
The expression has become so common that its meaning has deteriorated. It is now almost the same as saying, ‘Do whatever your conscience will excuse.’ A person may have some qualms of conscience on a point, but he may argue with himself and figure out a way to justify a questionable or dishonest action, salving his conscience and giving it an excuse to let him go ahead.
If an individual follows this line of reasoning, he can develop a “seared” conscience, which is no guide at all. It is like scar tissue from a bad burn, which has no sensitivity and transmits no pain as a warning to its owner to move away from danger. (1 Tim. 4:2) Since this can happen, good advice for anyone would be the converse to the aforementioned adage: Never violate your conscience.
Most people have a conscience that is sensitive on many issues of life. But a person’s conscience may not always guide him in the best course, a course that leads to life. For while our conscience acts as a judge for us, interpreting and applying the standards and laws that we believe are right, it may not be based on the right standards—God’s standards.
For example, it is the custom in some lands to practice polygamy. The people have not known anything else. But on coming to a knowledge of what the Bible says, they see that polygamy is contrary to God’s arrangement for Christians. They then make the adjustment in their consciences and their lives.
There are also some Christians whose faith has weaknesses, that is, they are not clear on certain points of morals and conduct. They need instruction to clarify principles and their application, so that they will come to have their “perceptive powers trained to distinguish both right and wrong.”—Heb. 5:14.
Consequently, all of us must train our conscience so that its decisions are based firmly on God’s Word. We need to adjust when we are informed, not becoming ‘willingly ignorant.’ (2 Pet. 3:5, Authorized Version) Only then can we be secure in ‘letting our conscience be our guide.’ At the same time we do not want to make our own conscience someone else’s guide. While we may be able to help another person, from the Bible, to see issues more clearly in the light of basic principles, we want to accord him the same liberty that we desire, not trying to manage his conscience, for in this way we could hurt him, keeping him from having a good conscience before God.—1 Cor. 8:12.