Forming A Healthy Conscience

Each one of us is born with and endowed with a singular conscience by which we are obliged to form, to cultivate, and to follow in order to live a richer and more moral life. However, this necessitates a properly formed conscience within the soul.

If we do not properly form a conscience we will most likely end up with a bad one, or what is more properly called a mal-formed conscience.  So, in order to arrive at a well formed conscience, it will take vigilance and ultimately reforming our soul to be properly ordered to the good.

But What is a Malformed Conscience?

1. Lax Conscience is a one which picks up only the most egregious of sins. One who possesses a lax conscience admits that killing somebody, committing adultery, or plotting a terrorist attack is morally wrong but will not more than that.

2. A Suppressed Conscience is one which lives in a state of denial and often rationalizes sin. David committed adultery with Bathsheba and had her husband murdered to cover up his initial sin, after which he rested feeling that all was at peace. This was until God in His goodness sent for the prophet Nathan, who through a parable broke through David’s rationalization and unlocked his suppressed conscience. Often, after we sin, the devil tries to get us to suppress our conscience, but God, like the Hound of Heaven, pricks at our conscience and moves us to the light of the Truth.

3. A Deformed Conscience is one which has not been properly formed by faith or truth. A good conscience must have contact with the Truth; if not, most likely the conscience will be deformed.If somebody has no contact with the Word of God in any form, has never read the Bible, has never heard a sermon, nor ever spoken with a religious person, and then his moral formation will only be of a secular, worldly, or even a pagan source and terminate with a deformed conscience.

4. A Doubtful Conscience is one that does not know what decision to make in a moral quandary. Truth always exists, but we may not be aware of where it is. When we act with a doubtful conscience we risk the possibility of making a wrong moral choice and offending the Lord.  In this dilemma, the best course of action is to consult a source to help us to discover what really is the true and noble decision and path to take.

5. A Scrupulous Conscience can see almost everything as sin and suffer perpetual guilt. At the same time the scrupulous person is blind to objective sin. The scrupulous person ought to seek out a good spiritual director or a good and patient confessor and submit humbly in obedience to the direction and decisions of this lawful and competent spiritual authority.

6. A Dead or Cauterized Conscience is one who ignores the beckoning’s of conscience and gradually kill it within themselves. One of the best Biblical examples of this is the case of Pharaoh. Moses and the many plagues that Pharaoh and the Egyptians were visited with while God knocked on the door of Pharaoh’s heart. Obstinate, resistant, head-strong and proud, Pharaoh tenaciously resisted God through Moses and the plagues. Likewise, we can resist God’s invitations through grace and end up by killing our conscience and live physically alive but with a dead conscience.

Forming A Healthy Conscience

Up to this point we have basically been explaining the deformed or unhealthy consciences.   What then are clear sign-posts of acquiring the so called “Healthy conscience”?

To start off, all of us are morally obliged to strive to form a healthy conscience. Otherwise we fall into the sin of omission—not doing what we are obliged to do. A healthy conscience is a well-formed conscience that responds in the proper manner to good actions as well as evil actions that we call sin.  A healthy conscience after the commission of some sin experiences an inner sense of guilt.

What follows guilt is sadness, anger, confusion and disorientation which are manifest signs of a healthy conscience. At the same time, the person with the healthy conscience when he does good actions, actions that are pleasing to God, then the Holy Spirit intervenes to console him and give him the peace that surpasses all natural aspirations!

It would be remiss if we did not mention and briefly explain another type of conscience, which is actually the best of all consciences— that is to say the delicate conscience.  This is the conscience of the saints! What are manifestations of this delicate conscience?

A delicate conscience not only detects grave sin and less serious sin but also picks up inspirations and when these inspirations are rejected.  It is a highly-refined conscience that does not want to offend God in even the slightest forms. As said earlier, it is the conscience of the saints and the conscience that all of us should be aiming to attain with the help of God’s graces!

Fr. Ed Broom, OMV

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Father Ed Broom is an Oblate of the Virgin Mary and the author of From Humdrum to Holy, which offers more words of wisdom for how to become a saint today. He blogs regularly at Fr. Broom's Blog.

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