So, I just turned 25 and I’ve been doing a lot of thinking, about a lot of things. One of the things I’ve been thinking about a lot is the role that conscience should play in your day to day life. I grew up Baptist, but my dad’s family is Catholic and I converted a couple of years ago. I only include this information to say that conscience has always been a big part of my life and I learned about its existence very early. I remember the first time I hated my conscience, I was in 3rd grade and I had done something wrong. I was able to keep it from my mom for a few weeks, but I kept dropping hints because I wanted her to figure it out because I felt so guilty. It finally boiled over and I remember running into her room one night at about 10 p.m. and confessing, while bawling.
I started thinking hard about this recently, after an event at a local bookstore. I was there with my mom and went to get a coffee. I was walking out of the cafe when a man stopped me and said I had dropped $40. I had just missed a week of work due to a snow storm and had therefore lost about $120 in wages, but I knew the money wasn’t mine. I told my mom and she told me to look around the cafe and ask if anyone had dropped it. Instead, I asked the cashier at the cafe and she said she would take it and put it in the safe in case someone came back to claim it. Immediately after I gave her the money I was extremely mad. I was mad I was broke, I was mad I didn’t keep it, and I was mad I didn’t give it to the man that had given it to me by mistake, so much so that I cried. My mom got extremely angry with me and said that I should be happy because I had done the right thing since the money didn’t belong to me, but that was no consolation. After all of this, I even felt guilty that I wasn’t happy about doing the right thing, but I also knew that I would feel guilty if I had kept the money. This immediately made me realize that my conscience was crippling my ability to be happy or commit to my choices in life.
I often feel bad about things that I have no control over or am so worried about feeling guilty later that I don’t take opportunities to do things that have the slightest possibility of causing trouble.
I recently had a discussion with my mom about some cultures that promote shrewdness in business and are dominated by the pursuit of financial success and other cultures and belief systems that portray those characteristics as immoral, rude, or mean. I don’t know which side I stand on. My brain often wants me to lookout for myself and myself alone and pursue my own happiness and prosperity above that of the people around me, but my conscience will never allow it.
There is a dichotomy within my brain: one half says that I should maintain a one-track existence with my personal happiness at the forefront and the other half says that I should be selfless and strive for %100 morality.
So, my question today is this:
Do you think it is possible to be happy and proactive, while also allowing your conscience to rule? What role should your conscience play in everyday life? Are there things that you feel guilty about that you wish you didn’t? Do you think conscience is connected to religion?