As Christians, it is important that we recognize the difference between right and wrong — both morally and ethically. Sometimes, though, this line can become blurred.
Many situations we encounter in our lives include variables that can leave us internally conflicted and unsure of how to move forward in accordance with God’s will.
So, how do we work through these moral conundrums? One way is to develop a solid Christian conscience.
A moral conscience exists in the heart of every individual. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “When he listens to his conscience, the prudent man can hear God speaking. Conscience is a judgment of reason whereby the human person recognizes the moral quality of a concrete act that he is going to perform, is in the process of performing, or has already completed” (1777, 1778).
Think of your conscience as the “angelic” version of yourself sitting on your shoulder, giving you sound advice.
While everyone is blessed with a conscience, each individual has a responsibility to develop this conscience from the time they are young. Parents obviously play an important role in developing their children’s consciences. As the primary educators of their children on ethical issues and the Catholic faith, parents have a responsibility to teach virtue to their children and help them to avoid fear, selfishness, and pride. As we grow older, we take on the lifelong challenge of continually forming our own consciences, and establishing a moral code that enables us to make the proper judgments.
One valuable tool in forming a conscience is the practice of introspection. “It is important for every person to be sufficiently present to himself in order to hear and follow the voice of his conscience” (CCC 1779). In contemporary society, where there are so many distractions and routines, it is extremely important that we take the time to look inward and truly listen to what our inner voice is telling us.
Another way to ensure we are developing a good moral code is by conforming to the mind of Christ. God the Father gave us Christ, physically present on this earth and recorded in Sacred Scripture, as the ultimate example of what to do and how to behave according to God’s will. In turn, when we act in loving imitation of Christ, we are certain to make practical judgments of conscience.
The next time you are faced with a moral dilemma, take some quiet time to look inward, weigh the positive and negative outcomes, and listen to the voice of your conscience. Read the Gospels for examples of Christ’s teachings. By making this a regular practice, you will find that the voice of your conscience will come in louder and more clearly than you may have initially expected.