Cookie Consent by Privacy Policies website

Your Conscience At Work: Moral Debates That Matter

Your Conscience At Work: Moral Debates That Matter

It’s happened a million times before and it will happen again. You’re on your way home from a late evening event and you approach a STOP sign in the middle of nowhere. Like countless times before you gently apply your breaks, come to a complete stop, and then accelerate again. Why did you do that? Was it really necessary? When you think about it, you could have easily ignored the STOP sign. You can see for miles and you know you won’t be caught. There are no cars or pedestrians around and no one will be hurt. You’re all alone and no one will ever know. What’s going on here? Life is full of seemingly worthless STOP signs. Do you obey them out of habit or is it your conscience at work?

A habit is an unconscious pattern of behavior that you acquire through frequent repetition. As a child, your mother probably tried diligently to instill good habits in you whether you liked it or not. “Sit up straight! Don’t put your elbows on the table! What’s the magic word?” Contrary to your belief, she did it for your own good. Through repetition she was hoping good manners would become an unconscious pattern, a habit. Once formed, habits are hard to break.

Stopping at the STOP sign in the middle of nowhere may simply be an ingrained habit, not a matter of conscience. Consider how you might feel if you decided to break the habit. Can you enter into this new bad habit with a good conscience? Let’s say you decided to careen through the STOP sign one night. Your body tenses up (waiting for Mom to grab your ear) your hands feel a little shaky and a bead of sweat forms on your brow. You look around anticipating police helicopters to swoop down out of the darkness. What is happening here? It’s a little guilt. It’s your conscience talking.

Consider the role of your conscience. In a cartoon the conscience is portrayed as a little angel and/or devil on your shoulder whispering arguments in each ear. To run the STOP sign or not to run the STOP sign. Your conscience is your moral awareness that something is right or wrong. Like habits, you can certainly listen to the little guy with the pitchfork and go with him. If you listen long enough, you’ll probably do it. The next time temptation arises it becomes easier and easier to make the wrong choice. After a while, you’re on your way to another “bad” habit. It’s the old slippery slope argument.

Let’s look at this in the reverse. How do you develop good habits? The key is to get both your conscience and your habit-forming behavior on the same team. Rather than wondering if you stop at the sign out of habit or conscience, consider how they need each other in order to work. Sure, a habit can be merely a robotic human response, totally disconnected from a moral decision-making process. Likewise, you use your conscience all the time to make ethical judgments with or without a long-developed habit. Bring them together and you have a powerful formula for solid character development.

Here’s how it works. Use your conscience to develop good habits. Listen to it and do it. Don’t let that still small voice inside you go silent. When the flood of rationalizations come, resist them. There’s no magical formula for honesty except to roll up your sleeves and do it. If everyone else at work leaves early and shows up late, buck the trend and be on time. If you’re in a jam and need a fib to get you out, give the truth a chance. By consciously making good ethical choices, bit-by-bit you’re building habits that become an ingrained part of your character. Think of habit and conscience as building upon each other. Your conscience leads to good habits and good habits build good character.

In life, there are plenty of figurative STOP signs in the middle of nowhere. They’re moral choices that you face on a day-to-day basis which test your character. The next time you come to a lonely STOP sign, let it teach you something about yourself. Come to a complete stop. Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and think about how good it feels to listen to your conscience and be on the starting line for many good habits ahead.

Other articles you might be interested in...

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *