Monday, March 18, 2013
Conscience! What's it about?
When looking up the term conscience, most sites have it defined as an inward sense of what is right or wrong, but before we get to the point in our lives to distinguish good from bad, how do we develop a conscience and does everyone have a conscience?
According to the article http://www.thesuccessfulparent.com/moral-development/helping-children-build-a-conscience, it appears that a conscience is something that is possessed, but has to be nourished and cultivated in order to flourish and thrive. The article suggests that the conscience is developed from the early to middle years of life and is especially sharpened during the adolescence years. They describe the three stages that takes process:
1. The Process of Identification-the article uses the phrase "monkey see, monkey do" to explain the process of children identifying and repeating observed behaviors exhibited by parents, caretakers and peers.
2.Instruction and Training-this stage explains how parents and caretakers have to teach children right from wrong. It advises that children do not learn the difference through behavior observation, but must be educated and reinforcement.
3.Interactions with the Environment-this stage usually begins around the pre-teenage years. At this point children start developing and tweaking their own sense of right and wrong from examples that they see or experience. During this stage, outside influences such as media, peers, teachers, etc. influence the way children see right and wrong and also can teach them that everything is not black and white.
When it comes to the profession of counseling, a conscience is a very important tool. In the realm of counseling, one important aspect is of morals and ethics, which is why most associations have strict rules for a counselor to abide by, not only for the sake of the counselor but for the welfare of the client. An immoral conscience can quickly lead to an immoral act and to the detriment of a client.
Another aspect of the conscience that is sometimes ignored is the act of confession. I have been doing a lot of reading lately on the act and benefits of confession. There are a lot of authors who believe that confession, outside of pastoral counseling is almost extinct. Most people, especially those who have a well defined conscience and care about others probably can attest that once you tell your inner most fears or secrets, most of the time it feels as if a weight has been lifted off your shoulders and you no longer have to suffer in silence.
In my 507 class, I've learned that the conscience is 1/5 of the aspects of the immaterial man. That it does not teach us right from wrong, but prods us to do what we've been taught is right. Easily said and easy to understand for the most part...
A required class for graduate school is Human Growth and Development. In this class we discussed a case study of a teenager who committed a gruesome act of violence. I remember vocalizing that as a teenager, the mentally ill being exempt, you know right from wrong. However, the professor made a statement that not everyone fits into this category. He went deeper and advised that you have to look at a person's past, how he/she was raised, morals, values, etc. before you can determine their level of conscientiousness. Hearing these words opened my mind to another level. When it comes to situations, I would get the info, evaluate it from my perspective, if I had knowledge on other aspects, use that and formulate my opinion. However, most times, I didn't know any background information. In layman's terms, some could say I was being judgmental. In most situations there is so much information that is unknown, unsaid, and incomprehensible, etc, that we could never place ourselves in the exact shoes of those who are living it to know what the status of their conscience maybe.
We've all seen the caricature of the person with the good angel on a shoulder and the devil on the other, but in all honesty, I never sat and pondered the following questions:
1.How many people in the US alone have an undeveloped conscience?
2.If your conscience is not fully developed, does that make you more inept to commit crime?
3.If a person with a highly developed sense of consciousnesses commits a crime, what does that say?
These are just a few questions I thought about while writing this blog, I'm sure there are dozens more. I encourage you to join and list the questions that come to your mind in the comments area.