CONSCIENCE. All of us are endowed with a conscience, by which we are obliged to form, to cultivate and to follow. However, this follows upon a properly formed conscience.
If we do not form our conscience properly most likely we will end up with a bad conscience, or we might call it a mal-formed conscience. To arrive at a well formed conscience requires much work and a constant vigilance.
MAL-FORMED CONSCIENCES: WHAT ARE THEY????
1.LAX. Is a conscience that picks up only the most egregious sins. Killing somebody, committing adultery, plotting a terroristic attack--- the “Lax” conscience admits these to be wrong, but not much more!
2. SUPPRESSED CONSCIENCE. A conscience that lives in denial and rationalizes sin. After David committed adultery with Bathsheba and, worse yet, ends by killing an innocent man, David temporarily rested: all was at peace. Until God in His goodness sent 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 (Poet, Francis Thompson) pricks at our conscience and moves us to the light of the Truth.
3. DEFORMED CONSCIENCE. If somebody has no contact with the Word of God in any form, he never reads the Bible, never hears a sermon, never talks to a religious person, then his moral formation will only be of a secular, worldly or even pagan source and terminate with a deformed conscience. A good conscience must have contact with the Truth; if not, most likely the conscience will be deformed!
4. DOUBTFUL CONSCIENCE. In the whirlwind of life’s events we might find ourselves in a quandary wherein we do not know what decision to take. Doubtful of what is right, we really do not know what to do! Truth always does exist, but we may not be aware of where it is! In this circumstance what should we do? Act on a doubtful conscience? No! Because if we do, then 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. Consultation of a priest or spiritual director, a well-informed friend, or an orthodox text-book on moral theology could be the best course of action!
5. SCRUPULOUS CONSCIENCE. This is a sick conscience. The person suffering with this conscience can see almost everything as sin and suffer perpetual guilt. At the same time the scrupulous person is blind to objective sin. According to spiritual theology the remedy is unequivocal! The scrupulous person must 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! Both St. Therese of Lisieux as well as St. Maximilian Kolbe traversed a period of scrupulosity.
6. DEAD OR CAUTERIZED CONSCIENCE. Endowed with free will, all of us can eventually say “No” to the beckonings of conscience and gradually kill the conscience. One of the best Biblical examples of this is the case of PHAROAH: Moses and the many plagues that Pharaoh and the Egyptians were visited with. God knocked on the door of Pharaoh’s heart with various forms of tribulation and suffering. Obstinate, resistant, head-strong and proud, Pharaoh tenaciously resisted God through Moses and the plagues. We can resist God’s invitations through grace and end up by killing our conscience and live physically alive but with a “Dead” conscience.
7. ILL-INFORMED CONSCIENCE. Most-likely during the course of our life, somebody has mis-informed us on some pertinent moral topic. Due to our ignorance quite possibly we followed this advice. Once informed it is incumbent upon us to renounce and repudiate the error and walk in the light of the truth. By the way, adults as well as the young must carefully choose their friends with whom they decide to spend their time and associations.
8. GUILTY CONSCIENCE. Very simply this is a conscience that does not experience peace. The reason is crystal clear: sin has been committed and guilt invades one’s interior life and conscience.
9. 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 and all of our lives. 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 the sin is sadness, anger, confusion and disorientation. All 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!
10. DELICATE CONSCIENCE. 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! Indeed we should all aspire to attain to this most noble of consciences! 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!