A simple trick for tuning into conscience
You’d think that of all places where a code of ethics was lacking, prison would take the cake.
But talk to anyone who’s ever served time and they’ll tell you that inside there’s actually a very strict moral code that everyone knows. It’s enforced, too, and quite brutally.
Sex offenders are viewed as scum — by skinheads and hardened gangsters who have murdered multiple people, interestingly enough.
It’s a strange dynamic that sheds light on human nature and gives us deep insight into ourselves.
From the most hardened criminals to the most upstanding citizens, mankind’s capacity for self-deception is fathomless.
It’s often said that we judge ourselves by our intentions and others by their behavior. We are full of excuses, rationalizations, and justifications for our own behavior, yet full of judgment, blame, and shame for that of others.
The voice of conscience is soft and subtle, but the voice of self-deception is deafening.
This is why we often don’t find conscience when look inside ourselves; all too often that’s where we find the proverbial road to hell.
Here’s a simple trick for side-stepping self-deception and tuning into conscience: Think of something you’ve done that perhaps you’ve rationalized. Then ask yourself how you would feel if someone else did that to someone you loved.
We may not have a problem yelling at a slow driver. But think of how incensed we’d feel if another driver were to yell at our grandmother.
We may rationalize gossiping about someone at work — until we consider how we’d feel if someone else were to spread rumors about our best friend.
Some men can watch pornography and have no problem with it. That is, until they ask themselves how they would feel if that were their mother, sister, or daughter on the screen.
The idea with this technique is to get a more objective perspective on our actions. When we have something to gain by violating conscience and something to lose by heeding its call, we’re far less inclined to see things clearly and to be honest with ourselves. Removing ourselves from the equation gives us instant clarity to see our hypocrisy.
I’m a huge fan of the reality TV show The Amazing Race. I always get a kick out of how contestants will get all bent out of shape when another team does something shady to them, and then they turn around and do the exact same thing to another team. They’re not upset about the action itself, but simply that it was done to them.
That’s the opposite of a moral code — it’s plain selfishness. And all of us, including myself, do it all the time, often without even noticing it.
Mind you, being self-honest isn’t about beating ourselves up. It’s simply about progressing and improving. It’s impossible to improve something we don’t see.
There is nothing that will improve our lives and boost our happiness more than self-honesty. Self-honesty is the single greatest catalyst for change.
We may not be physically locked behind bars, but we put ourselves in a moral prison nonetheless every time we rationalize and justify unwholesome behavior that harms others.
We often don’t see — or don’t want to admit to ourselves — how our actions harm others. But it’s much easier to see when we take a step back, remove ourselves from the equation, and view the scenario more objectively.
Clear seeing leads to right behavior. Right behavior builds integrity. And integrity is the key to freedom.