A few days ago my five-year-old granddaughter tucked at my pant’s leg then asked me, “Grandpa, who is your best friend?”
I thought about that question for a moment, then looked down at her and smiled then said, “My conscience.” I do not know why that answer came out of my mouth so fast, but it startled me and appeared to startle her, as well.
She just stood there with a perplexed look on her face then asked me, “Grandpa, is it a boy or a girl?”
It was one of those rare moments that suspends all time and is so precious that one has to take a step back to absorb it all.
I’ve never thought of my conscience as being either a boy or a girl. I guess I always assumed that since I am a boy that my conscience would be a boy also or should I say a man. A man conscience sounds more befitting because I am a man, and it also sounds a bit more macho.
But then, I started to think about something else. A few days ago the publisher at the woman’s magazine I sometimes write for (WomanScope NewsMagazine) sent me a Testimonial to put on my writer’s website. She wrote in the Testimonial:
“As a male writer for a women’s magazine, Joseph has the amazing ability to connect to what I refer to as his “inner female” voice when presenting issues and matters (some of them hot-button and controversial) to our mostly female readership; in a way that is both sensitive and engaging.”
Now wait a second…did she say “inner female voice?” I know that I have a writer’s voice lurking around in my mind somewhere, but I never imagined it as being a female voice.
So what about my conscience, could that be a female too? Between what my granddaughter asked me about my conscience and what my publisher wrote, I was beginning to feel some anxiety. It was not that I was afraid that there was a woman or the voice and conscience of a woman stalking around inside of me – it was that the possibility of it existing seems totally bizarre.
However, not to get off the main topic, I ran to my iPhone and tapped on my dictionary app to look up the definition of the word conscience. I knew what it meant, but I was curious to see if the definition included any reference to your conscience being your best friend.
Sadly, there was not. There was a lot of other stuff about the conscience being your “moral compass” and being your inner judge. There was also a few unconventional definitions from “The Urban Dictionary” which I will not repeat here, but no, there was nothing at all about your conscience being your best friend.
So where did that leave me?
I sat there for a while and contemplated whether I should frustrate myself over it. The more I thought about it; however, I realized that looking at my conscience as my best friend may not be a smart move.
Best friends are for confiding in things and sharing your secrets and anxieties. They are also for having someone to pity you, feel sorry for you, make things easier for you and give you the support and understanding you need.
Unfortunately, that is not what a conscience is for. A conscience is something that one can not ignore or ask for advice. It is not something that one can put on the shelf or come back to later. It is always unforgiving, relentless and once it grabs hold it never lets go.
It is not something that we can kick to the curb and come back to later..
How does that old saying go, “Don’t let your conscience bother you?” Sure, try that little maneuver and see how long it lasts.
An old, Polish proverb says that, “Conscience is the voice of the soul,” and an old Chinese proverb says that, “A clear conscience is the greatest armor.”
Nevertheless, whatever you choose to call your conscience, remember that it is the way that you judge yourself. It is also the way that you unconsciously remind yourself that there is some unfinished business remaining in your quest for self-improvement.
A conscience is something that we have to listen to. Whether we consider it our best friend or not, does not matter, as long as you understand that it is the most pure, most honest and most definitive reference of what lies stirring deep down inside you.
Do not ignore it – if you do, it may not give you a second chance.
Joseph E. Rathjen is an Opinion Writer for 1World Online – America’s Fastest Growing Social Research Engine.