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Source: (consider it) Thread: A clear conscience
Raptor Eye
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I noticed a passing fb 'like' by an atheist friend to a comment which implied that people of faith clear their consciences by speaking to an imaginary friend. It made me smile, not least because we're often accused of continually feeling guilty, but it brought me to ask whether clearing our consciences is actually what we do when we confess our sins and ask for forgiveness from God.

Thanks to forgiveness, we do have a clean slate so that we can start again to get it right. It doesn't mean that what we have done wrong was OK, but that we accept it and will not repeat the behaviour. But a clear conscience?

What are your thoughts?

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Be still, and know that I am God! Psalm 46.10

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Lamb Chopped
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IMHO conscience is a sensor that reflects the presence or absence of sin (very imperfectly, but still). When God forgives and cleanses us, the problem is resolved and the sensor ought to turn off (though again, it can malfunction, as we all know). So one result of confession and forgiveness is in fact the clearing of the conscience (if it's working right) but that's not why we do it, anymore than we buy gas because we want to get the dashboard signal to stop glowing.

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W Hyatt
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Could your atheist friend have been referring to when someone of faith prays for someone else's benefit and then considers their Christian duty to have been fulfilled?

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A new church and a new earth, with Spiritual Insights for Everyday Life.

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Crœsos
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quote:
Originally posted by Raptor Eye:
Thanks to forgiveness, we do have a clean slate so that we can start again to get it right. It doesn't mean that what we have done wrong was OK, but that we accept it and will not repeat the behaviour. But a clear conscience?

If you've got "a clean slate", why wouldn't you have "a clear conscience"? Maybe I'm not understanding what you're trying to communicate here, but doesn't "a clean slate" imply no past wrongdoing? Or at least no past wrongdoing of any current consequence?

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MrsBeaky
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I find this whole conscience thing a very tricky area as it is influenced by personality as well as moral codes dependent on one's time and culture.
Some behaviours are acceptable in one situation and not another so should one person feel guilty and another not so much?
Some people are much more sensitive to the effects of the behaviour on others so their consciences could well be more troubled than their neighbour across the road would be.

Then we have the whole arena of moral codes which can help show us that our motives and behaviour might need some attention.

It annoys me sometimes that I feel guilty about things that some of my friends don't.....what I do know is that when I feel guilty I need to put things right so that I feel better and so that I feel at peace with God and give the person I've wronged a space to process my behaviour.

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Boogie

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Guilt is a funny thing, I think childhood experiences and upbringing have a large part in the things people feel guilty about.

My SIL and one of my friends have huge guilt buttons and feel bad about things that I don't even give a second thought.

Of course there are things which we should feel guilt about - when we hurt others. But some things are simply personal taste/upbringing/conditioning.

Here's a short list - spending money, having a messy house, life choices, masturbating, how you spend your free time, work/not work when you have young children, not having children, staying single, food choices, not pleasing people, saying 'no', not attending Church, declining an invitation.

The list of small things people feel uneccessarily guilty about is too long in my view. (let's add spelling to that list [Biased] )

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mr cheesy
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quote:
Originally posted by Crœsos:
If you've got "a clean slate", why wouldn't you have "a clear conscience"? Maybe I'm not understanding what you're trying to communicate here, but doesn't "a clean slate" imply no past wrongdoing? Or at least no past wrongdoing of any current consequence?

As I understand the Christian faith (..well, at least from the Protestant perspective I'm used to), at the cross all of our sins are wiped away - "as far as the East is from the West" and so on.

But forgiveness is not the same as guilt or a "clean conscience". Indeed, one might argue that being forgiven involves facing up to ones responsibility for past actions, taking on the consequences and responsibility for putting things right where possible.

Without wanting to sound like a lecture from AA, it seems to me that the major problem with this model is that we're pretty rubbish at being able to identify the important vs the unimportant things. At times I feel shame for things I did as a teenager, of embarrassment at clumsy actions that I can't ever put right.

But then on another level how do I know whether these things have been magnified in my memory and that there aren't other stupid things I've done that had more significant negative impacts on people but were forgotten?

Of course, guilt is a strong thing and can be a very paralysing force in people's lives. I'm not advocating constant thoughts about the consequences of past actions. That said, if the atonement is meant to be something that wipes away all consequences an memories of an event.. that doesn't ring true to me.

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alienfromzog

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I think that Lamb Chopped and Boogie said it right.

I would just like to add my metaphor to the mix... it's my observation that many people have either an over-active or under-active guilt gland.

Guilt, like insulin when our nlood sugar rises, is important when we are in the wrong it is vital to have that surge of guilt to tell us. It is very dangerous to not feel it. Equally I know far too many people who are scarred and held-back by completely misplaced and unnecessary guilt.

Where such overactivity comes from is an interesting question.

AFZ

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LeRoc

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I'm going to get my hobby horse out of the stable again: sin isn't between God and me. If the question is whether I will have a clear conscience, then I'm doing it wrong.

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I know why God made the rhinoceros, it's because He couldn't see the rhinoceros, so He made the rhinoceros to be able to see it. (Clarice Lispector)

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Liopleurodon

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quote:
Originally posted by alienfromzog:
I think that Lamb Chopped and Boogie said it right.

I would just like to add my metaphor to the mix... it's my observation that many people have either an over-active or under-active guilt gland.

Guilt, like insulin when our nlood sugar rises, is important when we are in the wrong it is vital to have that surge of guilt to tell us. It is very dangerous to not feel it. Equally I know far too many people who are scarred and held-back by completely misplaced and unnecessary guilt.

Where such overactivity comes from is an interesting question.

AFZ

I said on another thread recently about how the brain seems to come up with post-hoc reasons to put some logic behind feelings that actually arise because of chemical imbalances. Panic attacks become self-perpetuating because the brain says "I must be dying - that's the only reason why I could possibly feel this bad!" and something similar happens with depression and guilt, I think. Severe depression can bring levels of guilt that crush people. For whatever reason the brain chemicals get out of whack and the person becomes very low and feels like a terrible person. The brain doesn't like to have a disconnect between thoughts and feelings like that so it comes up with the appropriate thoughts: "I must be feeling this bad because I'm an awful person who hurts everyone!" Then the guilt feeds back into the neural pathways of the depression, which reinforces the chemistry, which reinforces the thoughts. Which is why the best treatment for depression is to target both the chemistry and the thoughts at the same time.

Back to something like the OP: it's been my experience that level of guilt only very loosely correlates to level of wrongdoing. It's too easily hijacked by the brain doing weird stuff, or overridden by self-justifying nonsense, or sometimes the mechanism just doesn't seem to be there. Many of the loveliest, kindest people I know are utterly besieged with guilt. Some of them are Christian; some are not; it doesn't seem to make all that much difference. An awful lot of harm can be done by someone convinced that they're doing the right thing. And of course, we really have no answer for dealing with the people who don't seem to have a conscience at all. I suspect that the only people who really, genuinely have nothing on their conscience are people who have no conscience at all, or one so tiny that nothing else will fit on it.

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betjemaniac
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quote:
Originally posted by mr cheesy:
quote:
Originally posted by Crœsos:
If you've got "a clean slate", why wouldn't you have "a clear conscience"? Maybe I'm not understanding what you're trying to communicate here, but doesn't "a clean slate" imply no past wrongdoing? Or at least no past wrongdoing of any current consequence?

As I understand the Christian faith (..well, at least from the Protestant perspective I'm used to), at the cross all of our sins are wiped away - "as far as the East is from the West" and so on.

But forgiveness is not the same as guilt or a "clean conscience". Indeed, one might argue that being forgiven involves facing up to ones responsibility for past actions, taking on the consequences and responsibility for putting things right where possible.

Without wanting to sound like a lecture from AA, it seems to me that the major problem with this model is that we're pretty rubbish at being able to identify the important vs the unimportant things. At times I feel shame for things I did as a teenager, of embarrassment at clumsy actions that I can't ever put right.

But then on another level how do I know whether these things have been magnified in my memory and that there aren't other stupid things I've done that had more significant negative impacts on people but were forgotten?

Of course, guilt is a strong thing and can be a very paralysing force in people's lives. I'm not advocating constant thoughts about the consequences of past actions. That said, if the atonement is meant to be something that wipes away all consequences an memories of an event.. that doesn't ring true to me.

were we separated at birth? pretty much exactly my thoughts on this.

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Raptor Eye
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quote:
Originally posted by W Hyatt:
Could your atheist friend have been referring to when someone of faith prays for someone else's benefit and then considers their Christian duty to have been fulfilled?

No, it was one of those supposedly clever atheist soundbites that feed on urban myths about what faith really is - sad really, in many ways, and negative.

It was worthy of dismissal in itself, but it led to this thread when it triggered thoughts about conscience.

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mark_in_manchester

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Boogie said:

quote:
...But some things are simply personal taste/upbringing/conditioning.

Here's a short list - spending money, having a messy house, life choices, masturbating, how you spend your free time, work/not work when you have young children, not having children, staying single, food choices, not pleasing people, saying 'no', not attending Church, declining an invitation.

In my view, there could be a moral aspect to most of those examples - where my sinful choices will damage me and others, and where guilt and hopefully repentance might be appropriate. This is not to be paralysed by guilt - that's the Good News. But (to use a more light-hearted example from the list) my personal mess around the house can be a big ego-shit on the rest of the family who have to put up with my thoughtlessness - it can even be a power thing, and this might need addressing. Equally if I blow all our cash on my own expensive hobbies - of course guilt and repentance, one might hope, would come into play.

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Martin60
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I can be forgiven as much as I want, it makes no difference. So I don't want. I want the impossible. Not to have done myself and others harm. The harm done myself I can work through. But the harm I've done others? There is NOTHING I can do about that. Where I could, I have. Even significantly. But that still FEELS insignificant. Utterly inadequate. There are people I could apologize to BUT they don't even know. They won't remember. I do. So who am I doing it for if I stir it up?

I curse myself in the strongest terms. The strongest.

I'm playing back one brief forty year loop now. It can't be undone. It can't be apologized for. Unless I bare myself on Facebook. One person I did track down, they were most gracious. Most. Another I tried, I reached. I got no response at all.

One must bear ones shame for that for which one CANNOT make amends, silently, apart from with God. And even then. And invoke the fact that ALL will be well. That the damage done will be restituted.

For all ones victims. Last of all, oneself.

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Love wins

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Raptor Eye
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quote:
Originally posted by Crœsos:
quote:
Originally posted by Raptor Eye:
Thanks to forgiveness, we do have a clean slate so that we can start again to get it right. It doesn't mean that what we have done wrong was OK, but that we accept it and will not repeat the behaviour. But a clear conscience?

If you've got "a clean slate", why wouldn't you have "a clear conscience"? Maybe I'm not understanding what you're trying to communicate here, but doesn't "a clean slate" imply no past wrongdoing? Or at least no past wrongdoing of any current consequence?
A clean slate is not saying that there has been no wrongdoing, far from it. Nor is it the same as having a clear conscience, having thought it through a little more with the benefit of other posters' contributions.

Only having faced up to what we have said and done, or neglected to say and do, with heartfelt regret combined with determination not to repeat our actions do we have a clean slate, the forgiveness from God which says that we can put the past behind us and make good from now on.

We will remember with regret, but that is not the same as carrying a burden of guilt or having a clear conscience.

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Be still, and know that I am God! Psalm 46.10

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Nick Tamen

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quote:
Originally posted by mark_in_manchester:
Boogie said:

quote:
...But some things are simply personal taste/upbringing/conditioning.

Here's a short list - spending money, having a messy house, life choices, masturbating, how you spend your free time, work/not work when you have young children, not having children, staying single, food choices, not pleasing people, saying 'no', not attending Church, declining an invitation.

In my view, there could be a moral aspect to most of those examples - where my sinful choices will damage me and others . . . .
Indeed. How we spend our money or free time, or what we eat, for example, may have no moral or ethical aspects at all, or they might have significant moral or ethical aspects.

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The first thing God says to Moses is, "Take off your shoes." We are on holy ground. Hard to believe, but the truest thing I know. — Anne Lamott

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Boogie

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quote:
Originally posted by mark_in_manchester:
Boogie said:
...But some things are simply personal taste/upbringing/conditioning.

Here's a short list - spending money, having a messy house, life choices, masturbating, how you spend your free time, work/not work when you have young children, not having children, staying single, food choices, not pleasing people, saying 'no', not attending Church, declining an invitation.

quote:
mark_in_manchester replied:

In my view, there could be a moral aspect to most of those examples - where my sinful choices will damage me and others, and where guilt and hopefully repentance might be appropriate.

Of course there could be a moral aspect to all of those examples. And a total lack of conscience is a terrible thing - of course.

But my point is that guilt isn't helpful in most cases.

Take food choices which are damaging our own health and costing ourselves, our families and society a lot of pain and money. Does guilt help sort out those eating habits out?

Not in the least.

Guilt causes a destructive cycle of eat-guilt-abstain-crave-eat-guilt. The way forward from poor food choices (health wise rather than fair trade etc) is to think about it sensibly in a guilt free way and to build good habits around food. Guilty feelings get in the way of this - they are very much part of the problem.

Why should we feel guilty about craving sugar and fat when that's exactly what we evolved to do for our survival?

Does that mean we don't address the problem? - not at all!

[ 10. February 2016, 07:10: Message edited by: Boogie ]

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Lamb Chopped
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Guilt for me drives me back to Christ, rather like a headache drives me to acetaminophen. Which can only be a good thing, as he deals with the guilt and also sorts out the guilt-producing thingy, whatever it is--whether it is actually wrongdoing or not.

I mean, if I start having attacks of guilt over something that I ought not (such as refusing to take on Sunday school teaching when they need people so badly right now and keep asking), time spent in Christ's presence praying, thinking, reading, generally gets me out of the emotional hole and reminds me that a) everyone has their responsibility, and mine lie elsewhere right now; b) other people's desires do not constitute a divine call no matter how urgent they are; c) I'd better get on with what he HAS clearly called me to do at the moment, which is my studies.

Of course, some guilt issues (my weight, for example) take much longer to sort, and may be lifelong. But at least I'm getting enough contact with the Lord on the subject that I'm able to carry on halfway sensibly rather than giving up in a curled-up ball of guilty self-loathing.

When I think of confession and forgiveness, I tend to get a rather disgusting (but apt!) mental picture. It's like shoveling shit, passing sin and guilt off to God. It doesn't mean that there isn't more on the way (behold, an elephant about to take a dump!) but at least it means I don't get buried in the stuff.

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quetzalcoatl
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Boogie wrote:

quote:
Guilt causes a destructive cycle of eat-guilt-abstain-crave-eat-guilt. The way forward from poor food choices (health wise rather than fair trade etc) is to think about it sensibly in a guilt free way and to build good habits around food. Guilty feelings get in the way of this - they are very much part of the problem.
I agree with this. I must say, after 30 years working as a therapist, I think guilt is one of the biggest problems, and I see it as (mainly) pernicious. It is simply horrible, and without value.

I would distinguish remorse, which I see as connected to others, whereas guilt usually festers inside us, and attacks us.

It's also amazing how many people are guilty without realizing it, and therefore act out a kind of unconscious self-punishment, or self-destruction. It's awful to see this, but it's quite common. Guilt actually stops a resolution of a problem, and even perpetuates it, as you say, in a cycle.

[ 10. February 2016, 14:25: Message edited by: quetzalcoatl ]

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Boogie

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The prodigal son didn't 'suddenly feel terribly guilty', he 'came to his senses'. So he started to think clearly about his situation and took steps to put things right. He quite rightly asked his father's forgiveness - but the motivation for his return was sensible thinking - not guilt imo.

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quetzalcoatl
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Another aspect of guilt is that it's often about something positive. I got tired of seeing creative people weighed down by it, and struggling to raise their head above the shit. I'm just reading the biog of Sylvia Plath, quite upsetting to read of someone so creative, smashed by guilt and envy.

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LeRoc

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quote:
Boogie: The prodigal son [...] quite rightly asked his father's forgiveness
He did ask his father for forgiveness, but not "quite rightly". He hadn't done anything wrong. In fact, the father didn't even want to listen to it.

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I know why God made the rhinoceros, it's because He couldn't see the rhinoceros, so He made the rhinoceros to be able to see it. (Clarice Lispector)

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Lamb Chopped
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It's probably a Keryg question, but the conclusion that the son had done nothing wrong doesn't follow logically from the fact that the father didn't want to hear it.

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Er, this is what I've been up to (book).
Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down!

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Raptor Eye
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I like it that he came to his senses, which surely led to regret. He had wronged his family, his conscience was pricked, he surely should have felt some guilt, and asked for forgiveness.

His father was generous, but that did not imply that the son was innocent.

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Be still, and know that I am God! Psalm 46.10

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Martin60
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As far as the Father is concerned, we are.

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Love wins

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mark_in_manchester

not waving, but...
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But I'm not - definitely. And if I behave and speak as if I am innocent, when I am not, then I guess I'm pretty much a walking definition of hypocrisy. And Christ had some definite things to say about that, didn't he?

I think my conscience can help to save me from my ego / rescue me from the sin of pride. That's a very valuable thing.

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"We are punished by our sins, not for them" - Elbert Hubbard
(so good, I wanted to see it after my posts and not only after those of shipmate JBohn from whom I stole it)

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Martin60
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You mean you've learned nothing? That if you had your time again you'd make the same weak 'choices' made in ignorance? That because you are now broken, with no head space, trapped in loops of feeling and thinking, suffering grievous loss, pain, shame - being punished by your sins, addicted, compelled ... you are guilty? Martin? How? Martin? Of what? Martin?

Would you dream, Martin, of pointing that finger at someone like mark?

Neither would God.

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Love wins

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