“Conscience is the inner voice that warns us somebody may be looking.”
~ H.L. Mencken
This morning I find myself unable to give the energy I need to an original Friday Morning Message. I have been working on a big report at work, and have to acknowledge that I can’t do everything, so this morning I had to give myself permission to recycle. When you grow up with parents who say ‘all we ever ask is that you do your best’, you sometimes put excessive expectations on yourself, confusing excellence with perfection. So I am giving myself permission to revisit an old FMM, with a twist.
Brought up in the church, I was aware from an early age that I was never alone. Up above in the heavens there were the eyes of angels, dead relatives and many more who were watching me. I am not sure if this was meant to comfort me, but it made me feel spied upon! I suppose I thought they would snitch on me if I did something wrong. At some point a sense of conscience develops; that inner compass that helps you to know right from wrong. As a young adult I saw that inner voice as God within, that reminder that everything you do matters and can have an impact on others.
We have reached the point as a society when the message we receive is just this: Don’t get caught. So long as no one knows what you have done, you’re in the clear. The knowledge that you are being watched and will have to face the consequences of your actions may be enough to make you think twice. In England, the ubiquitous closed circuit TVs carry hours of evidence and eyewitness testimony. If you think no one is watching you, think again.
One of the questions we ask prospective nursing students is about integrity. You’d be surprised how many people are not even clear on the definition, much less be able to give an example of their own. But when you say ‘doing the right thing even when no one is looking’, everyone understands. But can a society develop a conscience, can a country as a whole demonstrate integrity? Starting where we live, we can develop a community conscience, a state conscience, a national conscience to act in a way that we can be proud of.
Spike Lee’s movie ‘Do the Right Thing’ was both historic and prophetic, a look at what happens when things get heated and we forget that despite different outward appearances we are all members of one human race. When mob rule takes over, a dangerous chemical reaction is generated, and everything in its path is destroyed. Somewhere in the midst of that there is a still small voice calling for reason, calling for rationality. But we have to pay heed.
This Friday morning, if you feel sometimes as if you are trying to please too many people, trying to be perfect, carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders, take a breath and know you are doing your best. And if you can, dance as if no one is looking, but act as if your mother can see what you are doing, and make her proud of you.
Have a wonderful weekend, Family!