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Formation of Conscience | Catholic Central

KAI: I know it's a Friday in Lent,

but I'll just give something else up.

CONSCIENCE LIBBY: No Kai, don't do it!

Let your conscience be your guide.

KAI: Shoo!

(upbeat music)

KAI: Hi, I'm Kai. LIBBY: And I'm Libby.

Welcome to Catholic Central.

KAI: Your gut. LIBBY: Your instinct.

KAI: Your inside voice - voice inside?

LIBBY: Those first two are ways

of loosely describing what the Catholic Church

calls your conscience. KAI: And just to be clear,

conscience and being conscious aren't the same thing.

Your conscience is a deep interior sense of right and wrong

that helps guide you through confusing moral quandaries.

LIBBY: And being conscious, well that goes away

when you're sleeping, or when making a bad choice

in those moral quandaries gets you knocked out.

KAI: Your conscience tells you to do good and to avoid evil.

It isn't so much about what feels good or bad,

as much as it's about knowing what's right or wrong.

LIBBY: But before we dig into conscience,

we have to talk about actions.

KAI: Our actions as human beings have a moral quality

whereas animals just react.

LIBBY: For example, they don't ask themselves if it's right

to eat the smaller animal before digging in.

KAI: Which is also why so many cartoon animals

don't have to wear pants.

Lucky. LIBBY: What makes our actions

right or wrong comes down to three elements.

KAI: There are some clear actions

that are always going to be morally wrong,

things our conscience should steer us away from

like cannibalism, incest, or genocide.

We hope we don't have to explain why those are wrong.

LIBBY: For other actions,

there's also the intention behind why we're doing something,

and the circumstances surrounding the action.

KAI: Person's conscience is the part of them

that rationally judges those actions

and tells them if they're right or wrong to do.

Catholics would also say that it's the part of you

that hears the voice of God.

LIBBY: Even though, everyone has a conscience,

like everyone ever.

KAI: Which is why Catholics believe that even someone

who doesn't believe in God,

can still seek to be a good person.

LIBBY: We all have gut reactions that tell us things

like "Don't touch fire" and "Eat, so you don't starve."

Some would say that that conscience

is just a religious understanding of that.

KAI: They argue that the conscience is the same

as the part of the self that internalizes the voices

and lessons of others.

All those times, authority figures told you

what you should or should not do.

LIBBY: But Catholics believe a conscience goes deeper

than your parents saying, "Don't go outside naked."

"What are you doing digging up my begonias?

Oh my goodness!"

"Don't put that pillow over Grandma's face.

You know, she won't be able to breathe.

It's something God put there

that sparks the desire to do good

and avoid evil. KAI: Exactly,

so say you're a caveman living in Blood Sacrifice Junction.

Everyone around you saying,

"Man, so glad we get to sacrifice all these people

to make the sun rise in the morning."

KAI: But your conscience--

If you listen to it,

has the chance to say, "Hey, this really isn't cool.

You know what would be cool?"

LIBBY: A song and dance number during the sacrifices?

KAI: Or respecting the dignity of the human person

and not murdering at all.

LIBBY: Oh, right.

KAI: The church fathers called it synderesis.

LIBBY: Instead of saying, "I should give that homeless person

a dollar so I can stop feeling guilty,

and look like a good person

in front of everyone else on the street,"

your conscience draws you to do it

because it's the right thing to do.

KAI: A conscience guides us to want

the good and right choice over the wrong one.

It's a still, small internal voice,

not the angel and devil on the shoulder.

LIBBY: A conscience doesn't scold or shame you.

KAI: It's also the means by which you judge your choices.

LIBBY: Your conscience can reflect on your past actions

which is what you do during an examination of conscience.

KAI: In the moment

of decision-making--

The present, your conscience checks in

to help you make the right decision.

LIBBY: And you use your conscience to think

about future decisions. V/O: Hmm.

KAI: But in order to make those choices,

we all have a responsibility to form our consciences,

otherwise life can be like a compass with no directions.

LIBBY: The Catechism says that in a well-formed conscience,

the prudent man can hear God speaking.

KAI: By having a well-formed conscience,

we're able to assess who we really are inside

and where we're at.

LIBBY: Which is super important. if we want to grow

and change into better versions of ourselves,

versions that are more likely

to do the right thing more often.

KAI: And honestly, looking at ourselves allows us

to know when we need to ask for forgiveness,

either from other people in our life or from God.

LIBBY: So you might be asking, "How do you get

a well-formed conscience?" KAI: So glad you asked, Libby.

I'm developing a proprietary new system

called consciencethenics,

the next big-- LIBBY: Kai!

KAI: First, you need something called interiorioty

or an interior life.

LIBBY: You have to take some you time to be present to yourself,

and see what's going on in your heart and mind.

KAI: And then, compare that what's going on in you

to an objective standard of right and wrong.

That's how you know if it's well-formed.

LIBBY: The conscience bears witness to the authority of truth.

It welcomes the commandments.

KAI: From there, you can turn to Scripture,

the teachings of the church, the gifts of the Holy Spirit,

the lives of the saints,

and even the advice of people

with more experience at life than you have.

LIBBY: One of the roles of the church as a community

is to help each other form our consciences,

but that doesn't necessarily mean

that whoever yells the loudest wins.

KAI: Hearing different points of view is vital

for strengthening our consciences,

and taking us beyond our own experiences.

LIBBY: And everyone should approach this process with humility.

KAI: All right, forming our conscience is a daily thing.

We always have to keep working on.

Our lives and situations change,

and the world and its challenges change too.

Like a muscle or a skill,

you'll always have to keep working out,

and practicing with consciencethenics.

LIBBY: One of the most important ways you form your conscience

is by actually making decisions

by following your conscience.

KAI: Having the will to follow through.

LIBBY: That puts into practice those hypotheticals,

making it easier, and more natural to do the right thing,

even when it's not the easy thing to do.

KAI: And making those good choices

in different situations helps create a conscience,

strong enough to find the right choice,

even when it might be tempting to say,

"There is no good choice."

I mean, this isn't even technically meat, though.

I'm pretty sure it was grown in a lab

and mixed with textured vegetable protein.

LIBBY: Inventing loopholes is not the conscience.

It's just a way to make ourselves feel okay

about not-so-great decisions.

KAI: If I knew then what I know now.

It catches up with you

and you never really end up feeling okay.

LIBBY: One important thing to remember though,

is that just like it's possible

to slack off with your conscience,

it's possible to have yours go into hyperdrive.

KAI: So, when looking at your actions past, present, or future,

always filter them through mercy.

LIBBY: If there are actions you regret,

take them as an opportunity for learning.

No mistake ever needs to be wasted.

KAI: For Catholic Central, I'm Kai.

LIBBY: And I'm Libby.

Check out our website at catholiccentral.com

for more on forming your conscience.

KAI: And hit Subscribe for more

on how Catholic traditions can help you live a better life.

(upbeat music)