Part 2: How Do We Form Our Consciences?
We began our reflection on the steps we can take and the questions we can ask ourselves to help our conscience to grow and to be attuned to God’s will. This week we continue that reflection with additional steps and questions.
(6) What is the reasonable thing to do? Because we are people with minds, we must use them in figuring out the right thing to do. Ask yourself what the reasonable decision is.
(7) What does your own experience and that of other people say about the issue? Because we are social beings with a history, we must check out other responses to similar problems. If possible, seek out the wisdom of others.
(8) What would Jesus have done? How does this action measure up to Jesus’ yardstick of love? What does the New Testament have to say? Jesus is the absolute norm of Christian morality. He is the one perfect human response to God. Seek out His will and His teaching before making a decision. For example, Jesus would have always followed these three rules: (i) The Golden Rule: “So always treat others as you would like them to treat you” (Mt. 7:12). (ii) Never do an evil that good may come from it. The end does not justify the means. (iii) Love always respects one’s neighbor and his or her conscience.
(9) What is the teaching of the Church? We believe that the Holy Spirit resides in the Church and helps guide us in right behavior. Jesus continues to teach through the pope and the bishops united with him. Thus, sincere Catholics consider it a serious obligation to consult magisterial teaching on moral issues as well as to learn from competent theologians and other teachers in the Church.
(10) Pray for guidance. The Lord will help you if you ask.
(11) Admit that you sometimes sin and might be wrong. As St. Paul said, one effect of original sin is that we do not always do the good we wish to do and we do the evil we wish to avoid.
(12) After all of this, follow your conscience. Going against your conscience is always wrong. “Everyone who knows what is the right thing to do and does not do it commits a sin” (James 4:17).