Institute in Basic Life Principles

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What can stand in the way of clearing my conscience?

Hindrances to Gaining a Clear Conscience
common points of rationalization

When you’ve said or done something that weighs on your conscience, you might try to explain away the guilt. The following issues could keep you from clearing your conscience:

  • Knowing that the ones you offended were wrong too

    You may feel that the other party is responsible for most of the offense—say 90% of the wrong. You feel that since he is “more guilty” in the situation, he should make the first move toward restoring the relationship. Thus, you justify your actions and make excuses for not taking responsibility for them.

    Scripture says that if you compare yourself with others, you are not wise. (See II Corinthians 10:12.) Instead of looking at others’ actions, remember that you are responsible for what you have done. Even if you are guilty of only 10% of the offense, you need to resolve the conflict in that relationship before you will have a clear conscience.

  • Balancing your guilt with blame

    If you blame people or circumstances for what you have done, you’re balancing your sense of guilt with blame. The greater your guilt, the more you blame others and think about their actions instead of your own. You will become bound to bitterness, because you won’t be able to forgive others without exposing your own sense of guilt.

    If you refuse to take responsibility for your part of the problem, you won’t be able to gain a clear conscience. Allowing bitterness and guilt to fester, unchecked, invites devastation to your mental and emotional health.

  • Misunderstanding the “splinter” and the “beam” concept

    When you sense that someone is offended because of “some little thing” you did to him, remember that in his eyes this “little thing” is a big deal. You may think you were only 10% wrong, but in his eyes, you were 90% wrong.

    This concept is demonstrated in Jesus Christ’s analogy about the splinter and the beam. (See Matthew 7:1–5.) A splinter and a beam are actually the same size when viewed from opposite perspectives. In the other person’s eyes, the offense looks like a beam, but to you, the offense looks like a tiny splinter. Consider how the other person views the situation, and take responsibility for your part of the problem.

  • Underestimating the power of your attitudes

    You can be so focused on your own thoughts and emotions that you fail to realize how your attitudes affect others. More than you might realize, people react to your attitudes.

    It is possible that your negative attitudes actually motivated the other party to take action against you. In his eyes, his offense toward you was justified. He sincerely holds you responsible for the problem because of your bad attitudes. In the process of gaining a clear conscience, it is essential to discern, confess, and address your negative attitudes in addition to your offensive actions.

Guilt is not a function of the mind; it is an expression of the spirit. Therefore, guilt cannot be eased with mental rationalization, and it cannot be balanced with blame. You can gain a clear conscience only through confession, restitution, and forgiveness.

“He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy” (Proverbs 28:13).

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9).

For Further Study

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