There is no person so severely punished, as those who subject themselves to the whip of their own remorse. – Seneca
What does that mean?
The first thing to acknowledge with this quote is that there are people to whom this does not apply. People with broken spirits or minds can do terrible things, and think nothing of it.
This quote is for, and about, the rest of us. How many of us still wish we hadn’t done something from decades ago, even back to our childhood? This continuing remorse is what the quote is about.
When we feel badly about something, perhaps a very minor infraction, we are acting out this particular quote. And it is something which people of conscience do on a fairly regular basis.
Even if we have been caught and punished, the remorse and recriminations remain. Eventually, they fade with time, but enough remain to help guide us into the future in an appropriate manner.
Why is listening to your conscience important?
There are now, and always have been, people who lack a conscience. Somehow, it just never formed. Whether they are called sociopath or psychopaths with anti-social tendencies, they just don’t seem to understand the rules by which society plays.
For the rest of us, our conscience is our guide. Our conscience doesn’t always align with our local laws. That can be a problem, as we have to chose what to do. Breaking the law can cause problems, but so can going against our conscience. And our conscience doesn’t understand the Statute of Limitations.
For most people I know, there are things the law allows which their conscience does not. I imagine there are some instances where they are reversed, and tough choices have to be dealt with. This is, of course, for significant issues, where serious consequences might arise.
Not everything is that large an issue. But having a conscience means that you think about it, at least a little, each time a situation comes up. And that is a good thing. A conscience also functions as a warning marker, and tells us we are going into dangerous territory. That is an important thing to have in a society.
Where can I apply this in my life?
We could start with traffic laws. How many of us are very conscientious about always going at or below the speed limit? I know that while I sometimes break the law, my conscience is clear.
What I consider a proper speed rarely matches what is posted. And on occasion, I go slower. Yes, it’s rare, but there are times when conditions do not support the posted speed, and I slow down. Not because of the law, but because I couldn’t live with myself if I hurt or killed someone.
Also, when I was in first or second grade, I was caught taking and breaking small holiday light-bulbs on my way to school. I liked the way they sounded when they popped. There was, as you might imagine, a lot to talk about, both with the home owner, and my parents.
The point is that it still bothers me. Over four decades later, I still (on occasion) wonder why I did it. I wonder what was going through my brain. I knew better. I knew it was wrong. And to this day, I still use the whip of my own remorse.
What are some of the things you regret from your past? How big a part does your conscience play in your regret? Do you have things that bother you, where you just can’t understand how or why something happened? Is that a good thing, has it helped you make better choices in the time since then?
How else has your conscience helped you make a decision? Have you ever had one of those conversations with your conscience sitting on one shoulder, whispering advice in one ear? And who was on the other shoulder, whispering a different thought on how to proceed into your other ear?
Our conscience can get us in trouble when we go against what is considered normal. Consider the Tank Man, from the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989. No one seems to know what happened to him, or what price he paid for his act of conscience.
Our conscience doesn’t always win. And when it doesn’t, it rarely gives up. Years later, it can still be with us, like my little incident with the decorative light bulbs. It’s still there, trying to get a question answered which may not have a logical answer.
From: Twitter, @philo_quotes
confirmed at : http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/l/luciusanna155043.html
Photo by C.J. Kershner
- “The Human Conscience” (eve4evarules.wordpress.com)
- Sleeping with a Clear Conscience (plushbeds.com)
- Good conscience (compassionforall1.wordpress.com)
- source of remorse (rebellredarts.com)
- The Sociopath Next Door (shelflove.wordpress.com)