Don’t Let Your Conscience be Your Guide


I’m standing at the kitchen sink loading dishes into the washer. From out of the corner of my eye I notice a small movement to my left. I look down to see my beagle-basset with her tongue mid-motion in a sneaky attempt to lick a dirty spoon.

As soon as she sees me looking at her she retracts her tongue, drops her ears and looks at the ground. “That’s right,” I say, “You know better.” She sheepishly wags her tail in acknowledgment.

My dog has a conscience.

So do I.

So do you.

And a conscience can be enormously helpful, especially when we’re young. It’s not just an imaginary inner voice. It’s an actual part of the brain believed to be located in the prefrontal cortex (the part that helps us make decisions). It records what we learn about “right and wrong” so that we know what’s required in different situations. But there’s a catch: our conscience is fallible.

What I mean is this: since the conscience learns through experience it varies based on both our biology and background. Some people have consciences that rule their lives with an iron fist. And we’ve all seen sociopaths on the news who seem to have no conscience at all.

When we give our lives to Jesus, he wants to redeem all of us–including our conscience. “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” {Rom. 12:2}

This happens through the Holy Spirit.

So here’s a life-changing truth: Your conscience and the Holy Spirit are not the same thing.

There seem to be two types of consciences that naturally occur in us {based on 1 Cor. 8}.

The first is a weak conscience that’s overly sensitive. If you have a weak conscience you have a tendency to: live under the law, feel guilt, experience fear of punishment, be overly cautious, try to live up to standards beyond what God requires.

The second type of conscience is an insensitive one. If you have a tough conscience you have a tendency to: indulge in sin without remorse, disregard the feelings of others, break rules and take unnecessary risks, rebel against the standards that God requires.

So our role is to bring our conscience into alignment with the Holy Spirit. That means when a thought related to values {ex: how you’re treating someone} comes to mind we need to do what the verse above says: “test and approve” it.

We can ask ourselves these three questions…

What is the source of this thought? It may be from our upbringing, an authority figure, or a past experience.

Does this thought align with the truth of Scripture? If not, what needs to be adjusted so that it does? Most of our thoughts contain some grain of truth. When the enemy tempted Jesus in the wilderness, he used Scripture but distorted it. We need to proactively evaluate our thoughts to sort what’s true from what’s not.

What is the action God wants me to take based on the truth, regardless of how I feel right now? As we make decisions based on what’s true we actually retrain our conscience so over time it becomes more and more synced with the Spirit.

Think of your conscience as a bit like my beagle-basset. It can be a good friend and a loyal companion who walks through life with you. But it’s up to you to  train it with wisdom and kindness so it can thrive and bring joy to its beloved master.

And your Master too.

About Holley

About Holley

Wall Street Journal Bestselling Author and Life Coach

I like humans, words, and good coffee. And I’d love to help you beat what’s holding you back, become all you’re created to be, and kick butt for the greater good.

Cheering you on,


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