I have a confession to make. I once cheated on my dog, Freckles. I suppose that would be viewed in dog world as “a-dog-tery.” It all began innocently enough when I went for my ritualistic exercise walk. I saw a neighbor walking his dog. I stopped to speak to him and began petting his cute dog. I took it a step further with baby talk calling him a “precious “wittle” pooch.”
My behavior had felt appropriate (minus the baby talk), but when I walked in my house from what I thought was a guilt-free walk, Freckles came running enthusiastically to greet me (in that little way she has). She began sniffing me with an intense ferociousness. I was busted. She was tracking down the smell of the “other dog.” I felt a pang in my conscience when she looked up at me with pitifully sad eyes as if to say, “With whom have you been this time?”
Woodrow Wilson observantly said, “If a dog will not come to you after having looked you in the face, you should go home and examine your conscience.” Freckles definitely came to me, she just didn’t like the stench of another canine. Of course, this is a nonsensical example of guilt feelings that are ungrounded. However, the pang I felt from looking in her curious eyes made me want to delve into further understanding about the inner workings of our complex human conscience.
Our conscience resides in the prefrontal cortex of our brains which is located in the forefront behind our eyes. Perhaps, that’s why it is said that one can tell a lot about people by looking into their eyes—the windows to the soul.The conscience is our inner voice that guides us. It controls our judgment of the choice between right and wrong. Remorse and guilt manifest themselves as pangs in the conscience, but then make the long trek to our heart to tug on those strings a little while. It hurts our conscience to know we’ve caused pain for another person or beloved pet. Or at least it should.
My father had an extreme sense of conscience. When I was young, my parents took my siblings and me on a family vacation to Florida. After our week long stay we were headed back home when we decided to round out the vacation with one last stop at Sea World. As my father was pulling out of the Sea World parking lot for the final jaunt home, he accidentally scraped the car next to us. He got out to check the possible damage, but was relieved to see that the car was not dented or scratched. So, he got on the interstate headed for the long journey home. We were about twenty-five miles out of town when my father put on his blinker and turned the car around to head back to Sea World. My mother said, “What in the world are you doing? He just said, “I’m not going to feel good about hitting that car unless I go back and at least leave a note with my number and insurance information, just in case they happen to see something awry. That’s exactly what he did. His conscience was at rest and he was ready for the long trek home. He never heard from the car owner.
I remember a wonderfully simple “life suggestion” my father used to say that I will pass along that is the bottom line of human conscience:
“It’s nice to go to bed at the end of the day and know in your heart and conscience that you’ve been the best and most honest person you could be.”
A good night’s sleep will follow a clear conscience…zzzzzzzzzzz
Hunter Darden-order personalized copies of my books by scrolling to the top of the page and clicking on the link or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.