The liberated conscience – in the life of an adult
Personal thoughts and application on an attended lecture on education,
given by Heinz Etter Part 3
When I look at my own life, I remember what it felt like to be punished, blamed and shamed for my “wrongdoings”. Irrespective of whether those things were done “by purpose” or whether they simply were due to my stage of development at the time.
In this article I shared how I “stole” cherries from a neighbor.
I was about 7or 8 years old and wanted to bless my parents with those cherries, ignoring the fact that those cherries I had filled my basket with, weren’t ours.
My father was outraged. It was not only a high value for him to have children who obey but even more to have children who live by the same high moral standards he had.
And now he had a daughter that was a thief!
He completely ignored my heart to bless my parents and he had never heard “about stages of development of a child”. All he saw was the fact that I had stolen, that my conscience was apparently not working properly.
“He took me by the hand, and, upset and scandalized, pulled me to that neighbor where I had to hand over that basket and confess what I had done.
I don’t remember the neighbor’s answer. What I do remember was my inner feeling as this little girl, feeling so wicked and guilty – and deeply confused. That was not my intention at all! I wanted to bless my parents. I wanted to show them, my love. I didn’t expect to feel wrong, guilty and wicked in the end!
Back to the subject on how to get rid of OUR latent bad conscience, which we carry throughout our adulthood. This part of us that received the message: “If I do what seems right to me, it is wrong. Something is wrong with me”?!
As I would like to show you in this story above, stories like that form our understanding of not only who we are, but also of how we transmit this same understanding.
Heinz Etter pointed out that the whole subject has a spiritual dimension.
How „Pedagogy is a basic tool to transmit the liberating love of God. But how pedagogy can also be the basic tool to give children a completely false image of God – from which this latent bad conscience accompanies us all the way into adulthood. ”
It really is.
All my father wanted, was to make a good citizen out of me, that knows the dos and don’ts of our society (and the bible) . A grown woman that has a moral compass that works.
I very much agree with that statement of Heinz Etter that
“Psychologically speaking, it is nearly impossible to shake off such imprints.”
However, because it has this spiritual dimension, the solution has to be spiritual too.
I am so thankful that God brought this situation back into my memory in a time of prayer.
In my inner eyes, I “saw” this situation all over again, could feel the way I felt back then, as if I would be right in the middle of that situation again. Only, this time, Jesus was there to receive this basket of cherries. He took that basket, smiled at me with so much love and tenderness in his eyes – and told this little girl I was back then: “Thank you, Jeanne, thank you for your love. I love your heart! You are amazing! Then he added – with humor and softness: But you know, actually, one should not pick cherries from a neighbor’s tree…”
God is so good, and he has so many ways to help us to get rid of such imprints.
Sometimes he does it like in that story with the cherries.
By experiencing this smiling, loving reaction of Jesus receiving this basket of cherries during my prayer time, freedom entered my life in this area.
Instead of shame and guilt, there was love and acceptance entering this memory.
It formed my understanding of how we treat our children:
In our family, we don’t focus on the obedience and good behavior of our children.
We do have a high standard of manner and morals. We want kids that behave well, kids with a moral compass, well-established by the time they grow up.
However, we don’t panic if we catch them behaving in inappropriate ways or going against our “moral standards”. Instead, we put all our energy and attention to reach out to the hearts of our children, to strengthen this connection, to understand who they are and what matters to them.
I believe it is not presumptuous to say that our children are free from fear. They have a sense of security, they are eager to do things the right way. We love to see them flourish. And often, especially in times, they behave inappropriately, we remember them that they are loved and special to us and to God.
This brings us back to the final question that was brought forward at this lecture:
How do we get rid of OUR latent bad conscience we carried all through our life, up into adulthood? How can we help this part of us that received the message: “If I do what seems right to me, it is wrong. Something is wrong with me”?!
Like I said above, if the problem is spiritual, the solution has to be spiritual too.
Sometimes, God changes our reality by showing us HIS view on the topic in ways described above.
Other times, it’s a process to go.
In my experience, the most difficult part trying to get rid of this latent bad conscience is of trying to be better than you think you are.
Let me explain:
If your memory (many times on an unconscious level) is filled with situations when you, as a child were told that you are a “bad girl” or a “bad boy”, situations when you were shamed and blamed every time you did something inappropriate, it is more than normal that you stick with that feeling of being that bad girl/boy all through your adulthood. This latent bad conscience becomes part of the way you feel.
So I always had the urge to present myself in a good way while I had this bad feeling within me. This, while people around me were already completely fine with me. I often destroyed more than I helped the cause by trying to present myself favorably.
In my life, the first thing that had to change was my identity.
I had to believe that I wasn’t this rebel child, wicked and guilty. I had to believe that I could be a blessing to people around me, not only a challenge and a troublemaker.
Psychology couldn’t get me there, because theory won’t win over personal experience.
Instead, it was God’s grace (which actually is His power acting in us and through us on this earth) doing it for me. And as I described above, the process can differ so much from person to person. Because God’s creativity is endless, He has so many ways. But the good thing is that, if we open up ourselves for His love and ask Him for help, He will never fail us. That’s how good He is.
In the end, it is an ongoing process. There are times in my life, even today, when a latent bad feeling about myself wants to make me feel pressured, wants to direct my behavior.
One of these moments, for example, is in a meeting I have to attend once a year. Somehow, in that environment, the feeling of inadequacy and insecurity is still showing up there.
Now – I know how I will feel in that meeting. Still, I decide to go. I remind myself who I am and how I can be a blessing to those other participants. When I am there, I don’t allow myself to go home right after the meeting. I stay to chat with whomever the opportunity allows. That way I make sure I stay in the process of change and growth. I acknowledge how I feel, not allowing myself to be ruled by that feeling. I look at myself with that humor, tenderness and love with which I know today, God is looking at me. I tell myself:
“It’s OK for you to feel that way. But you know that this is not the truth about you.”
And I stay.