awakening conscience

Thursday, October 26, 2006

I've been reading "Atonement in Literature and Life" by Alan Dinsmore which is a fascinating book written in 1906 that looks at how great literature has reflected the human struggles of conflict, revenge, guilt and reconciliation, looking at authors like Homer, Shakespeare and Milton.

One of the things Dinsmore says is that conscience is not awakened either by fear of punishment nor by the show of great love. It is awakened by empathy, compassion, by a person seeing the consequences of their sin. I thought this was rather profound, and it bears out with what psychologists say about the criminal mind - that it has no sense of empathy, of the harm that they are doing to others.

Daniel Goleman, the author of the book "Emotional Intelligence" in a recent radio interview said that he thought that this is what we should be focusing on with youth offenders whose personality (including the moral awareness of empathy) is still developing until they are around 20. He advocated "reform schools" that would teach them to develop empathy. Similarly, one aspect of Restorative Justice programs is to have criminals meet their victims so that they can learn who the person is that they have hurt and likewise make the connection of empathy.

Goleman defines emotional intelligence in terms of self-awareness, altruism, personal motivation, empathy and the ability to love and be loved, and believes it can be taught. This makes sense since these are the kinds of things that are instilled in a healthy child by their parents. So in this sense it is in fact (parental) love that instills in a person in their formative years the sense of self that creates empathetic loving adults. So if that is true it would seem that Dinsmore got it half right: conscience is awakened in a person by helping them develop a sense of the consequences of their sins, by empathy, and empathy in instilled in a person by them being loved so they can move from being self-oriented towards bring a relational being.

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At 11:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have been trying to look at my relationship with God as my father to understand how I should raise my kids, but lately I have been thinking more that how I deal with my children will help me to understand how I relate to God. If that makes sense. If God has placed a model for us to relate to him in an earthly parents relationship with their children, it would seem I have been looking at it all from the wrong direction.

I believe that God leads me to see the hurt that my causes through the eyes of those I have sinned against, in this way I can step into his role as a father, but to my own children and help them to see the hurt they cause others through the eyes of those they have wronged.

At 2:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Bill, thanks for your thoughts. You say

"If God has placed a model for us to relate to him in an earthly parents relationship with their children, it would seem I have been looking at it all from the wrong direction"

What I meant was that as parents we have the responsibility of being the "father figure" the "authority figure" that instills in our kids their sense of self worth, their faith in themselves and in the world, their ability to love and be loved.

That's what a "father" does (mother too of course) and so when God is called our "father in heaven" it is referring to how God can do that in our own lives (especially where our earthly fathers have failed). God can be a "father for the fatherless" and a relationship with God can instill in us a new identity and lead us to love be transformed to his likeness.

So being a dad is an amazing thing because on the one hand we are entrusted with molding the souls of our kids (I think of the Creed song "With Arms Wide Open") and at the same time we learn how God loves us as our father and his kids.

At 4:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for your response.

I'd say you hit the nail on the head. It's amazing, my relationship with my children has helped me understand God in so many ways. It is easier to forgive and be understanding when we have a Heavenly Father who has treated us with grace.

At 10:36 PM, Blogger Forgetful God said...

I think our idea of a "relationship with God" is quickly being changed and re-evaluated. Our current perception of God is fairly outdates and, to be honest, far too dependant upon the assumptions of others. I think God can only be found through the surrender of previous "concepts" or notions of truth...truly, God lies behind our own thoughts and the very core of our awareness.
I agree that there is an awakening that is happening and it is my own...the last stage of "evolution" of course is returning to where it all began...we are returning to being God ourselves.
I'd appreciate it if you would visit my own site as it is completely dedicated to this emerging perception of Unity. Perhaps you will find it interesting


A Forgetful God


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