One of my favourite movies, Amazing Grace, tells the story of William Wilberforce's fight to pass anti-slavery laws in Great Britain during the late 1700s.
During one of the conversations Wilberforce has with his best friend - who also happens to be the then-prime minister, William Pitt - they get into a heated discussion regarding the morals of the times.
Realising Wilberforce is unaware that the nation is at war; Pitt turns on Wilberforce and warns him to "keep his precious conscience intact and let the rest of parliament do the war's dirty work". To which Wilberforce smirks and replies, "conscience is indeed precious".
That little voice
It got me thinking about life and how we often seem to either avertedly or inadvertently 'turn off' the little voice in our head or drown out our conscience with anything other than what we know to be right. Why is this so?
Perhaps the voice in our head reminds us of something or someone that we didn't get along with in the past and wouldn't think of turning to for advice in the future. Or maybe it reminds us of what we fear is our alter-ego, something we don't want to get in the way of our own ego.
Just maybe it's the voice of truth reminding you that 'you're better than that,' but we never give it a second thought.
Playing by the rules
Growing up on the south side of Brisbane, we often had many local fast-food joints close by, but could only go to eat there once a month. My siblings and I couldn't understand why we had to abide by such a rule, but we did, and were amazed how good the food tasted at the end of the month because we had waited.
All this changed once my brother and I graduated and moved to high school, where there was a KFC down by the street corner from school. It's safe to say that we ended up spending a lot more money on junk food than we should have; and ultimately understood why we had that rule in the first place—definitely food for thought.
Conscience is indeed precious. Without listening to our conscience we can often get into serious trouble, and I'm not just talking about junk food. As life goes on, it can become harder and harder to listen to that still, small voice in your head if you've ignored it for too long. Oftentimes, it can be too late to change some habit or relationship with someone when you've drowned out your conscience.
Wilberforce had any opportunities to drown out his conscience: he had begun a political career in his early twenties, was about to get married, and was living a comfortable life by the standards of his day.
But the plight of fellow human beings - that he considered his own neighbours - spurred him into making a change, both in his own life and the lives of the slaves, as well as those of the entire British Empire, which at that stage dominated the world.
Wilberforce listened to his conscience and sought out trusted friends who supported his decision to work tirelessly to free the slaves, despite public ridicule and constant illness.
Eventually, his bill was passed in parliament and the slaves were freed; but none would be free unless he had considered his conscience worth listening to. Many today still remember his life's work as a remarkable achievement.
A life worth living may not be measured by fame or success, but being faithful enough to hear out the voice in your head that tells you that the truth is worth telling, and certainly worth living. Despite struggles and setbacks, it pays to listen to your conscience. And when all is said and done, maybe that is the way to live a life that's worth living.
A third-culture-kid born in Australia to Indian parents, Joseph recently returned from California where he was studying theology at Fuller and has been working for the US Center for World Mission; his love of books and writing has now drawn him to PSI.
Joseph Kolapudi's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/joseph-kolapudi.html