I always love it when I’m reading and out of the blue the words jump off the page and hit me right between the eyes, effectively moving from my brain, all the way down to my heart.
In this case, Thomas Merton in “No Man Is An Island” writes:
Fear is perhaps the greatest enemy of candor. How many men fear to follow their conscience because they would rather conform to the opinion of other men than to the truth they know in their hearts! How can I be sincere if I am constantly changing my mind to conform with the shadow of what I think others expect of me?
For probably a good 15 years of my life, the opinion of other people has mattered more to me than “following my conscience” and that has led me down some rather rocky paths that ended with suffering in tremendous emotional pain, eventually returning to “my conscience.” It has been a sad, cyclical life, and after 15 years, I have been burnt out on numerous occasions and exhausted a lot of the creativity that I know resides in my soul.
I am ready to confront the fears that I have and to listen to my conscience, because the alternative is down right scary, as Merton states:
Others have no right to demand that I be anything else than what I ought to be in the sight of God… They want me to be what I am in their sight: that is, an extension of themselves… If I allow myself to degenerate into the being I am imagined to be by other men, God will have to say to me, “I know you not!”
I can see at numerous points in my past the shadow of others that I have become, but it is the idea that God Himself would say to me, “I know you not!” that scares me the most. It is one thing to not know yourself, it is another to have the God of the Universe say that as well.
It is frankness, openness and honesty that leads to sincerity, because if I deny the person that I was created to be, I am not only being insincere with myself, effectively denying that God is the Master Artisan of the Human Soul and that I know more than He does. A lack of sincerity, thus leads to arrogance and idolatry.
So, with that, I sincerely hold on to the notion of following my conscience in order to be the man God made me to be.