The Critical conscience part one 



There is great strength in being a person who is sensitive to the Holy Spirit, eager to perceive His will and heart, and aware of the needs of the people around. These are great gifts and qualities when they operate under the Lordship of Christ.

However, this same sensitive spirit operating outside of yielding, surrendering and trusting God is potentially the site of great vulnerability. This sensitivity can easily mutate into a harsh, overstrict, and critical conscience, an immature conscience is motivated by asceticism, severe self-discipline for a spiritual goal. (Colossians 2:23)

The immature conscience (1 Corinthians 8:7) is hypersensitive, harsh and critical. Instead of clarity that results from the healthy conscience, the weak conscience results in toxic, dysfunctional, chaotic, foggy false guilt. Fuelled by the entrapping lie, spoken with great conviction by the harsh ‘parent’ “if you feel guilty then you are guilty”. Leading the person to constantly focus upon what they haven’t done instead of what they have. The critical conscience is only satisfied with perfection and has no value for the celebration of progress, steady steps and faithfulness. The critical conscience creates on an identity based on failure and this identity leads to shame (feeling unloveable) experienced as symptoms that feel like trauma.

Under the weight of constantly feeling false guilt the conscience becomes spoilt, defiled, unable to distinguish real from imaginary guilt. Due to the tyranny of the overstrict, critical conscience the sensitive soul protects itself through very restrictive boundaries, discipline and laws. Don't do this, say that, go there (Colossians 2v21). The logic is that through perfectionism, the harsh voice will be silenced, and through legalism nothing can become a blockade to intimacy and connection. These boundaries are self regulated with hypersensitive diligence. There is a severity and harsh treatment of self to both protect from guilt and the trauma of shame, the logic being that a very narrow path affords less opportunity for mistakes. In this state everything is open to be questioned, and analysed, the conscience is continually evoked to safeguard one-self.

If there is even the slightest temptation false guilt is triggered, from the genuine desire to please God and people, the false guilt is scrutinised, and analysed. Digression and retreating is used to obsess around the guilt. A habitual loop, is engaged in order ascertain if the accusation is correct. Undergirding the habitual loop is the deep fear of failure, shame, and punishment. Nothing is ever good enough, the desired spiritual goal is always just out of reach.

As with the issue of eating meat offered to idols outlined in 1 Corinthians 8:7, this self-destructive mindset is obsessing about an issue that God Himself considers unimportant and inconsequential. The spoilt conscience is no longer able to discern real from false guilt, and has no biblical grid for understanding and perceiving God’s will and heart. Intimacy and connection with God, and empathy and compassion towards others plays second fiddle to reacting to the harsh critical, overstrict conscience.

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Jamie Lee, 02/09/2018