A Clean Conscience
Now this is our boast: Our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially in our relations with you, with integrity and godly sincerity. 2 Corinthians 1:12 (NIV)
I used to enjoy working overnights in the Emergency Department but the consequence of that shift was that I struggled to return to a normal sleeping schedule when I switched back to days. Insomnia became a real struggle which I used as an excuse to take pills. I need this so I can sleep. It worked when I took the pills, but then, as I realized I was hiding an addiction, I began to lose sleep, worrying about that problem. The only solution I could see then, was to take more pills, which pained my conscience even more. Paradoxically, I lost a tremendous amount of sleep, tormented by the very thing that was supposed to help me find rest.
Now, in recovery, I don’t work overnight, I don’t take pills to go to bed, and I sleep like a baby. I don’t live perfectly by any means, but I also don’t have a poisoned conscience keeping me up every night. After living for so many years with so much guilt and shame, it’s a remarkable thing to lay my head down at night with a clean conscience.
Paul boasted in this in today’s passage. In it, he said that because he had conducted himself with integrity, he could claim a clean conscience. Perhaps he made mistakes, but he had sincerely tried to do the right thing, and in doing so, he could live without major regret and shame.
When I was early in my recovery, the full consequences of my addictive, destructive behavior began to dawn on me, threatening to overwhelm me with guilt. Those in treatment around me encouraged me to dismiss such feelings – Just forgive yourself. I did ask God to forgive me and I know he did. I found though, that the only path to a truly clean conscience, when it came to my relationships with family and friends, has been to live with integrity. I couldn’t enjoy a clean conscience until I radically changed my behavior.
This doesn’t mean I never fail. It does mean though, that I don’t get to enjoy peace of mind while I’m still indulging in the things that cause me turmoil. If I want a clean conscience, I must, like Paul, abandon the things that cause me shame and guilt, daily embracing integrity and godly sincerity.