Slow Down, Be Still, Listen, and Respond to Your Conscience
By Richard K. Harder
I recently heard a song performed by the internationally acclaimed Norwegian-born singer Sissel. The song that she sang so beautifully is titled “Slow Down, Be Still.” I address the theme and message of the song in this article—slow down, be still—as well as the invaluable attribute of listening and responding to our conscience.
Why slow down? Why be still? What is the benefit of doing so? Is it practical to slow down and be still in our fast-paced lifestyles? Or are we so busy with pressing schedules and lifestyles that we have no time to slow down and be still? In her song “Slow Down, Be Still,” Sissel refers to times of confusion, times of desperate need, times when we may not be thinking too clearly, times of tribulation, times when we are feeling insecure, or times when things are pressing in around us. Do these feelings sound familiar?
If so, consider slowing down, being still, and listening very carefully for the feelings and promptings that can come to you. Based on one’s beliefs and values, such very personal promptings can come from a higher divine source and/or from a valuable attribute that is possessed by all humans: our conscience. According to Dr. Amit Sood, MD, director of research in the Complementary and Integrative Medicine Program and chair of the Mind-Body Medicine Initiative at the Mayo Clinic, our “conscience is the inner light that illumines the truth telling us right from wrong. Conscious helps us do the right thing when no one is looking. It isn’t swayed by greed of pleasure or fear of pain. It isn’t selfish. It is objective, true, pure, and dependable.
“There is one problem though,” explained Dr. Sood. “Although conscience always has an opinion, it speaks in a humble, low volume, easily drowned by the vortices of the mind and senses. When the majority of the world muffles the voice of conscience, we become unkind to each other.” Unless we find quiet moments to slow down, be still, and listen, we may miss some of the most timely, valuable, and life changing prompts available to us from our conscience—that “inner light that illumines truth.”
At an earlier time in my professional career, I held a senior management position as director of human resources in a large medical center. I recall leaving for work one morning shortly after acting like a complete jerk of a husband and father, expressing anger and unkindness to both my wife and three daughters. I was not pleasant. Essentially, I left for work to demonstrate kindness and benevolence in my role as director of human resources shortly after creating havoc with my family.
I ask this question: When we make mistakes and errors in judgement or treat others with indignity and disrespect, does our conscience speak to us? Yes, it does. And my conscience spoke to me that morning during my drive to work. The voice of my conscience sent me a clear message: “Turn the car around, go back to your home, and apologize to your wife and children. You were wrong in what you said and how you behaved, and you know it.” For a time, I attempted to justify my behavior. After all, the kids were late for school and misbehaving, and they were deserving of the harsh treatment they received. Because of the negative mindset that I initially carried out of the home and into the workplace, I felt a limited ability to handle any people problems that day. I was not on my A-game. Rather, I would have preferred to close my office door for the day so that I could sort paper clips and pencils and blow dust out of my desk drawer.
After setting my pride and ego aside, I responded to the message and drove back home to make amends for my harsh behavior. I sincerely apologized to my wife and children and shared a big (family tradition) hug. Then I went back to work. The shift in my mindset was dramatic. I felt settled for allowing my conscience to be my guide. My office door was open. I was mentally energized. I felt I could confidently solve the most complex people problems by noon that day.
Our conscious helps us to do the things we do and think the thoughts we think that are consistent with our strongest held beliefs and values, especially when we are alone. So take time to slow down, be still, and allow that wonderful faculty of the mind, your conscience, to guide you in your actions, decisions, and thoughts. It is a great gift that is too often underutilized.