In President Obama's book, The Audacity of Hope he writes, "I find comfort in the fact that the longer I am in politics the less nourishing popularity becomes...and that I am answerable mainly to the steady gaze of my own conscience."
I like the book. Sometimes it's work and often I wonder if I like it primarily because I tend to agree with him on what he is writing about. I am not finished with the book yet, but the line I refer to in the first paragraph is, to me, especially meaningful.
We are all answerable "mainly to the steady gaze of our own consciences." And the extent to which we can maintain that gaze and respond to our conscience, is a measure of our character. I think that I do this relatively well, but I have my moments when it is work, and heavy lifting at that. Yet it is a good guideline for me to employ.
Of course one's conscience has to be well calibrated and this, itself, requires a tune up now and again. Pretty easy for the settings to be conveniently altered so that a gaze at one's conscience could justify all sorts of careless and inconsiderate behavior. I can actually feel myself flinch when I recall an episode when either the calibration was off and I was under the illusion that my behavior was consistent with appropriate behavior OR, more irregularly I am happy to say, I did something that was inconsistent with what I knew to be wrong when I did it.
No medals for me or anyone else for acting within the confines of one's conscience. Being conscious of one's conscience and acting accordingly is what one should do, like saying thank you when appreciation is called for, or taking courageous action when it is unpopular. Still it is tough work and I am aware of my transgressions. Judy Collins entitled a book, Trust Your Heart. When asked why she so entitled the book that way she said simply, "When I didn't trust mine I found myself in trouble." The heart and the conscience are attached meaningfully. Trusting the heart is a good method for keeping one's conscience tuned.
I hope our president keeps his gaze as steady as he suggests he should and trusts his heart to ensure that his gaze stays steady.