It was the development of my conscience taking place. It was learning to put myself in the position of another I had hurt. It was something that has stayed with me all my life, so that there came a time, quite early on, that it became my guide for my actions, and I didn't need any exterior help to decide what was right and what was wrong.
How does conscience develop?
I'm thinking about this as the VW corporation trotted out their CEO this week. He had a somber face as he assured the world he is "endlessly sorry" his corporation had seen fit to outfit their diesel models with software that would fool everyone into believing the cars had very low emissions. Is he sorry about that? Or is it that he's sorry they were caught doing it? He couldn't claim it was "accidental" in this case. It was obviously a preconceived, ruthless plan to dupe about 11 million customers who had spent their hard-earned coin on these cars, after researching and selecting them, based on the facts supplied by the corporation.
Did you know there's a tried and true formula for writing a formal letter of apology? It usually has money to sweeten the pot. And by the way, conscience doesn't seem to come into it.
Ever noticed how saying "I'm sorry" has become routine with all kinds of large corporations and celebrities these days? You know that very shortly after some huge scandal there will be a formal apology. See, it's all about saying "I'm sorry" as soon as possible after the event. What really boggles the mind though is that it really does seem to stop the baying of the news hounds even though the sheer magnitude of the wrongdoing is often beyond what most of us have the means or mental bent to imagine.
Oh dear, even the Southern Australia Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons has been made to apologise for their really egregious attitude towards their own. This has to go down as reluctant and boring. But it is worthwhile to watch, as there are two matters here - no conscience, and careful vagueness as to action. Very clever, but then some of these guys do consider themselves superior to others. That's what they're apologizing for!
You have to question if these apologies are symptomatic of a society that maybe forgets to teach their young children to have a conscience. You see, society likes things to be concrete now, and a conscience isn't. Instead it may be the development of a voice within ourselves that defines good or bad behavior on our own part. It's private, can't be measured, and gives importance to the feelings of others. Collectively, it may lead to the empowerment of a strong society, or the destruction of one. (Think of the millions of refugees fleeing attacks and persecution at this time.)
Another very popular saying in our household as I grew up was "Honesty is the best policy." I believed that until about twenty years ago, when things in society started to swing the other way. I saw evidence that corruption, bribery and all kinds of scams were permeating society and making people very wealthy indeed. It's hard when you're working, being a good citizen, and seeing others much better off than you, just because they lack a conscience.
How can you make a difference in all of this? That's the burning question. Seems the best way might be to talk about it, to express appreciation when someone does kind acts, and most of all to help parents develop a conscience in their young children by example.
I know. I've used this one before. But it still wounds me when I see it.