Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Growing a Conscience

Last night my youngest son greeted me at the door after my writers’ group meeting. But when I went to the kitchen, to have some of the homemade mac & cheese that my oldest had made for dinner, the little guy suddenly burst into tears.

“Nate, what’s wrong?”
“I feel bad.”
His voice crescendoed as he wailed, “Because I put my dinner down the sink.”

It took a minute or two to get the complete scoop from him—that Christian had served him a plate of mac & cheese with mixed frozen veggies but since Nate apparently wasn’t in the mood for that he seized the first opportunity to sneak it down the garbage disposal side of the sink.

“So do you feel bad because you’re hungry now?”
“Or because you know that Christian worked hard to make dinner and you threw his hard work down the drain.”

“Nathan,” I told him as I gave him a hug and he slobbered into my sweater, “I wish you hadn’t done that but I am actually glad that you’re upset. It means you have a conscience.”

After apologizing to his brother, he calmed down only to lose it again. “And I’m also upset that I wasted food.”

I couldn’t help wondering if images of children in Haiti who hadn’t eaten in days made an impression on him. “I have an idea. Instead of beating yourself up, use how you feel right now as a reminder to never to it again.”

Nathan sniffed. “Okay” as I thanked God that, at seven, my son had reached a stage of hyper-sensitivity to right and wrong. I honestly don’t think he would have cared if he’d dumped his dinner six months ago. Unless of course, he got caught and missed out on dessert. But last night he cared about his brother’s feelings, being sneaky, and wasting food. I pray it lasts.

Last night reminded me that, while we don’t want to live in a perpetual guilt trip, a little dose of guilt is good sometimes. Without its’ painful jabs at the heart, how often would we stop to consider how our actions affected others, whether we’d disobeyed or deceived someone, or why it really is wrong to purposely waste a blessing like food?

Think back to the first time you got hit hard with guilt. Maybe it was over something small, like Nathan’s decision to toss the dinner he wasn’t enjoying. Pray that God will keep your heart sensitive to right and wrong, knowing that when you do, you are more likely to be polite, kind, obedient, and filled with a desire to please Him.

1 comment:

Emily Ann Benedict said...

Great story! :) And a good reminder to all of us.