However, people feel shame when they do something that is not socially approved. Erik Erickson postulated that shame is something that children learn around the age of two, the second stage in his theory of psychosocial development—which I concur is a reliable rationale for understanding development of the individual.
During this second stage of development, known as “the terrible two’s”, children are renown for demonstrating their willfulness and asserting their rights as individuals.
Children begin to feel shame when they disobey their parents and understand that this is wrong. The extent to which children recognize this as sin is another matter.
In the Bible, we read the Apostle Paul’s statement concerning the natural conscience:
- When Gentiles who have not the law do by nature what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness and their conflicting thoughts accuse or perhaps excuse them. (Romans 2:14–15)
When social behaviors violate what we know to be wrong and becomes commonplace, and we accept it, we sear our conscience. When our own behavior violates our internal recognition of right and wrong, we sear our conscience, if we habitually persist in that behavior. We will sin and have no recognition of sinning because we have learned to suppress any conflicting thoughts. Excusing ourselves for doing what we know to be wrong is how this is done. Shame only comes when our evil deeds are exposed for what they are.
- For every one who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. (John 3.20)
A sharpened conscience is like the rudder on a ship. It guides us through dangerous waters and sees to it that we survive the terrors of torment, by recognizing the truth. A conscience that has been suffocated leads people into evil and eventually to a place where they believe evil is good and wrong is right and telling falsehoods is acceptable—certain politicians are more renowned than others for this, and those who knowingly support them are just as culpable.
Discerning Truth Is Impossible If We Have No Absolute Guide To Inform Us