The Spark of Celestial Fire Called Conscience

“Labor to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestial fire called conscience.”

—George Washington, Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior in Company & Conversation, ca. 1744

Imag of a man with men on each of his hands

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What do the first President of the United States, Jiminy Cricket from Disney’s Pinocchio, and Marvin Gay of Motown fame have in common?

Washington’s quote may give it away, with his coaching to always let your conscience be your guide. Jiminy Cricket is the voice of conscience for Pinocchio. And for Marvin Gaye fans, it was the debut single released from his first album, The Soulful Moods of Marvin Gaye.

How often do you recognize the inner voice, or the sense of what is right or wrong in your actions, or the actions of others? Where do the issues of ethics or moral principles influence, guide, or control your thoughts and actions? You may even hear the voices of a parent, teacher, or spiritual guide from years ago.


How and in what ways can you use the celestial fires of conscience to make important personal or professional decisions today, and in the future?

“An uneasy conscience is a hair in the mouth.”

“An uneasy conscience is a hair in the mouth.”

– Mark Twain, author and humorist

In the earliest days of my coaching career, only a couple of months after I left my job in the pharmaceutical industry, I joined a small consulting firm. Their unofficial motto regarding income generation was “you eat what you kill” – and unfortunately, I was starving. Of course, if we did “kill” anything, we had an agreement to share a portion of our income with the house.

After about 90 days with absolutely no income, my first client gave me a personal check in my name for $1,000. I literally held that check in my wallet for almost a week, unsure if I should share it with the company who – up to that point – compensated me only with a key to the door and permission to use the telephone.

To say I had an uneasy conscience was putting it mildly. I actually made myself ill to the point of vomiting due to my internal conflicts. Living by the quote “The truth will set you free”, I discussed this issue openly with my colleagues – and I was almost instantly healed.


Where in your personal or professional life are you faced with an uneasy conscience, where summoning the courage of your integrity will remove the hair from your mouth?

“When a man is wrapped up in himself, he makes a pretty small package.”

“When a man is wrapped up in himself, he makes a pretty small package.”

– John Ruskin, English artist and art critic

We all know people who are self-centered, egotistical, narcissistic and arrogant. Most people have at least a trace of these attributes. A typical reaction we have with these people is to withdraw and to avoid them. When people exhibit these behaviors, their worlds become small packages.

When we become far more interested in the lives of others – including family, friends and colleagues – our world expands exponentially.


How many people would attend your funeral, or attend a party that would celebrate your life?

If the people in your life were to write a eulogy for you, what would you like it to say?

#93: “The ultimate test of a man’s conscience may be his willingness to sacrifice something today…”

“…for future generations whose words of thanks will not be heard.”

– Gaylord Nelson, co-founder of Earth Day

I once saw a behavioral experiment, conducted with small children around the age of three or four years old. The experiment involved marshmallows. The child could have a single marshmallow immediately, or they could wait five minutes longer and be rewarded with two marshmallows.

Some of the children simply gobbled the one immediately. However, the children who were able to delay their gratification seemed far happier with their accomplishment.


What sacrifices are you willing to make today to help yourself and others have a far better future (even if you may never receive thanks or the rewards directly)?

What would you like your legacy to be?

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