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Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Simple Decency of Direct Appeal

Who is your “Abigail”--one who has kept you from sin by appealing to your conscience? Do you seek this ministry from fellow believers? How so? How often? (Serendipity Bible 10th Anniversary Edition, p.442).

We all sense a great divide, a huge gap between direct appeals to conscience and manipulative ones. Manipulative ones seek to put us on a guilt trip. Manipulation in this sense is clearly illustrated when a child pouts to get his way. The parent, sensing the child's intent, has little patience with such behavior and the result is often the exact opposite from what the child intended. Sometimes in attempting to get a rise out of my wife, I will say, “Sure dear, go to your women's group, I don't mind staying here all by myself until dark.” This is clearly a form of adult pouting—a bald-faced attempt to induce guilt through manipulation and indirection.

The preferable course is direct and not indirect appeals to conscience. In this case I would say to my wife, “Please don't leave me this afternoon, I want your company.” While not explicitly using the word “conscience,” this is nevertheless a clean, direct appeal without devious use of manipulation. She may go anyway, but without the uneasy feeling that I was seeking to play games with her emotions and intentionally using her to get my way though application of guilt trips.

While indirect, exploitive appeals to conscience are heard too often; direct appeals are surely heard too little. Direct appeals actually signal respect and bring dignity to the decision process: "Before taking this action, please examine your conscience."  Ask yourself, “When is the last time I've heard a direct, explicit, and forthright appeal to conscience?” My guess is—maybe forever.

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