The Dreadful Inescapability of Conscience

We hold ourselves personally responsible for the decisions that we have made, or failed to have made, and the actions we have undertaken, or failed to have undertaken, as if we had a choice in the matter—and no matter how sophisticated the rationalizations we might generate to account for our failures, we find it very difficult for our consciences to be quelled by explanations that remove from us our sense of moral culpability and responsibility. 

In the light of day, we might be narcissistically certain of the correctness of our actions or inactions. In the dark of the night, however, when sleep will not come, or suddenly vanishes, we find ourselves confronted by doubt and uncertainty and shame and guilt and fear and apprehension, and we torture ourselves: did we do the right thing? And it is very difficult to account for this self-accusation, as it does not seem so much something we choose (as if we would choose to experience involuntary guilt and shame and doubt) as something that is an inevitable consequence of a poor decision—particularly if we knew when we made the decision that we were taking the easy way out. 

Jordan B. Peterson

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