Character, the Conscience Builder
In publishing the second of my favorite articles I am giving you a little bit of history together with a big dose of "dipping vat philosophy"that, when put together, make a pretty good country story that I now offer you as:
CHARACTER, THE CONSCIENCE BUILDER
Through the years I have often wondered just why so many kids get into trouble; what is it that is lacking in their minds that allows them to do those things that bring disgrace and shame upon themselves and their parents. What deficiency is it in their makeup (in their thinking) that even allows them to think it is fun to deface and destroy the property of others, to commit violent crime and to do drugs? The other day while reading the Viewpoint page I thought I had found the answer (at least one that satisfied me)— and that answer is wrapped up in the neat little package of just one word.
CONSCIENCE is the word — and in thinking it over I decided that is what is lacking in so many of today’s youth. It is "that little voice that tells you something is wrong, wrong, wrong, and not to do it." It is that "old fashioned" conscience which embodies a strength of character instilled in them at an early age by their parents which allows them to resist all of those temptations which they know to be wrong as well as the strength to overcome such things as "peer pressure and wanting to be popular."
If we examine the word conscience through the periscope of a Dictionary we find that it connotes: a. The faculty of recognizing the distinction between right and wrong in regard to one’s conduct. (b) A knowledge or feeling from within of right or wrong, with a compulsion to do right , and (c) a moral judgment that prohibits or opposes the violation of a previously recognized ethical principle. (Such as "in all conscience" — meaning in all truth or fairness, or "on ones conscience", causing one to feel guilty of a thing that one has done and recognized as wrong.)
A person having a well rounded moral conscience should, upon finding that he or she has committed a rightful act, feel a sense of pride as opposed to the sense of shame that should be felt if the act was wrong. However, it appears that many of today’s youth are lacking in those two attributes, for when asked "Why did you do that? Have you no conscience? Have you no shame?" some of them are likely to say "Yes, I have a conscience and as I see it I did nothing wrong, so why should I feel shame?."
Well now, such an answer absolutely threw me, so looking again at the word "conscience" I found that the definition actually gives youth a loop hole or a way out because it also says: "Conformity to one’s own sense of right conduct". Therein could be found the root cause of why they feel no shame — they were not nurtured and disciplined from day to day in the virtues of morality and as a result have set up their own rules for "right conduct" and as a consequence they have no old fashioned conscience.
It was then that I decided that it wasn’t conscience that built character, rather it was just the opposite — it was the elements of character that were responsible for building that old fashioned conscience. Well sir, then I got to thinking about the olden days of the stock yard out south of town where the cattle were brought into Brady (the nearest railroad) by cattle drives from places as far away as Fredericksburg, Mason and Sonora to be held until they could be shipped to market.(this was back in the early 1900’s and 1920’s)
The cattle drives from Sonora to Brady were discontinued when the rail line was extended from Brady to Menard in 1911.
However (and when that word however shows up it generally means that something else has to happen) before the cattle could be shipped they had to be dipped. So they had a long concrete vat filled with creosote and I guess any other substances they had in those days that would dang near kill anything (except the animals being dipped) but they had to drive those cattle though it in order to kill all of the ticks and other skin diseases hat they had been living with all of their lives.
So how do you think they got those cattle into that dipping vat —well sir, they put them into a chute that led into the vat and by pushing and hollering and cussing they shoved them into that vat and they had to swim to the other end to get out. However, (and here again we come to that word which means something else has to happen) before those poor critters could get to the other end of that vat there were some guys with long poles who would push their heads under that liquid in order that it would kill all of the varmints on their head and ears. And so when those suckers got out at the other end of that vat they had been CLEANSED and were now ready for market.
Now some of you will say "What the devil has a dipping vat got to do with conscience and character" and I say "Hold your dang tater — I’ll get there in a minute". You see, that dipping vat gave me the idea that perhaps what our kids need is to be run through a dipping vat filled with integrity and it’s essential component parts which are: Respect (for self, others, and the law), Trustworthiness, Responsibility and Self Control, Discipline, Fairness and Honesty. All of which when combined become the fiber on which character is built and thus, in accordance with my analogy, when our kids finally get out of that dipping vat they will have developed a well rounded moral character and an old-fashioned conscience.
Now this dipping vat of integrity, as I see it, is the constant home nurturing of the child in moral values which include the ingredients of integrity and demands that the parents be role models as well as strict disciplinarians . Youths lacking this home nurturing fall easy prey to too much exposure to violent movies, bad friends and to the "enjoyment of the attention that misbehaving brings ." To those youths then the old-timey notion of "let your conscience be your guide" is not applicable because apparently they were not completely immersed in the dipping vat of INTEGRITY and thus were not completely CLEANSED.
Now the woman who wrote the article I referred to in the beginning was right when she said a "conscience must be instilled early." But let me caution her by adding my two-bits worth —— they had better have someone with a long stick watching over those kids who will occasionally push their heads completely under before they let them out of the vat containing all of that good character building stuff.
At this point the roommate who critiques my material said "Why is it that you never refer to the good kids in our world today — all you ever talk about are the bad ones?" "By George you’re right" said I. So now that I have been a spendthrift by giving away two-bits worth of my dipping vat psychology let me blow another quarter by adding the following:
It is not my intent here to infer that our youth as a whole has neither character nor conscience for we know the opposite is true. We know that the world is full of good kids and smart kids. It is sad but true that the good kids are seldom noticed by the media while those who have been short changed by their parents and are lacking in many of those integrity qualities get all of the attention — but my, my what a price they have to pay for that parental neglect.
So you good guys and gals just be thankful that your papas and your mamas raised you right.