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Conscience

  • Caution and Conscience were the great twin brethren in his book of life, and the two warred perpetually the one against the other, so that there were premature lines round his eyes, and his mouth never dared smile for fear it gave birth to hopes that would not later be realized.

  • It wasn't so much that he'd smothered his conscience as that he couldn't spell the word.

  • ... a kid whose conscience is clear because he doesn't have one.

  • Conscience that isn't hitched up to common sense is a mighty dangerous thing.

  • That's what a conscience is made of, scar tissue ... Little strips and pieces of remorse sewn together year by year until they formed a distinctive pattern, a design for living.

  • And, as someone says somewhere, each wrong act brings with it its own anesthetic, dulling the conscience and blinding it against further light, and sometimes for years.

    • Rose Macaulay,
    • 1951, in Constance Babington-Smith, ed., Letters to a Friend 1950-1952 ()
  • What I cannot live with may not bother another man's conscience. The result is that conscience will stand against conscience.

    • Hannah Arendt,
    • "Civil Disobedience," Crises of the Republic ()
  • Conscience is the anticipation of the fellow who awaits you if and when you come home.

  • Well, I've got just as much conscience as any man in business can afford to keep, — just a little, you know, to swear by, as 'twere ...

  • ... I have an idea that conscience impedes quite as many merits as faults, is a sort of alloy, a nickel which may prevent silver from bending but also prevents it from shining.

    • Sylvia Townsend Warner,
    • 1937, in Susanna Pinney, ed., I'll Stand by You: Selected Letters of Sylvia Townsend Warner and Valentine Ackland ()
  • Conscience represents a fetich to which good people sacrifice their own happiness, bad people their neighbors'.

  • ... conscience, like a child, is soon lulled to sleep ...

  • I cannot and will not cut my conscience to fit this year's fashions, even though I long ago came to the conclusion that I was not a political person and could have no comfortable place in any political group.

    • Lillian Hellman,
    • letter to the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Un-American Activities (1952), in Lillian Hellman, Scoundrel Time ()
  • His conscience was the fox in his vitals.

  • ... the private conscience is the last and only protection of the civilized world.

    • Martha Gellhorn,
    • "Eichmann and the Private Conscience," in The Atlantic ()
  • Though she had never met Markie's conscience she had heard it sometimes, creeping about the house.

  • People with bad consciences always fear the judgment of children.

    • Mary McCarthy,
    • "The Contagion of Ideas" (1952), On the Contrary ()
  • Few things are as bad as a guilty conscience.

  • I know people. Most have no earthly notion of the price of a snow-white conscience.

  • The voice of conscience is so delicate that it is easy to stifle; but it is also so clear that it is impossible to mistake.

  • The moral quest continues to attract and compel humankind. Conscience holds its own.

  • Conscience is the still small voice that has been trying since the infancy of our species to tell us that we are evolutionarily, emotionally, and spiritually One, and that if we seek peace and happiness, we must behave that way.

  • Conscience is a creator of meaning. As a sense of constraint rooted in our emotional ties to one another, it prevents life from devolving into nothing but a long and essentially boring game of attempted dominance over our fellow human beings, and for every limitation conscience imposes on us, it gives us a moment of connectedness with an other, a bridge to someone or something outside of our often meaningless schemes.

  • One way or another, a life without conscience is a failed life.

  • The desire to please those we admire and respect often cripples conscience.

    • Elizabeth Cady Stanton,
    • 1860, in Theodore Stanton and Harriot Stanton Blatch, eds., Elizabeth Cady Stanton As Revealed in Her Letters Diary and Reminiscences, vol. 2 ()
  • I hate a conscience. It's always making you feel low down and disreputable. I don't believe I will say anything to my children about one, and let them have some peace.

  • The moment one begins to solder right and wrong together, one's conscience becomes like a piece of plated goods.

  • Altogether his conscience pricked him a good deal; and when people's consciences prick them, sometimes they get angry with other people, which is very silly, and only makes matters worse.

  • One's conscience reproaches one much more stingingly for one's follies than one's crimes.

    • Geraldine Jewsbury,
    • 1842, in Mrs. Alexander Ireland, ed., Selections From the Letters of Geraldine Endsor Jewsbury to Jane Welsh Carlyle ()
  • ... what greater happiness could one secure in this life than the joy that comes of a clear and calm conscience?

    • Virginia Galilei,
    • in Dava Sobel., trans., Letters to Father: Suor Maria Celeste to Galileo, 1623-1633 ()
  • A conscience is a troublesome thing at times. I woke up at 4 o'clock this morning and I spent the time feeling what a nothing I was, and wishing I was so very different. Then the morning's post brought me a letter from a friend, saying I was so this, so that — it made me really cry, I was so grateful.

    • Kate Greenaway,
    • in Marion Harry Spielmann and George Somes Layard, Kate Greenaway ()
  • ... when we find ourselves face to face with finance and conscience, what are we to do? For they are both charming things, but they will not mix.

  • Conscience ... is the impulse to do right because it is right, regardless of personal ends.

  • I can't tell my conscience from my insecurities.

  • It takes courage to have a conscience when you seem to see others getting something tangible out of not bothering to struggle with the morality of a situation. It gets frustrating and demoralizing. This is precisely where character comes in. All throughout history special people have felt compelled to do what they objectively saw as right and good — even in the face of humiliation or rejection or expulsion or torture or death. That is because they believed that certain ideas were more important than individual well-being.

  • The one thing that doesn't abide by majority rule is a person's conscience.

  • The needle of our conscience is as good a compass as any.

  • ... no man has a monopoly of conscience.

  • Some laborers have hard hands, and old sinners have brawny consciences.

    • Anne Bradstreet,
    • "Meditations Divine and Moral" (1664), in John Harvard Ellis, ed., The Works of Anne Bradstreet in Prose and Verse ()
  • [On disagreeing with her husband about his slave-holding:] I cannot give my conscience into the keeping of another human being or submit the actions dictated by my conscience to their will.

    • Fanny Kemble,
    • 1842, in Fanny Kemble Wister, ed., Fanny: The American Kemble ()
  • Conscience is a treacherous thing, and mine behaves badly whenever there is serious danger of being found out.

  • It's fear that makes us lose our conscience.