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Conscience-Based Moral Judgments

Conscience-Based Moral Judgments

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SOME GUIDANCE FOR HELPING WITH
CONSCIENCE-BASED MORAL JUDGMENTS* 
Robert Schutzius, Ph.D.
 
In your ministry you will most likely encounter someone asking your help with a moral decision that involves a personal situation in life which has significant consequences and involves a risk based on what may be of questionable moral choice.   

1. Your first task is to make quite clear that you can offer some guidance and advice, but you cannot provide answers or even make recommendations in their decision-making.  The individual must be clear that the decisions to be made are to be the individual's choice based on what his/her conscience dictates.**  Only the individual can discern what God's will is in the decision they make. Explain that you can only help, and not to decide.  Mention that is quite possible that the individual may not find the answer, even with your help.  As a helper you do not have professional credentials, but only training/experience as a helper. (you might explain).

2. Ask and listen:  Ask the client to explain the problem with as much detail as possible.  Wait and listen to learn as much as you can.  Save your questions until the full explanation is finished. Don't interrupt.  Perhaps make it clear that you understand what is being said, by nodding.  You do not need all the details at this point.

3.  Clarifications: Now the work begins. Try to make it clear that you understand the problem and that some thoughts came to mind as it was told.  Explain that your questions are not to be construed as judgments one way or another, but only as a way of clarification and are but thoughts to be considered:  

Below are only some ideas to pursue.  The goal is to encourage the client to verbalize out in the open the real issues.
  
Acknowledging/affirming the feelings expressed is always a good way to communicate your understanding, and to encouraging expression.  
a) What alternative solutions have been considered? 
b) Why is the preferred, solution if any?
c) What circumstances affect the problem and/or solution?  
d) What are the costs (physical, financial, psychological, personal, family) at stake here? 
e) What other advice has been sought/received? (second opinion)  Helpful?  
f) What decision have you come to already?  What does you conscience say? 
g) What conversations have you had with God about this?  What is your prayer life?
h) There are spiritual risks involved in a significant decision.  
I) How comfortable or doubtful are you about what you are thinking of doing?
j) What support can you count on?
k) What significant changes might arise because of your choice (community, job, family, etc?)
l)  The process of arriving at a decision is ongoing until doubts are dealt with.
m) Own your decision.  It is yours and yours alone, for better or worse.  Follow what your conscience dictates with courage, and be at peace with God.  Share what you think would be helpful to continue the process and affirm the sincerity and well thought-out efforts in the seeking help.  Sharing always helps. 

Offer your prayers for the individual and give assurance that the struggle is worthwhile and the right decision will be made.  Reaffirm that whatever happens, remember that God loves you very much and is aware of your trial and struggle. 

 * Included are decisions made in the Internal Forum, (not having external affirmation or verification).
** No one can make these conscience-based decisions for you.   
 
 
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