“I will do nothing because of public opinion, but everything because of conscience: whenever I do anything alone by myself I will believe the eyes of the Roman people are upon me while I do it.” – Seneca
There is a solid argument for the role a belief in the supernatural, specifically a super natural being or group of beings who watched with interest the going-ons of Earth, took an interest in its inhabitants and intervened in their lives, and the founding of a societies that followed a rule of law and therefore advanced into relatively safe and healthy places.
A big part of this is the “fear of god” that encourages people to behave within a specific set of social norms regardless of who is around because their god can always see them and is judging their behavior.
While this idea might seem quaint to us, living in a time and era where the validity and veracity of supernatural beliefs has been openly questioned by popular thinkers for almost two centuries, it deserves respect as a driving force and strong reason behind the development of the type of social behavior that allows people to feel safe enough to settle with strangers, build homes close to one another, share resources, share knowledge, and start the progress that advanced to the civilization we enjoy today.
Regardless of our current beliefs, we can enjoy the same driving force as we take steps on becoming our best selves. If it helps us to believe that there is a super natural being watching our every move, judging our intentions and our actions, than we should continue to do so. If for whatever reason that does not work for us, it might help to act as if someone we know, someone who would like to see us fail – we all know at least one – was watching and could read our mind at all times. This is a fun exercise to play, at work, parenting, interacting with our spouses/partners. We can imagine that they were watching and reading our minds and we could imagine what they would be thinking.
If that is what it takes for us to act solely on our conscience, at least in the beginning, let’s learn to get good at that.
And eventually let’s learn to do it because we know it’s right.
virtus fortis vocat