How would you help someone who is dealing with an oversensitive conscience? This would be the kind of person who is living in a state of false guilt, constantly feeling the need to apologize for tiny things, over analyzing and over correcting while talking, and later agonizing over whether or not something they said was a lie?



Thank you for the incisive question. If the enemy cannot get people to trample their conscience and so override it that it becomes insensitive, he changes tack and promotes an oversensitivity. But an oversensitive conscience is a deception because it is a false conscience.

The conscience is a God-given moral monitor in man that urges toward what is perceived as right and commends obedience. Likewise, it urges away from perceived wrong and condemns disobedience. But the conscience can be mistaught. This occurs through introspection, wrong teaching, or sometimes a combination of both.

Introspection is looking inward instead of upward. It is “Search me, O me” instead of “Search me, O God.” This gives place to the devil, giving the enemy opportunity to mislead through false impressions—and he is happy to so lead and then accuse. Whereas the Spirit will lead a believer (Rom. 8:14), a counterfeit conviction will drive or push. Because there is liberty with the Spirit (2 Cor. 3:17), Holy Spirit conviction is freeing, but counterfeit conviction is nagging. The counterfeit is confusing, often leading in a zigzag or vacillating fashion, but remember that God is not the author of confusion (1 Cor. 14:33).

Wrong teaching can also lead to an oversensitive conscience, especially when emphasis is placed on performing certain requirements to attain spirituality and not on the simplicity of being rightly related to the Spirit. The result can become conscience-binding, but when the Spirit is looked to for leadership and power, He liberates to real victory.

Ultimately, the conscience you describe in the question reveals self-dependence to maintain being right with God. Focus reveals dependence. Looking unto Jesus: right focus, the author of faith…right dependence (Heb. 12:2). An inward focus, however, leads to the flesh-dependence of introspection while an outward focus (not upward) leads to the flesh-dependence of following man. Both can yield a false conscience. What is needful is an upward focus that leads to God-dependence through the Word and the Spirit. This is the Spirit-filled life that leads to a properly trained, appropriately sensitive conscience.


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