Reputation or conscience?
A sampling of the American public was made to choose between these two things as to what they are more worried about.
Many Americans chose reputation, according to a new survey conducted by LifeWay Research, a Nashville-based, evangelical research firm that specializes in surveys about faith in culture and matters that affect churches.
The survey asked some 1,000 respondents what feelings they avoid the most. The results: 38 percent said "shame," which is associated with reputation; 31 percent said "guilt," which is associated with conscience; and 30 percent said "fear."
According to LifeWay Research executive director Scott McConnell, the findings showed that the "biggest cultural fear" among Americans is "shame." He noted that in today's social media era, an embarrassing mistake could destroy or at least damage someone's life.
What's surprising, McConnell says, is that the findings seem to show that the "risk to our reputation is what matters most"—more than "personal freedom, ambition, and doing the right thing."
The survey placed the respondents into two groups –the religious and the "nones," or those people who do not affiliate with any faith.
Remarkably, more "nones" (35 percent) than the religious (30 percent) said they fear "guilt" more and try to avoid it, meaning they are more bothered by their conscience than their reputation.
Conversely, more of the religious (39 percent) than the "nones" (33 percent) fear "shame" and try to avoid it.
Among the religious, non-Christian religious individuals fear shame the most, with 48 percent of them trying to avoid it.
Putting shame and guilt into perspective, McConnell explains, "guilt says, I deserve to be punished ... but shame says, I am worthless."
Meanwhile, Christian author and speaker Joyce Meyer noted that there are many people who go to church regularly but do not seem to be bothered by their conscience since they "still behave in ways that are not so godly."
Meyer said the conscience serves to "correct and reprimand, or to make us feel uneasy when we do something unpleasing to God."