Washing your hands does not cleanse the conscience

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Louise Hay


Washing your hands does not cleanse the conscience

Last update: July 11, 2016

According to the story of the Gospels, Pontius Pilate announced the sentence that would hand over the life of Jesus into the hands of the people. In doing so, he denied any kind of responsibility for what would happen: washing his hands away from the consequences of the election and any interest in the situation.

This expression, transmitted over the centuries, is part of our everyday language and is normally used with a negative connotation: "I wash my hands" or, otherwise said, "I deny any connection with what can happen and my name is out early ”. As we know, it is used above all when it is known that all the options behind a choice imply a particular pressure so that the decision falls on a particular one.

"I am not responsible for the blood shed by this man"

-Pontius Pilate-

For this reason, it is an action that creates discomfort: why not taking responsibility is an act of cowardice that lets the whole weight of a situation fall on the shoulders of others. Yet, sooner or later the consequences will be paid; perhaps at first he removes a burden, but he will do it only for a short time, because you will have a guilty conscience and your actions stained forever.

It is easier to escape responsibility than the consequences

All decisions need someone behind them to answer for them, otherwise it is very difficult for them to be taken responsibly and ethically. We are all aware of this, because when we are faced with a complicated situation, it can be tempting to share the weight of a decision that we do not like.

In these cases, very common in the family and at work, it often happens that someone avoids making decisions, finding solutions or facing negative moments: it requires less effort and is easier. This person, however, surely forgets that, by action or omission, he is inside the problem and the consequences will come to him too.

In other words, showing disinterest in something about her does not free her from the problem and it is likely that it will later end up keeping her awake at night: conscience is a courageous judge who evaluates behavior and dictates its sentences. 

"The testimony of my conscience is more important than the speeches of all men"


A scientific experiment

Studies find that washing hands (literally) after a moment of conflict reduces malaise and justifies actions: water seems to help with guilt and remorse. The University of Michigan conducted an experiment to prove this theory.

A group of people were given some CDs and asked to put in order ten according to their preferences: they were also told that they had to choose for themselves what they put in fifth or sixth position. After this task, half of the participants washed their hands with soap and the other half had to examine a bottle of soap instead. Eventually the two groups had to rearrange the CDs.

Those who had washed their hands with water had then kept the original order of the CDs, while those who had not had placed the CD they had chosen among the first and the one they had discarded among the last.

According to the scholars, the people who had washed their hands with water had no need to justify the decision made between the two CDs, those who had not washed their hands felt the need to rearrange the CDs to justify the their choice by placing the chosen one in a better position than the discarded one.

Washing your hands does not mean having them clean

In the same sense as the experiment just mentioned, the use of water in religious contexts could be considered: a symbol of purification of the soul that helps to redeem us from sins. Then it is possible that the expression, derived from Ponzo Pilato, does not only include the action of freeing oneself from responsibilities, but also of reducing the remorse that derives from it.

Certainly washing your hands for something does not always clean them: we all once made the mistake of wanting to get away from something, even for simple reasons. What is certain is that this decision then accompanied us like a stone with which we had to fight.

“Conscience is the voice of the soul; passions, that of the body "


Having a guilty conscience, in fact, is like having a negative friend from whom it is almost impossible to break away. Ethical morality makes us understand that we have not behaved well and does not let us rest peacefully until we have recovered our inner peace. When our conscience gets dirty, it teaches us to grow with mistakes, to win with solidarity and to renew our values. 

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