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Center for Enlightened Leadership

Sir Jiminy Cricket: Tiny Champion of Righteousness

  Maybeth Conway
  Maybeth Conway
Senior Associate

What comes to mind when you hear the name “Jiminy Cricket”? Most of us who grew up with the imaginary world of Walt Disney probably envision a dapper little critter with a top hat, white gloves, an umbrella, and spats. If we stretch our memories, we might also see Jiminy’s beloved fairy-tale friend, Pinocchio, or hear a moving rendition of “When You Wish Upon a Star.” If these few scenes and sounds complete our recollections, it may be time to revisit this debonair little fellow; as it happens, Jiminy Cricket has some timeless insights to share. He’s all about doing the right thing.

To refresh our memories, let’s return to the workshop where the kind and talented woodcutter Geppetto has created his beautiful puppet, Pinocchio, and wished upon a star that he were a real boy. Enter the Blue Fairy, who grants Geppetto’s wish and brings life to the puppet. However, there are strings attached! To become a real boy, Pinocchio must show that he is brave, truthful, and unselfish. He must also be able to tell right from wrong and act accordingly. To give Pinocchio a helping hand, the Blue Fairy turns to Jiminy Cricket and appoints him Lord High Keeper of the Knowledge of Right and Wrong, Counselor in Moments of Temptation, and Guide Along the Straight and Narrow Path. The newly knighted Sir Jiminy becomes Pinocchio’s conscience.

If a modern Jiminy Cricket were to research his new position, he’d surely be overwhelmed. If he Googled the word “conscience,” he’d get 2,930,000 hits. If he worked his way through the most important information on this topic, he’d quickly learn that many brilliant people throughout history have had competing viewpoints about the nature and function of conscience. He would explore the theories of theologians, philosophers, psychiatrists, sociologists, neuroscientists, politicians, and business leaders. Some would tell him that the conscience resides in the brain. Others would assert that it is a survival component of evolution. These beliefs would be challenged by those who hold that conscience is merely a function of consciousness and influenced by environment. Still others would insist that the conscience is a gift from God.

Sir Jiminy would soon learn that conscience is a highly nuanced concept. While most experts agree that conscience is definitely about the knowledge of right and wrong (as Jiminy’s new title would suggest), they would never reach consensus on the definition of these abstract terms. Many would assert that conscience must be viewed in relation to one’s actions and that timing is crucial. When conscience operates prior to action, it promotes a righteous response, points to the high road, and the result is a “clear conscience.” When the conscience is triggered after an action, it suggests an element of regret. By then, the individual has often chosen the low road and is left with a “guilty conscience.”

Ultimately, Sir Jiminy Cricket draws on his personal knowledge and his good heart to help him guide Pinocchio. He marshals his intuitions and gut instincts to provide instruction and support. In the less famous song, “Give a Little Whistle,” Jiminy encourages Pinocchio to be aware when trouble or temptation arise. He suggests that the puppet whistle to his conscience for assistance and wait to learn the proper course of action. Jiminy tells Pinocchio that, in difficult situations, he must always let his conscience be his guide.

It takes Pinocchio a while to get the hang of this, and Jiminy occasionally falters in his role as well. As a result, they have some misadventures, and poor Geppetto ends up in the belly of a whale. Pinocchio and Jiminy ultimately rise to the challenge. An adventurous rescue demonstrates Pinocchio’s bravery, truthfulness, and unselfishness, but it costs him his life. Fortunately, the Blue Fairy reappears to bring him back to life, and he lives happily ever after as Geppetto’s loving son.

For centuries, the fairy tale has been used to pass along basic teachings from one generation to the next; characters within these stories become the personification of important values. Jiminy Cricket holds a noble place in this imaginary pantheon of moral leaders. For children and adults, he promotes a gentle bravery. He encourages each of us to be mindful of the subtleties of decision making. He cautions us to watch carefully for the seductive lure of temptation. When it beckons, he persuades us to pause for a moment to listen patiently for the soft inner voice of conscience that points us toward the righteous path. He challenges us to seek truth with unselfish courage and assures us that our actions will promote integrity. In deceptively simple language that any young child can understand, he tells us how to do the right thing.

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