The other day while wandering Barnes and Noble, I found myself in the philosophy section, a place I seldom visit. BUT, I do have a friend with a background in philosophy, so that in my mind was enough of a connection to this section and I decided to get a book. I chose Guilt: The Bite of Conscience, a text I felt struck a nice balance between being philosophical, yet relevant enough to serve up a tidbit or two in conversation.
I was not prepared upon reading this text to be confronted, again, with what it is to be a stepmother.
The author of the text in order to solidify his points presents several accounts from people relating times they felt guilt, shame, and/or embarrassment.
Here is one such example:
I hated my stepmother since I first met her when I was five. When I was home during Christmas break, I made a thoughtless remark about her health. My father was upset and told me later that night that my stepmother had almost died of cancer when I was young. I felt profoundly guilty.
What? This person HATED her stepmother since she first met her, and she was five at the time. I have spent substantial time around 5-year olds. They tend to be pretty loving, unless they are TAUGHT to be otherwise. And this stepmother was SO HORRIBLE that upon these first meetings the child, at the time, decided that she deserved hate, and decided to carry this hate throughout her life?
Was there guilt for these years of hate? Was there guilt for perhaps the hasty judgement and labeling of another person as hate-worthy? NO.
Then, when she finds out the stepmother was sick (dying of cancer!) at this time, only then, did an inkling of awareness and guilt creep into this person’s mind that perhaps, just perhaps, they had labeled and judged the stepmother unfairly.
As the author writes, “Hating the stepmother does not seem to have been an issue until the person makes a thoughtless comment about her health, not knowing her past struggles with cancer.”
Uh, huh…. “Hating the stepmother does not seem to have been an issue…” Not one little bit of guilt over that. Not an ounce.
It never is an issue, is it? It’s one of the most guilt-free forms of hate and dislike and remains, not only acceptable, but to some extent, expected in our society.
It saddens me that a woman’s past history of almost dying of cancer is needed to awaken any sense of compassion and awareness in this person who was once her stepchild. Otherwise, sadly, I belive the stepchild’s continued hate and vilification of the stepmother would have remained. Too bad it takes almost death, before any compassion can be expressed for the life of a stepmother.