Feeling sorry (or not) for dying quasi-enemies

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AngelRho
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21 Jan 2020, 9:40 am

I was 14 years old when my father died. My father and I didn't get along. That's just how it goes when you grow up under someone who is abusive and controlling. So watching him fall apart from the effects of diabetes and renal failure didn't really phase me all that much.

Not long after that my mom started dating and eventually married this guy. Not exactly abusive, but extremely jealous, and controlling in more of a passive aggressive kind of way. Very difficult to live with. Even stricter than I am when it comes to religious views, if you can imagine that. When I was dating the woman I eventually married, and even while we were engaged, she was not allowed inside the house if I was there, or she could only visit or stay in a hotel. Certainly never showed me any respect, never really helped me with anything. And when we got married and I started a family of my own, he made it very difficult for us to even visit.

Recently he had a bout or two with pneumonia, has suffered from gout at least since he and my mom married, has had increased kidney trouble in the last few months, has had breathing problems since he retired, etc. etc. Now the latest thing is diagnosis with COPD and unable to walk further than the length of his oxygen tube.

In short...he's dying. No matter my differences with people, even when it was my dad and I didn't exactly feel bad about it, I do at least try to sympathize, to set aside those differences and give them space.

But I feel as though with the cumulative damage my stepfather has caused between my mother and I that it is very difficult to feel sorry for him one bit. We're not even allowed to spend one night on a weekend because it'll upset the poor baby. The kids can play outside all day, my wife and my mom can stay in the kitchen all day, I can hang with them or chill in my room or something...doesn't matter. We're pretty much banned from MY HOUSE until he dies.

And sometimes I feel like I'm just counting the days. And I'm not even 100% sure I'll even attend the funeral, though I'd be willing to do it just to support my mom.

When I see someone I feel has stolen an important part of my life, especially for the last almost 3 decades, in that place of total dependency, taking those precious few last gasps of life, I struggle to feel pity. This feeling...it's different. It almost seems like JUSTICE. I dislike rejoicing in death. I wonder if that makes me a bad person. But I can't help thinking I'm right about this. I've lost nearly 30 years of closeness with my mom. She's not getting any younger either. So with the little time I'm going to get with her, I'm hoping we can get some of that back.

Posting this in PPR because I think it's relevant in terms of morality and ethics. Are feelings of hostility towards the infirm and dying justified when the dying person has lived a life of hostility himself? Regardless of how things went after my father died, or even if he'd never died, I STILL would have made a life for myself and followed my own path. But it's wrong to ban someone and his family from seeing his own only surviving parent. I hated my dad and was glad he died because it meant an unreasonable, controlling, abusive person was out of my life forever. I like to think that had my father lived and I'd gone on to do what I did that my dad and I would have figured out how to get along. My stepfather, otoh, while not nearly on the level of my own father, has been the source of one problem after another for my mother and I in terms of our relationship. We don't get to visit. She doesn't get to see her grandchildren. And these aren't feelings that have been resolved with maturity (I'm 42 years old for cryin' out loud). What is the best moral/ethical way to view this situation?



Fnord
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21 Jan 2020, 10:03 am

AngelRho wrote:
... What is the best moral/ethical way to view this situation?
Honestly.

I think you're doing it right -- you're doing your part to keep the peace, and you are being honest with your feelings.

My dad was much like your dad and your mother's husband -- opinionated in a "My way or the highway" mode, and stubbornly holding on to his pride until his last day. The last time I spoke with him, he did not want to be seen in public with me; maybe it was his deteriorated condition, maybe it was all the mean things he had said about me to his friends, and maybe it was some combination of both.

You and I do not always agree, but in this you have my complete sympathy. Our dads came from an era in which "Father Knows Best", even when that 'knowledge' involved physical and emotional abuse.

I am sorry that you are going through this. One day it will be over, and you can take care of your mom and get re-acquainted with her as well.

May G-D bless you and yours abundantly.


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Bravo5150
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21 Jan 2020, 3:36 pm

I don't think this is a maturity issue. If you were having a temper tantrum in a store because you want something, that would be a question of maturity type emotional issue. Lacking sympathy for someone who abused you falls more into a PTSD issue. PTSD is not a condition you "grow out of"



kraftiekortie
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21 Jan 2020, 10:33 pm

It’s hard to feel sympathy for a person like that.

My mother was ashamed of me. She still is—but is treating me slightly better these days.

I would probably “count the days,” too, and not feel guilty about it.



blazingstar
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21 Jan 2020, 11:43 pm

I had one of those fathers too. There was a time when I was a teen that had it been legal, I would have happily killed him.

Fast forward a half century. For many years now, my father's life or death has been irrelevant.

I don't think we ever need to justify feelings. Feel them. Accept them.

How we act is what counts. You do not owe your father or step-father love, attention or caring just because he is dying.


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Persephone29
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22 Jan 2020, 11:01 pm

That's one of the most difficult situations to be in. I don't think it will be too much longer until I will face this situation myself. For now, I am kind to both my parents, but I can't say that I feel a lot. I'm kind for me, but they don't need to know that. I won't miss my mother when she's gone. But I won't be outwardly cruel. People deserve mercy when they are old, not because they earned it. More because it feels like the right thing... If I don't, they'll hold me prisoner again, with guilt.

Sorry you are going through this


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23 Jan 2020, 5:32 am

Plenty of people here, myself included, will understand and probably walked a few miles in those shoes.

I don't think you have anything to worry or feel guilty about. And it's not like your throwing a Schadenfreude party singing about how much you hate this man and how happy you are he's dying. I always actually had a feeling of disgust when people put on a show about how sorry they are when someone they hated died.

Best wishes to you and your family.


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Amity
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23 Jan 2020, 6:28 am

"Are feelings of hostility towards the infirm and dying justified when the dying person has lived a life of hostility himself?"

That depends on what a person values or might regret later when things change as they tend to do and on the depth of the hostility.
I wouldn't see a return of hostility as justified, more so a reaction and dont view this as owing something to another or to yourself.
There is the wider picture of a grieving family to consider when coming at this from an ethical pov.



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23 Jan 2020, 9:09 am

"Are feelings of hostility towards the infirm and dying justified when the dying person has lived a life of hostility himself?"

I don't know about 'justified', but it is hard to muster any sympathy toward someone who is dying from COPD after they've been a chain-smoker most of their adult life and treated you like their own personal punching bag, as well.


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AngelRho
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23 Jan 2020, 9:18 am

Thanks everyone for your kind words!

Amity wrote:
"Are feelings of hostility towards the infirm and dying justified when the dying person has lived a life of hostility himself?"

That depends on what a person values or might regret later when things change as they tend to do and on the depth of the hostility.

Exactly. From an objectivist/egoist POV, it's a matter of what OUGHT a person value. I'm seeing it as someone who has proven to be an obstacle to me is about to bite it and no longer be a cloud hanging over my mom's head. In a way, it's a long-awaited victory when a self-hating person falls apart. But at the same time the most important value is life itself. I'm not interested in seeing anyone dead. I would unflinchingly kill someone if it was the only way I could save my own life in the face of violence, but I wouldn't exactly rejoice in the necessity of ending a person's life. So with life and personal victory both being important values, how does one decide which to go with when they are in conflict? Is there even really a right answer?

Amity wrote:
I wouldn't see a return of hostility as justified, more so a reaction and dont view this as owing something to another or to yourself.
There is the wider picture of a grieving family to consider when coming at this from an ethical pov.

No, and my step-father never raised a hand towards me, never yelled at me, was never verbally abusive. It's more the hypocrisy, feeling isolated, and not even being allowed to bring a guest home because it violated some imaginary religious edict. He's been horribly passive-aggressive to the point my mom is forbidden to come visit me, as though the road only runs one way. So if I'm not allowed in my own house, what really can I do? Bully my way in and say "enough is enough" and risk him making my mom even more miserable? I believe in eye-for-an-eye justice, so the only punishment I can really effectively use is honoring his wishes.

I think you're exactly right here. Aside from what I've said, he's been otherwise good to my mom and I know she's suffering through this the same way as with my father in his final months. He holds no other value to me than he kept my mom from being lonely. So perhaps the best thing for me to think about at this point is supporting her.



AngelRho
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23 Jan 2020, 9:29 am

Fnord wrote:
"Are feelings of hostility towards the infirm and dying justified when the dying person has lived a life of hostility himself?"

I don't know about 'justified', but it is hard to muster any sympathy toward someone who is dying from COPD after they've been a chain-smoker most of their adult life and treated you like their own personal punching bag, as well.

YES! Excellent point. My aunt (dad's sister) was always good to me. She and my uncle were chain smokers. She died because she simply ran out of oxygen. I mean...she HAD oxygen, just no lungs to breath it. I went to visit her every chance I got and put myself at risk for cancer. She was cool.

My dad, otoh? True story: When they were kids, he took a hatchet and chopped her finger off 'cuz he thought it would be funny. He also set fire to the barn. Married my mom because she insisted no nookie without a ring--and that's how she finished her senior year of high school. And then cheated on her when I was a little kid. And wouldn't even let her leave the house after that. Yeah...kinda hard to feel sorry for someone like that when you get a little older, he's sick, and keeps a bucket by the table because he pukes up his breakfast as soon as he eats it.

My step-dad? Well...at least had the sense to quit smoking. He's in his 80's. Been overweight most of his life. So I suppose in terms of his faults compared to what I had before, I suppose one could do worse than running out of air that late in life. Perhaps I should be happy about that much, at least. Instead I feel...meh...trying...nothing. I just don't care. So maybe that's better than being angry, right?



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23 Jan 2020, 9:41 am

I am not the one who'll tell what other people should do, say or think. Me, I have no sympathy for bastards whoever they are, and I'll feel happy when they go down. If they die in excruciating pain, so much the better. There's no one who'll have a valid argument stating that I should empathise with aggressors. The proverbial "giving the other cheek for slapping" is just what abusive people say to keep others under their control.



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23 Jan 2020, 9:58 am

Some people seem more interested in retribution than reconciliation.


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aghogday
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23 Jan 2020, 11:29 am

Both Pro-Social and Con-Social Emotions are Integral to the Survival of the Human 'Organism'.

When one is abused, Anger that Evolves into Hate serves as Motivation to get into a Safe Environment.

Envy will surely serve as Motivation for someone to get off their Butt and do something; while those
who are; are thriving.

There is Jealousy that is founded and unfounded; Jealousy that is founded may Point to Personality
Disorders of others; i.e. Someone Who Love Bombs everyone to fill an empty void that is never
filled; perhaps from Childhood Neglect or Abuse; finding out someone does not have the ability to be sincere; moving on.

"Chopping off the Finger of a Sibling Just for fun" is the stuff of Horror movies; and psychopathic STRONG tendencies at least; 'Nightmare on Elm Street' Intensity to have a Biological Parent like that. Back to Anger and Hate; 'get the Hell away
from that to save yourself and Help everyone else'; as the fact is some folks are born that way without a conscience;
very rare; but real in about One percent of the Population; Usually the only solution for that is long term imprisonment (life long) sad; but part of the Human Condition too; Sympathy, no; but whose fault is it? really; when Innate and Born
that way; Room For Compassion; perhaps if you are really 'Jesus'.

My Father just wasn't emotionally Available for us; silent; neglect, yes; Just His Personality too;
Sad too; both my Sister and i have Asperger's Syndrome and it surely did not come from my Mothers side;
but he never chopped his Sibling's Finger off; so i do have reason to feel blessed in that way; and besides
as predictable, he left when i was age 3; and went on his Merry way in search of the American Dream of Green;
His only real aim in Life; other than Collecting Guns; and New Cars every three years; spending ~500 Dollars each week
on Lottery Tickets through 11 Years of Retirement from Law Enforcement for 46 Years; sure, a Hero in that way too;
for the lives he positively effected.

Usually there is Positive and Negative in everyone; Pro and Con-Social Emotions both have purposes for basic
Human Survival and for thriving; but true, there are those who just don't have many to any redeeming Qualities;
The 'Ted Bundys' of Life. Again, in the game of Compassion; pretty much a role for a real 'Jesus' to forgive a Brother
who would Chop his Sister's Finger off, just for fun.

Now that You have finally escaped what you needed to escape; left-over feelings of Hostility and Resentment are
surely normal; sure, even Hate too; experience the emotions and when you are ready, at best; let them go; and move
on to more Green Pastures of Pro-Social Emotions; True, Pro-Social Emotions include Shame And Regret; the
Fact that you are searching Your Conscience Proves you have one and are surely one up on your 'Old Man';
i feel like you should be proud of that; i believe you will overcome this and succeed with Your Family;
simply 'cause you have a conscience; without that; there is rarely a solution that works in the long term..:)

i'm Glad my Father Left at Age 3; it left me without a Father Figure; where it took me a long time to become
as Fearless as He was all through the Law-Enforcement Career and Retirement, i saw of him; Never any Fear.

i started off with a Foundation of Love from an Unconditionally Loving Mother; i can safely say; it's not likely
i would even be alive now; without that Level of Unconditional Love; that is the Gift that will Literally Last
Lifetimes; for that is the Gift that Spreads most to others; and yes, best when it becomes fearless too;

Fearless without Love is Practically Dead as Life.

Love without Fearless, becomes too afraid to Spread and/or Suffocates in its tracks.

I've experienced both paths in Life for Real; the Illness of Pain brought me Fearless without Love;
After the Pain Went Away; i Left the Fear Behind as the Love (the Feeling/Light) Came Back stronger than ever before.

The Other place of Fearless and Love is practically Heaven to give and share free.

The Stronger one is, in Love without the Fear; the More one overcomes and thrives..:)


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Amity
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23 Jan 2020, 11:40 am

"So with life and personal victory both being important values, how does one decide which to go with when they are in conflict? Is there even really a right answer?"

You could go with the idea that life is short and measure the values against that.

A win/win negotiated way forward between life and personal victory might work.
Perhaps there isnt a right answer :)