Having a culture that values openness and honesty, and that prescribes public confession as the cure for guilt produces some strange, even appalling results.
A man writes to Dear Prudence, aka Emily Yoffe, to explain that when he “knocked up” his girlfriend he wanted her to have an abortion. She chose not to do so. They married and are now parents to two children.
The child he had designated for abortion is a fine boy, one he loves enormously.
What’s the problem?
He feels guilty for having wanted the child aborted. He believes that the best way to assuage his guilt is to tell the truth to the child?
But now I live with the knowledge that I had once suggested aborting a fetus who became someone I love and cherish and with whom I want to be honest and authentic. It seems crazy to tell my child that I had suggested he not be brought into this world, but I also find it difficult to live with what has become a burdensome secret. Should I explain to my child what happened and how happy I am his mother didn’t listen to me? I worry that when he’s older he might ask about the timing of our marriage and his birth, and start asking probing questions.
Appallingly, this is considered normal behavior in a culture that is based on guilt and punishment. Note that his sole concern is his own anxiety. He does not have sufficient benevolence for his son to think about what the news might do to the child.
Happily, he asked the question of the sensible Emily Yoffe. She rises to the occasion:
You don’t have to tell your son that you initially suggested abortion anymore than you have to tell him what position you and his mother were in when he was conceived. Sure, someday he might do the math on your anniversary and his arrival; what he discovers might not even be of great interest to him. But if he has questions, you tell him the truth: His nascent existence helped you to see that his mother was the woman for you, and so you two decided to tie the knot. You have a wonderful relationship with your son. Confessing your guilt about your understandable desire at the time not to become a father will not make your relationship more honest and authentic. It will instead violate the important principle that some things are best kept private. Your negotiation with your then-girlfriend over her pregnancy is one such private matter. If you need to confess, seek a therapist or a religious figure to discuss this with. It’s time you were relieved of this unnecessary psychological burden. Dumping it on your son is not the way to do it. (boldface mine)
Yoffe is being slightly too kind to label the anxiety he felt when his girlfriend got pregnant an "understandable desire." I assume that she is trying to reach out to him. In truth, the man had no real notion of responsibility for his actions and was looking for an out.
As it happens, the man is not alone. Many people today believe that their moral worth lies in their ability to be open, honest and authentic. They proclaim this precept without thinking about the fact that it can easily be monumentally narcissistic.
Ask yourself this: how would a young child react to the information that if it had been up to his father, he would never have drawn his first breath.