One word: entitlement.
What does it mean you ask? It is the fact of having a right to something or the belief that one is inherently deserving of privileges or special treatment.
That word keeps popping out of every book I have read recently, the last one of which is Suffer Strong by Katherine and Jay Wolf. I won’t be as arrogant as to say that what this couple has been through is anything I can identify with.
She suffered a stoke at the age of 26 leaving her paralyzed and in need of constant care which she has been receiving from her husband every single day for the past ten years. The book talks shortly about the event that changed their lives but mostly about our way of envisioning our lives and every outcome with a different perspective.
Here is where entitlement comes in play... how entitled are we? Where does this belief that we are somehow deserving of some things and not of others come from? Put it simply: Who do we think we are?
Even in our meekly attempt at being selfless we end up being selfish. I love this quote by C.S. Lewis that goes like this:
“In the end, you will either give up trying to be good, or else become one of the those people who, as they say ‘live for others’ but always wondering why the others do not notice it more and always making a martyr of yourself. And once you have become that you will be a far greater pest to anyone who has to live with you than you would have been if you had remained frankly selfish.”
I am the first to admit that this word makes me a little(if not a lot) uncomfortable... maybe cause it reflects so much of what I try to hide. I feel like I am entitled to a little gratefulness from my kiddos for everything I do for them daily. I feel like I am entitled to enjoy some downtime, reading interruption free from same kiddos who need one more of this or one more of that even though it is well passed their bedtime. I get frustrated that my ‘entitlement’ needs aren’t being met... yet, who said I was entitled to any of it?
Whenever we feel that we are entitled to anything is when trouble strikes...
I’m guessing everyone grows up with a vision of what they are going to be when they grow up... we all dream of having 6 kids and of travelling the world! Ah oops, that might be just me, and my hubby might have put a stop to the kids thing after the fourth one but you get the picture!
Visions and expectations are great. Visualization is what gets us anywhere in life! I’m all about making plans and lists even though they never actually materialize just as I envisioned them, still they get me from where I am, closer to where I hope to be. But along this journey that we call life, we often forget that every thing is a blessing. Waking up each morning, having a marriage that stands strong, raising healthy kids, being mostly healthy... nothing guarantees that these things will still be there tomorrow. And what would my reaction be if all of these things were to be taken away from me?
I think we had a glimpse of how frail our ‘security’ really is in these past few months. Things we never thought about twice, like sending our kids to school every morning, going to work, paying our mortgage... these are things that had people laying awake in bed in thousand of households all around the world for the last few months. Things that we take for granted... when we put aside our entitlement and realize that everything we have is given to us as a blessing, our hearts cry out (or at least they should) in gratefulness for the bounty that is ours!
Let me give you another short glimpse into the book I mentioned earlier. Jay, the husband, talks about the covenant/contract of marriage. I think they are the epitome of what a marriage should be... and I am nowhere near their example I’m sorry to say. He talks about how he has to lubricate his wife’s right eye(or maybe it’s her left one, I don’t remember, hopefully he does) every night before helping her to bed... they have a little routine that has to be done just so in order for her to keep her eye, so you see the urgency here. And he admits to sometimes not feeling like doing it but doing it anyways for the sake of Katherine’s eye, not for Katherine’s sake!
He encourages his readers to act out love even in the midst of not feeling in love. Bringing ourselves to do things we don’t always feel like doing for the better outcome of others is often not very high on our list, but doing it in spite of not feeling like it might bring with it a whole new experience! Serving others even when you feel like you are entitled to some recognition that you are just not getting might open up a door to something greater if you are just willing to try!
I think we often resist this outlook on life in fear of “being used” or looking weak... we feel like we should hold on to our dignity(our entitlement if I dare say), we should grasp with tight fists onto what is rightfully ours. But, by “opening our hands” as Katherine puts it, we allow ourselves to taste life’s fulness.
“I don’t know about you, but living openhandedly yet wholeheartedly creates a major tension in me. In fact, doing these two opposing things simultaneously can feel nearly impossible. If I have to lose, why put myself back in the expectant and vulnerable place where I could be hurt and disappointed by losing again? This way of thinking would make sense if opening our hands resulted only in loss and hurt and disappointment, but I’m a living example that it does not. Loss is not an ending, but a new beginning. It’s not just a letting go into the unknown, but a letting go into God’s perfect love. If we listen, we can hear God whisper, “Now, with your hands open, you are free to receive more of Me.” Our tears of loss can plant seeds of the kind of hope that survives anything.” (Katherine Wolf)
“We’re all storytellers and historians narrating the story of us to us. It would be inauthentic to not fully lean into the story that has been given to us- the good, the bad, and the ugly- but it would be irresponsible not to take that reality and make the most beautiful story we can out of it. It would be wasteful to not unearth the most glorious treasure we find in the darkest place of our lives and take hold of the most precious gift we can see in the light.” (Jay Wolf)
So I’m making it now my duty to live my everyday life in a way that would narrate a beautiful story, including the ugly but focusing on all the good! Making sure that love surpasses everything and that my hands are always open to receiving more so that I can also be the giver of more to those that surround me daily! I refuse to dwell on everything that “should” be mine but instead reflect on everything that has already been given to me. I am truly blessed and want to live accordingly, life to the fullest, life abundantly! Who’s joining me?
(A final note, this post is something that has been on my heart for quite a while, even before the events surrounding George Floyd’s death and my reference to entitlement here has nothing to do with that situation.)