Entitlement

Do you know what I mean when I say, “people with a sense of entitlement drive me crazy.” I’m not alone in that, I know a lot of people who say the same thing. We’re generally talking about people whose actions imply that they deserve to be served first, they deserve to have the best. They do not wait in line in a coffee shop, they move to the front. We all know what the term, “entitled” means and yet I have never heard anyone own it for themselves. I’ve never heard anyone say, “I am entitled.” So it is one of those states that we recognize in others but never see in ourselves. That, of course, makes me nervous. Do I act entitled? I shudder to think I might.

I think what got me started on this recently was a line of Paul’s from his letter to the Romans, “Do not think of yourself more highly than you should, do not be haughty.” (I love that last word.) Paul wanted Christians to be a humble lot. Somehow I think that he would find North Americans generally to be haughty. We think ourselves the pinnacle of civilization. All other countries are on the road to development to eventually become more like us. The news we’re hearing about white supremacists may even be an extreme expression of this attitude. We are the best and it is our birth right to have wealth and peace and prosperity. (I’m nervous as I write that. I hope it is wrong but fear it contains some measure of truth.)

Back to Paul’s exhortation, “Do not be haughty.” There may be some salvific power in that. Rather than assuming our society to be the best what if we approached every other culture with the sense that they have something to teach us? I think the opposite of haughty might be curious. In the same part of Romans Paul says, “be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” He assumes that we will be life long learners, that we will never be complacent or haughty.

In the news I keep seeing people confidently yelling at others, telling them to change their attitude. The spirit is always aggressive, violent. Paul concludes his chapter in Romans with the line, “do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Let’s be more open to goodness. Let’s be very mindful of our spirits when we are out and about in public; in coffee shops or grocery stores or when driving. Let’s keep the image of servanthood in mind and expel the demon of entitlement. Do not be haughty. A good Pauline thought.

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