Mine, Mine, Mine

Entitlement is an interesting thing. Everyone’s got some level of it, in some dimension of his/her life, and yet no one wants to acknowledge it, or think that it’s true of them.

There are many different flavors.

There’s the entitlement that comes with shades of skin tone, of belonging to a majority group, like a religion or a nationality or an ethnicity, the entitlement that comes with birth into privilege. At the heart of all of it, every kind, is the concept that a person deserves, that person should have, that a person is owed.

One place I’ve always found the concept of entitlement strange is with the argument against affirmative action.  Take a school with a limited number of spots. Any idea that someone “less qualified” takes away one of those spots because of affirmative action presupposes that the spot belonged to someone to begin with. That the person with the rightful ownership of that spot is pushed aside so that someone else, without ownership, can have it.

That’s entitlement.

When entitlement is challenged, people get angry. People want to believe that they’ve earned what they have, that it is their merit, but that type of entitlement doesn’t reward merit, it just rewards something less tangible, so people shift the parameters in their minds, and that intangible becomes a kind of merit.

I hope you’re still with me.

Entitlement grows like yeast, there are the basic ingredients to start it and feed it, and then it expands and it expands. For example, if someone goes out of his/her way to show another person a kindness, an effort beyond what is required, the first time, the recipient tends to show gratitude and thanks. The second time, the impact is lessened, and the thanks may decrease, and so on. If, on the tenth time, that person declines to demonstrate the kindness, the recipient often gets angry, resentful.

The above-and-beyond becomes the norm.

Who knows if it is a quirk of our basic humanness, if it is our instinct programmed to hoard, programmed to keep for ourselves. Maybe it is an offshoot of greed, a second-cousin-once-removed who tends to blend in with the wallpaper. But it is something to take note of, something to listen for, to feel for.

Because when you crowd out entitlement, gratitude flourishes in its place.


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