Thursday, December 1, 2011

Entitled to contentment

"I can't imagine going on when there are no more expectations."
Edith Evans

Being people, we start to develop pet peeves- those obnoxious habits that make us crazy, even if they really aren't very big in the grand scheme of things. I've got a number of these little aversions of my own- riders who clip their nails on the bus, women who talk about their love lives in the bathroom on their cell phones, any movie that has Kevin Bacon in it. These little grievances are enough to make me crazy by the end of the day.

But there is one that bugs me above all others- entitlement. 

In every element of my life, I run into people who feel that they deserve things they have not worked for. They believe that something in their lives, whether it be social class, education, ethnicity, public services they've contributed to, accomplishments they've made, or anything else that they believe to be honorable about themselves, gives them the right to special treatment. Without explanation, they want what they think they deserve, and if they have to explain why to you, it makes them very angry. And many of them throw tantrums if they don't get their way.

I shouldn't really say they- I should say we.

In life, we all feel that we are entitled to something. We feel that just by living the life we are living, we have certain rights that no one should be able to take away from us. I have been the person who doesn't understand why it isn't obvious to the person on the other end that they should do what I want because it's only logical (at least to me). I've gotten mad before, (not just disappointed, actually mad) over things I thought I deserved that I didn't get. And on occasion, I've even been so crazy, that I've figured out that I'm being a little bit out of my mind in what I'm demanding.

Even more so, I've gotten over-the-top about requests that I've made of God that He hasn't answered with a yes, or even a yes-right-now. I've gotten very angry about things that I thought I should have that He hasn't seen fit to give me. I've gotten upset over promises that I thought meant one thing, but really meant something else, and didn't play out the way I wanted. I've had a huge sense of entitlement when it comes to God.

But stopping to step back out of myself for a minute, I can see the bizarre nature that I've fallen into. So let me clear the air here first: God owes me nothing. I have done nothing to earn any of the good things He has put before me. And the blessings He has given me have had nothing to do with me- they are all in His own mercy and grace.

Let's backtrack a minute here: God has made numerous promises to us that He has ALWAYS kept. He's given me permission, when I am truly following, to expect many of these things, and He does follow through. But the key word is expect- I have to EXPECT these things, not feel entitled to them.

So what's the difference?

When we feel entitled to something, we think it's our own merit that has earned it for us. We believe that we deserve what's coming to us because we are, or have, or have done, or whatever it may be. But expecting is when someone tells us, and we believe that it will be so. It is usually not about what we do, but what we are waiting for. We want things, we believe they will come, and we are thrilled when they do come through.

When we receive what we are "entitled" to, we feel content- not elated, but pacified. When we receive what we've expected, and waited for, we feel satisfied and happy.

With life, we can expect many things. We can even be disappointed if those things don't come to pass. Not temper-tantrum mad, but a little let down. But the thing about expecting is that we can actually be grateful when they come to us. They are not our rights, but gifts given to us. And it's much easier to look at them with happiness, as blessings, when we think about them in this way.

I won't be my own pet peeve- I am learning not to feel entitled. For God's promises, for life, for anything. I want to see everything as a gift. I want to feel like I can expect great things, but not that I get them for what I've done. Because when you feel entitled, you miss out on the wonder of the good things. If we only get what we deserve, most of us can anticipate a life in which we are unhappy with what we're given.

The way I see it, those moments when something we've hoped for, and expected, happens... well those are the moments when we learn what happiness is- and how to share it with others. How much nicer is it to make someone happy when they don't feel they deserve it? It's the difference between making someone feel gratified and making someone feel good.

And God's promises are suddenly worth much more in their fulfillment.

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