Usually when we think entitlement we think of the shiftless poor looking for a handout. We think of kids today who get everything they want and expect a trophy for every non-accomplishment. We think of a generation of self-centered narcissists who think everything is about them.
But hardworking grown-ups entitled? Those of us who sacrifice daily for our families?
Yep, us too.
I was listening to the local Christian radio station and they had this little "insight"from a Christian recording artist. He talked about about how he'd come to the realization of how entitled he was. He described coming home every day and finding his son's bike parked in the middle of the garage. Every day he'd have to get out of his truck, move the bike and then pull in. Every day he'd remind his son to please put his bike away so he wouldn't have to go through this ordeal just to get his truck in the garage. And yet the next day, he'd find the bike left in the middle of the garage again. One day as he was about to launch into a terrible tirade at his son over his thoughtless negligence (or maybe it was after the tirade, I can't remember), God spoke to him. And God reminded him that there were millions of people who would give anything to have a son to leave his bike in the garage every day. And that's when he realized that all too often he felt convenience and ease were his due, his right. He realized he was entitled. And as I listened, I realized I was too.
There are three specific things I find I often feel are my due. They are things I tend to feel that the world, life, God owes me, somehow:
The first thing I tend to feel is my right is time. I often struggle when things don't go according to plan, when I can't possibly fit everything I want into a single day. I feel that I should have enough time to get everything done, and I get irritated when I don't have enough time to do it all. Right now as it approaches 8:30 and I still have laundry to fold and the kids aren't in bed and will surely want Time Together and I need to get to sleep at a decent time but I also want to get this blog in so that I have at least one entry for the month of February and if I don't get up early enough (which won't happen if I can't get to bed early) it will be another day when the grading didn't get done. ...deep breath. I am tempted to feel the entitled anger that once again I can't get it all done.
|The busy life of a teacher's kid. Elijah draws in my classroom while I rush to get more stuff done before leaving for home later than I planned.|
But I'm learning to realize that time is a gift, not a right. Each day is not promised or owed. The point of life is not to get it all done, but to simply appreciate living. Solomon said it well: enjoy your life, enjoy your wife, your kids, the people you care about in your life. Enjoy your work. Because when it's done, it's done. And there's no one who leaves this earth that doesn't leave something unfinished. In short, I will never get it all done.
I'm self-aware enough to realize that it's absurd to feel entitled to wealth.
Or am I? I tend to grow frustrated with the slow slog of getting out of debt--one step forward, two steps back it seems. I'm tired of driving old cars, living in a too-small apartment, always having to pinch pennies, and the constant drip of medical co-pays and bills after insurance and car repairs. I'm aggravated by taxes, and savings accounts that just don't seem to grow. I tend to feel I should be comfortable, that I shouldn't have to "trust God" all the time with our needs because we just aren't flush.
|A full wallet, yet somehow it somehow often feels so empty!|
And then the other day, I noticed someone driving by in a beat-up old Chevy sedan and I thought, like the Pharisee at prayer, "Thank God I don't have to ride around in that." And it hit me. Who ever said being financially flush was my right? (Especially when I am where I am largely because of my own choices!) Here I was inclined to gripe about my own situation and yet quick to look down on someone with presumably far greater struggles. Talk about entitled.
I'm coming to believe that a comfortable life is at best a blessing, and at worst a curse. Either way, it's not something I'm entitled to.
I'm not talking about fame or extraordinary accomplishments. I'm not talking about accolades or awards. I'm talking about simply being able to feel that I am doing excellent work. I'm talking about an organized, engaging classroom, a neat and clean desk. I'm talking about staying on top of my grading and planning, I'm talking about reaching and teaching every child. I'm talking about always being patient and professional and proficient. That's not too much to ask, is it?
|A messy desk and a wall of fame. If I look at the desk, I feel a failure. If I just look up at 17 amazing classes I've had the privilege of teaching, I feel like the world's greatest success.|
It may not be too much to ask or to strive for. But it is too much to demand. I'm realizing that I can either let my personal and professional shortcomings dishearten me, or I can recognize them as part of the process of growth, a cost of learning. I'm learning that success is a process rather than an endpoint.
The Christian recording artist on the radio said that he was learning to cultivate an attitude of gratitude rather than one of entitlement. "The more grateful you are the harder it is to feel entitled," he said. And I have to agree. Over the past month I've been trying to focus on being grateful. Some days I'm more successful than others, but on balance it's been nothing short of revolutionary. Those good days--good because of my attitude, not because of my circumstances--are absolutely wonderful.
I am grateful. . .for time--another day of life with my boys and my best friend for life, Babs. I'm grateful for full days and beauty all around me in gray or blue skies, in an early spring or a late winter. I'm grateful that my needs are richly provided for, that we have enough to eat. I'm grateful for a comfort zone and grateful for the need to get out of it. I'm grateful for the little successes of today and the lessons I'll hopefully learn from my failures. I'm grateful for the students that have blessed my life: Even if I haven't always been the perfect teacher, I'm still enriched by the time I've spent with them. I hope they feel the same. I'm grateful that I'm loved more than I love. I'm grateful for the goodness of God. I'm grateful for grace and for the hope of heaven.
"I can't complain." That's what I usually say when someone asks how things are going. And I'm realizing: I really and truly can't.