en·ti·tle·ment— def. the fact of having a right to something.
/enˈtītlmənt/ Synonyms— right, prerogative, claim.
We are a society of entitlement. The handout, social welfare, governmental healthcare paid for by others, has produced a generation, or two, or three, of people who expect others to take care of them, or at the least, someone to cover for them, to pick up their slack, to meet their needs. Too many of us believe we have a fundamental right to expect this. People have actually said to me “Why should I work when I can make just about as much by not working”
Not unexpectedly, entitlement has also issued a sense of un-thankfulness among many. A simple “Thank you.” is not in our vocabulary. It has been replaced by the silence of self-deserving expectation. No “thank you” necessary, required, or even considered. How can thankfulness arise from a mindset of I deserve it?
Imagine a world where all of us were thankful for even the simplest of things— bread, a place of shelter, a soft pad on which to close our eyes and sleep, a meal, a friend. Imagine a world where everyone was grateful for what they have been given.
Imagine a world where those blessed with abundance wanted to graciously give to those in need— without bread, without shelter, without a place to lay their head. (Patrick Dempsey comes to mind.) How can we shift an entitlement-mindset to an enrichment-mindset, where people want to contribute to the greater good, to the blessing upon others? THIS is what genuine Christians should be about, immersed in their surrounding towns, neighborhoods, and the world.
In our society we have an abundance. Some of it we have earned; a lot of it we have been given. Give thanks to where it is due. Oh, one more thing…
7 thoughts on “entitlement”
What? Seriously Gary? I simply do not agree with this blanket judgmentalism at all, and I do not see Jesus in any of these words of yours. These sound way too much like an unthinking and unhealthy repetition of dominant ideologies of American individualism and self-sufficiency coupled with a sneering dismissal of all those who are close to the heart of Jesus. Let us talk, dear friend and brother, because I don’t believe you would write something like this.
Still makes a lot of judgmental assumptions and callous generalizations. Still borders on propagating the kind of clueless Christianity that you so rightly denounced in your earlier post about “Jerks for Jesus.” Let’s talk?
I’m aware that I’m calling out a dear friend and brother in “public” and that there may be others reading this wondering where I’m coming from with this challenge. I’m hoping to talk with Gary in person, over a meal, as brothers in Jesus, but in case a wider audience is interested, here’s a more Christ-centered perspective on “entitlement” by, of all people, the Pope:
When we read the Gospel we find a clear indication: not so much our friends and wealthy neighbours, but above all the poor and the sick, those who are usually despised and overlooked, “those who cannot repay you” (Lk 14:14). There can be no room for doubt or for explanations which weaken so clear a message. Today and always, “the poor are the privileged recipients of the Gospel”, and the fact that it is freely preached to them is a sign of the kingdom that Jesus came to establish. We have to state, without mincing words, that there is an inseparable bond between our faith and the poor. May we never abandon them.
More than by fear of going astray, my hope is that we will be moved by the fear of remaining shut up within structures which give us a false sense of security, within rules which make us harsh judges, within habits which make us feel safe, while at our door people are starving and Jesus does not tire of saying to us: “Give them something to eat” (Mk 6:37).
Just as the commandment “Thou shalt not kill” sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say “thou shalt not” to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills. How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points? This is a case of exclusion. Can we continue to stand by when food is thrown away while people are starving? This is a case of inequality. Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape.
Human beings are themselves considered consumer goods to be used and then discarded. We have created a “throw away” culture which is now spreading. It is no longer simply about exploitation and oppression, but something new. Exclusion ultimately has to do with what it means to be a part of the society in which we live; those excluded are no longer society’s underside or its fringes or its disenfranchised – they are no longer even a part of it. The excluded are not the “exploited” but the outcast, the “leftovers”.
In this context, some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting. To sustain a lifestyle which excludes others, or to sustain enthusiasm for that selfish ideal, a globalization of indifference has developed. Almost without being aware of it, we end up being incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor, weeping for other people’s pain, and feeling a need to help them, as though all this were someone else’s responsibility and not our own. The culture of prosperity deadens us; we are thrilled if the market offers us something new to purchase. In the meantime all those lives stunted for lack of opportunity seem a mere spectacle; they fail to move us.
While the earnings of a minority are growing exponentially, so too is the gap separating the majority from the prosperity enjoyed by those happy few. This imbalance is the result of ideologies which defend the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation. Consequently, they reject the right of states, charged with vigilance for the common good, to exercise any form of control. A new tyranny is thus born, invisible and often virtual, which unilaterally and relentlessly imposes its own laws and rules.
Behind this attitude lurks a rejection of ethics and a rejection of God. Ethics has come to be viewed with a certain scornful derision. It is seen as counterproductive, too human, because it makes money and power relative. It is felt to be a threat, since it condemns the manipulation and debasement of the person. In effect, ethics leads to a God who calls for a committed response which is outside the categories of the marketplace. When these latter are absolutized, God can only be seen as uncontrollable, unmanageable, even dangerous, since he calls human beings to their full realization and to freedom from all forms of enslavement. Ethics – a nonideological ethics – would make it possible to bring about balance and a more humane social order. With this in mind, I encourage financial experts and political leaders to ponder the words of one of the sages of antiquity: “Not to share one’s wealth with the poor is to steal from them and to take away their livelihood. It is not our own goods which we hold, but theirs”.
Some simply content themselves with blaming the poor and the poorer countries themselves for their troubles; indulging in unwarranted generalizations, they claim that the solution is an “education” that would tranquilize them, making them tame and harmless. All this becomes even more exasperating for the marginalized in the light of the widespread and deeply rooted corruption found in many countries – in their governments, businesses and institutions – whatever the political ideology of their leaders.
in lieu of Hari’s comments i need respond that i do not believe there were a lot of judgmental assumptions no callous generalizations within this post. the post was meant to point out the problems we face in wanting to care for the poor and needy in a society that encourages a sense of entitlement, versus a sense of all of us working together, rich or poor, to get things done. it also was intended to promote an attitude of thankfulness among people, rich and poor, for what has been given to them, via government programs or personal gifts. our society does NOT encourage thankfulness. It does encourage “taking” over “giving.”
Hari I am sorry but I will have to side with gary on this one. I personally have seen exactly what Gary has described on many occasions. I used to deliver food to some of the lowest of classes, in the inner most parts of a city. I have driven up to low income housing with $40,000 cars with thousands of dollars of audio system, engine work, and all around bling with wheels, tires and other accessories. I have gone into their apartments and seen leather couches, picture window size televisions, and every game station available. Their kids running around all over the place in every type of disarray. When they ordered food they order the worst of the worst that we offered. No veggies, fruit or any other healthy choice. At the end of the order I’d ask how they want to pay for it? They use EBT or electronic food stamps. This is not just one house. This is from MANY house over the years. Many families. When you throw in services like EBT, cellphones, public health care, Unemployment assistance… you get a society that does not know how to take care of themselves. Are their TRULY people who use these services because they need a hand up, work their way back to solid footing and then cancel these service? Absolutely!!! Are there people who use these services and take full advantage of them and take every penny they can. Absolutely!!! The thinking that goes along with the second question is becoming more and more prevalent in our society. The further and further that we become more of an agnostic society and more self-centered and self-absorbed, we continue to develop into the more of an entitlement attitude.
i lost a friend over this issue. Entitlement programs are GOOD. They are also misused. And they DO produce a sense of “I deserve this.” So does wealth.