Tuesday, May 31, 2016

A Society of Entitlement


Someone asked you to dinner, and you said “no.” Or maybe, you didn’t respond at all. They went anyway, and they had fun. Now you feel left out and discarded, especially if they didn’t ask you to hang out the next time.

Someone posted something on Facebook expressing a negative view. You looked, with your mouth agape, thinking “I do that.” You got offended.

As you got busier with life, your friend made new friends. You got jealous. When they reached out to you, you assumed they were doing it out of obligation, and you grew bitter.

Someone went to a cool new restaurant and texted while they were there for you to come join. You think you were an afterthought and pass it up. You feel slighted.

You had loose plans to meet up with someone, but hadn’t set a place or a time. They didn’t text to confirm, but neither did you. You assume they stood you up, and you get angry.

Maybe, someone you care about got a better job, got a promotion, moved to an amazing place, had a milestone in life, found a significant other, had the golden child, has lost weight, or found a new lease on life. Even though you want to be happy for them, you got upset all over again. They have something you want, and you feel like they’re rubbing it in your face.
 
Before I start into an opinion of my own (which will probably offend a few), I want to state that it is not wrong to feel those things. That is human nature, and let’s face it, human nature can be a bit petty. The problem lies not in feeling those things, but in owning them and enforcing them without solid reasoning.

When you give into being offended at the drop of a hat, when you feel like everyone owes you something—be it your time, your effort, whatever—you begin to let entitlement take hold. You begin to lose sight of empathy, self responsibility, and respect for your fellow people. You refuse to put yourself in the other’s shoes. You let anger seep in, and you assume that everyone is trying to personally wrong you. Even the simplest actions on their part begin to feel targeted, and you tighten your grip on feeling as though they are making an effort to make you feel small.

In reality, they’re probably just being happy with their lives, but you look at life through a lens of entitlement and believe it’s personalized to inflict pain and hurt feelings.

That’s when the real danger begins. You lose sight of those gestures that are made out of love or friendship. When they ask you to hang out again, you think it’s out of pity. You think it’s a ploy for something. You assume the worst of everyone. You close off, and you get comfortable in your anger. Then, eventually you are offended by everything someone does or says. Friendships get lost. People drift away, and you get even more set in your bitterness.

It’s a sad reality, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

Think for a minute, and wonder what it would be like if we didn’t automatically leech onto that sense of entitlement. What if, for a moment, we considered that we’re all busy adults? What if we took hold of the reality that we had responsibilities to keep in touch as well? What if we realized that, sometimes, letting go of stubbornness and accepting invitations—even last minute ones—might turn out to be fun? And, what if we found a little forgiveness for one another and realized that, while we might differ on things, it’s okay to voice what we believe?

If we took hold of that responsibility and the realization that not every move is a personal attack (let’s be honest here, very little of us have the time in this fast-paced world to place time and effort into personally making someone else feel offended or slighted), we would be happier. We’d be more easy going. We would be the adults we claim to be.  We would give our friends, family members, and loved ones the empathy that we all need to be shown. And, we’d start to understand that the ways in which most situations unfold depends on us.

For example, if you’d like to go to dinner with someone, maybe you should have texted them. If you’d like to be friends with someone, make time for them. If you want people to be happy for you when good things happen, make the effort to be happy for them. If you want something, ask. If someone says something you don’t agree with, either speak up or don’t but don’t take it personally. Don’t always assume it’s their responsibility to make you feel good or wanted or needed. After all, the old saying goes “you don’t get anything you don’t ask for…and only half of what you do.”

I’m not saying we need to just sit back and take being wronged repeatedly or that we need to become doormats. I’m simply stating that the entitlement has to find some sort of end. We need to take a step back and review situations. If we could have done something to avoid a tense or angry situation but chose to take another’s actions for outright personal attacks without even giving the person so much as a chance to explain, we might bear some of the blame.

Simply, we need to start taking responsibility for our own actions, and stepping up to the plate away from entitled behavior. The world owes you nothing. You owe it to yourself to remember that. 

P.S. If you thought this blog was about you, it probably was. Kidding, but here's a little music to go along with that thought...  

You're so vain, you probably thought this blog was about you...