I’ve been pondering on the sense of entitlement I have at this stage of my life, in my elder years, and it’s something I’ve seen in many older people in the past. It goes with an inner dialogue that says “I’ve worked hard all my life and now I’m entitled to ….. (fill in the blanks)”. That sense of entitlement can be directed at family –especially family – younger people, the government ... and sometimes God.
So, having noticed this tension going on inside myself I was taken aback to see a group of 12-13 year old boys the other day express their sense of entitlement. I was on my way into a department store and noticed there was a hold up at the entrance. At first I thought perhaps they were limiting the number of people entering the store due to social distancing, however the congestion was that everyone was expected to sanitise their hands before entering. Then I heard them. A group of pre-adolescent boys confidently and defiantly by-passing the queue and announcing, “We’re children, we can go straight in” and in they went! It seems a sense of entitlement isn’t restricted to the older generation. My response to them was another thing I’ve observed in older people. “You still have to wash your hands!”, I called after them, expressing my sense of entitlement to say whatever I felt to say to whomever I felt to say it to!
So that left me pondering how a sense of entitlement has pervaded my life. As a woman I expect certain courtesies from other people – to be shown respect, especially from younger men (so age and gender both come into play). But it isn’t always there and I’m often taken aback when I find myself stepping aside for younger people to pass in front of me and their sense of entitlement in going ‘first’. It happens when out on the road as well.
As a young child, my mother took great care of us and I never questioned that it shouldn’t continue. As a teenager I felt entitled to sleep in at the weekend, especially on Sundays, often until we were called to lunch! As the oldest in the family, I had a sense of entitlement due to my age and status as the first born child! There were no special privileges, except sometimes staying up later than the younger children, but nevertheless, my imagination suggested there ‘should’ or ‘could’ be. There was a yearning to feel important and a sense that it – the ‘recognition of my importance’ – should simply be there. Whereas in fact I placed myself out of the picture by stepping aside to allow space for my many siblings. Nevertheless, I wanted recognition for my ‘role’ and place in the family and more importantly, for simply being me.
There’s not a lot of give and take in these scenarios. Very little sense of others, of cooperation and collaboration, of consideration for the needs of others, and how we can all work together. Instead we stand back and wait for others to fulfil our picture of how things should be, for us! It’s very self-centred. We are each the centre of our own universe, or so we think! What I’m talking about is equality and a sense of the flow of movement between people wherein we make space for each other and we offer support and connection where it’s needed. It means opening ourselves up to each other, allowing ourselves to be seen, to be vulnerable, letting go of protection, and allowing ourselves ‘out’ as well as letting others ‘in’.
And it means letting go of ‘pictures’ of how things should be and expectations of how others should behave.
A sense of entitlement is all about ‘me’, never about all of us. We continue to see ourselves as individuals, and forget that we are all equal, and we are all One.
I’m reminded of how birds fly across the sky in formation, changing positions from the lead to the sides to the back, constantly moving in perfect harmony with each other. No one is told what to do and when to move. They simply make space for each other and move as one, moving with grace and fluidity as one rhythmic body.
Could we learn to live this way, in perfect harmony of movement, cooperation, care and consideration for each other, letting go of the individuality, self-focus and sense of entitlement that pervades our lives? I like to think we can – I’m absolutely certain we can – and one day we will. But it will take time – first we need to recognise what’s going on in order to make that change.
Judy F., Australia
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