30-30 series #8 Our rights: killing the cultural entitlement chip

#8 in the list of the top 30 things I have learnt in the last 30 years has to do with something very precious to Americans. Our rights. Land of the free. Home of the brave. There is a lot of talk I hear from me and my kind about my rights. My right to say what I want. Do what I want. Become who I want. Do you know most American children I know are told they can be president if they want to someday? A far cry from the British pessimism/realism I live around. “Yeah don’t get your hopes up love!” I can imagine any self respecting British parent telling their aspiring PM hopeful. 

Our rights come to my mind often in the context of a sassy child being told to be quiet and them retorting the only thing they can remember from civics class “Na uh! Free speech!” Or something else like that. If I am ever a parent I will retort to my children that “they are free to talk all they want.. at the wall.. in their room….because they are grounded!” That is the funny side of rights. But genuinely. I have traveled the world over. I have seen opulence and poverty. I have seen gratitude and I have seen attitudes I am shocked by of ingratitude and self entitlement. It’s not all an American thing. I have definitely seen it in other places. It is not all a wealthy/poor split. Some of the most ungrateful people I have met have not been well off. And some of the most grateful have been very well off. Though that is less often the case and is usually switched. 

Entitlement issues can creep out when we are on the motorway and see the way other drivers don’t give us what we deserve in terms of space and the ability to drive as slow or recklessly as we want. Entitlement comes out in the stuff we think we need. Is it our “constitutional right” to be greedy? Entitlement can even come out in legitimate good things that are healthy to have: Respect. Love. A listening ear. Those are all good things and a sign of healthy relationships. But what happens when I don’t get them? How do I treat people? How do I react? How do I view the world or God? If I don’t get them do I treat others poorly? Is my anger and self righteousness uncontrollable? 

Lessons on rights and entitlement: 

– I probably have far fewer rights than I think I do.
– The ones I think I have probably need rethought and examined. 
– “All of life is grace.” One of the best phrases I have ever learned. 

Think about that for a second. If I get it in my head that I don’t deserve anything and that it’s all a gift… it changes everything. It changes my gratitude levels and what I think I am owed versus learning to live by laying down my rights for others and valuing others above myself. The world is not all about me and it’s a life long lesson in learning that.

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