A Sense of Entitlement

Occasionally, I catch myself saying or doing something that, on further reflection, strikes me as being presumptuous. Presumption isn’t something we talk about very much. Perhaps if we substituted ‘a sense of entitlement’ it would be easier to understand. We live in a society where demanding or asserting one’s rights is seen in positive terms. We are entitled. One unfortunate result of this is to have made us less honest. An accident can lead to litigation, so fault is not acknowledged; a mistake is always an ‘oversight’ for fear of the consequences of saying one made a mess of things. We don’t have to worry too much about kindness or courtesy because we are entitled. (I exaggerate, of course.) We talk about corporate responsibility and individual responsibility but try to wiggle out of it in various ways. In short, our sense of entitlement can make us childish, demanding that everyone else be responsible but ourselves not at all.

I was thinking about this the other day when I looked through a number of emails that Quietnun was struggling with. (She would do almost anything not to disappoint people.) Each writer assumed that his or her request was perfectly reasonable and should be responded to promptly and positively. As it happens, we can’t meet all the demands but that is not my point. What struck me was the writers’ sense of entitlement. You are there, you are nuns, you should do this or that which I have decided you should do. Apply the same sense of entitlement to personal relationships and one can see how quickly all will end in disaster.

Our expectation in the west that we should never be hungry or thirsty and should always have medical care is increasingly under threat from changing economic conditions. Out right to own property and enjoy a lengthy retirement is also being challenged. But it is easy to see these things in impersonal terms and shy away from any sense of our own involvement. Benedict XVI has been at pains to stress that our reliance on rights has produced a culture of death because we have not balanced it with a sense of responsibility. Perhaps we need to do some reassessment at the personal level. We used to consider presumption a sin. I’d say we should also think about our sense of entitlement in similar terms.


5 thoughts on “A Sense of Entitlement”

  1. I so agree, this attitude underpins some of my day to day interaction with the patients, people demand appointments at times to suit them, and selfishness stands out in relief sometimes ….
    Not always easy to stay calm, reasoned and professional!

    Interesting that the most unwell/needy patients are often the most humble and unassuming …

      • I’m a receptionist in (what is apparently) the 3rd largest GP Practice in England (so mega busy) Several Drs are Christians & it’s a great place to work. I am very ‘front line’ & never know just what is going to happen next!

  2. This is so true, I believe, and that sense of entitlement starts young. As parents we need to do our best to guide our children away from that mindset. It’s not easy. Best to lead by example, I think, whenever we can.

  3. Sadly many of the youngsters I teach also have the same sense of “entitlement”. They demand that their work be marked and then demand they receive good grades, without putting in the effort to deserve them! It’s very hard to be patient.

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