Entitlement Impedes Generosity and Civility
We live in an age of unprecedented entitlement. We have so much. As a result, we’ve come to expect a lot. And we tend to take what we have for granted. We too easily feel like we’re owed things. But the truth is that we’re not truly entitled to a single breath we draw. Life is a gift. Mature, healthy characters understand this. And in their reverence for this gift, they feel a deep sense of obligation. We need to appreciate how truly fortunate we are. Only then can we feel compelled to be generous, civil, and loving with others.
How Disturbed Characters Went Wrong
As I mentioned in earlier posts, we all start out in life self-centered and narcissistic. (See: Character’s First Commandment: It’s Not All about You.) (See also: Mindfulness through Empathy.) We think the world revolves around us. And we think of others as not only as extensions of ourselves but also as entities existing solely to serve our desires. To develop integrity of character, we have to overcome our inherent narcissism. We truly have to outgrow it. Unfortunately, far too many among us these days become significantly stunted in this growth. Elements of our culture not only impede our character growth but actually encourage character retardation. And that’s partly because these same elements promote attitudes of entitlement.
We live in an exhibitionistic, self-aggrandizing, and self-indulgent society. It’s also a largely everyone for himself or herself society. It’s hard to become a conscientious, obligated, civil, and generous person in such an environment. On top of that, some young persons also experience depravity of one type or another. This leaves them feeling unfairly denied, angry, and covetous. It’s hard to feel that way and simultaneously feel inclined to treat others in a civil and generous manner. Both over-indulgence and deprivation can lead to attitudes of entitlement.
Heeding the “Commandment”
We don’t have to be rightly inclined to heed the “9th Commandment” of sound character. We just have to do it. And we have to do it frequently. We simply must do our best to be generous with our time, efforts, etc. and to be civil in our relations. And we must do this even when we don’t feel particularly eager. Sometimes, we even have to “fake it ’til we make it.” Sure, we have to set limits. Disturbed characters will test our willingness to be civil and generous. But we can take good care of ourselves while simultaneously behaving toward others as we would have them behave toward us.
Next week, we’ll begin discussing the “10th Commandment” of sound character. And I’ll be presenting workshops in three California venues. Check out the schedule on the Seminars page.
Read more about the 10 Commandments of Character in my book Character Disturbance. And look for The 10 Commandments of Character: How to Build a Significant Life this spring.