Truly there were some students who seemed to have no sense of the real world, so sheltered had they been by their parents' wealth. One famous example from my class year came from a sociology class. A somewhat heated debate was raging with regard to male and female roles in the home, and there were passions on all sides. Finally one particular girl raised her hand and when given the opportunity, stated in honest astonishment, "I don't understand what the problem is! Why don't they just have the maid do it?"
The entire class fell silent in stunned disbelief. Was she SERIOUS?
Indeed, she was. I do believe she learned a great deal during college and while completing her required internships, etc., about the plight of the everyday life of men and women everywhere, and that most people don't have maids. Anywhere.
I am ashamed to say, however, that even as I laugh at the incident now and even somewhat nostagically recall discussions with my friends on the "spoiled brats" at my college and everywhere...well, my house is made of glass, too.
Maybe it finally shattered today. At the very least, it cracked all over and will have to be replaced.
Sure, I grew up poor and "maid" was the word Mom used when establishing her role as Mother and not servant of we messy children. And sure, I had to work my butt off to pay for college (a debt that STILL has about $5,000 left to be paid off, but let's not discuss the grad school loans that will come due in 6 months on top of that...), but even so, I have just as big a sense of entitlement as those students did.
Oh, yes, my sense of entitlement is HUGE. I don't know where it came from, but have to admit it was in place even when I went to college. I got financial aid and loans because I EXPECTED it and decided I DESERVED it. I decided I DESERVED to go to college, then DESERVED to get a good job with my degree...and on down the line. Losing my "dream job" early on, the one I worked so hard for, was actually as devastating as it was because of my overdeveloped sense of entitlement.
If we all truly look at ourselves, we will recognize this same hubris. Maybe the rich kids in school had their entitlement influenced by their family's money or importance or other factor. But we poor kids, well, our likewise overdeveloped sense of entitlement (and the obvious superiority I described above) arose from knowing there was money for us because of our poverty, and the mistaken sense that we were "better" because we'd learned "values" and a "work ethic" from our working-class/ impoverished families.
Just last night, and a little today, some co-workers and I were speaking of this sense of entitlement we all have, how our pride gets in the way of all the different things we think we need to control. Not just out of a proper perspective of turning out a good product, doing good work, etc., but how the outcome reflects upon US in the eyes of OTHERS.
It's very easy to fall into the trap of doing some kind of good work or advancing some kind of program not for the good of the parish or the city or the school or other group, but out of a sense of misguided Pride in ourselves. Although we may start out with the proper intent and ends in mind, it is very easy to lose focus and continually die to ourselves. What may have started out as a meritorious thing can quickly descend into an occasion for Pride, in which we are seeking our own glory, instead of God's.
The last time I checked, though, holiness has NOTHING to do with how we appear in the eyes of others or what they think of us. It has nothing to do with whether we have college degrees or a big house or even whether we live in an abandoned van down by the river with seven homeless cats and a wounded bird.
Perhaps one of the first things we need to really evaluate in ourselves is our sense of entitlement, and how ingrained it is in everything we think, how we live, what we do...in every moment. Why do we get impatient when sitting in traffic? Entitlement. Why do we get impatient when waiting for someone to call us back? Entitlement. Why do we become put out when someone stops by our office without an appointment when the time might be inconvenient to us? Entitlement. Why do we become upset when someone else wants to use the computer or the phone or the TV? Entitlement.
The Truth is this: we have a lot more importance in our own eyes than we do in another person's estimation of us as they evaluate priorities in the circumstances of their own lives. The unfortunate reality of human nature is that we ALL suffer from this plague of entitlement, and we feel put-out or put-upon when someone else's own sense of entitlement happens to collide with ours, literally or figuratively. In our own tendency to be wrapped up in our own affairs and hubris, we actually forget the virtues of justice, mercy, and humility, all bound together by charity...which reminds us that true holiness is deferring to others and remembering we are called to serve, not to BE served.
As I wrote this post, another point hit me pretty hard, and because I know I am not alone in facing the difficulty of vocational discernment, I have decided to bring it up as well.
I've written before of the GIFT of Vocation, that it is something unmerited, and it's something I often forget to consider as I continually seek God's will for me. I often complain about how hard it is, how exhausting, and how much I wish I could just put it aside and just "move on" with my life. Never mind the fact that I can't "move on" if I don't know where I'm going!
Thus, in my prayers and thoughts this afternoon, I queried, "Why do some of us struggle so much with discovering our Vocation?"
The Answer: Entitlement.
Ouch. Oh....ouch. Ow. Bleeding profusely now, and deservedly so.
When, exactly, did I get a sense of entitlement about such a great gift as a Vocation? And when did I lose sight of the fact that the very SEARCH for it is a HUGE grace from God?
I've been realizing, more and more, how BIG my sense of entitlement is, and it's a painful process to evaluate everything in my life, taking a look in that mirror of my own estimation in my eyes, and recognizing I've been staring at my image in a distorted circus mirror for a very long time.
Everything is Grace. Everything is a personal Gift from God.
There's nothing new here, nothing I haven't seen or read or heard, and it's nothing new to you, either.
Maybe the problem is that even though it's not new, I've become so fascinated with the circus mirror that I never put it aside long enough to actually embrace the reality of my own lack of importance in the face of God. Now that my perspective (again, by Grace) has been changed a little, now I can internalize, maybe, the Truth.
Yes, Jesus died for me, and my struggle with accepting that comes from the same pride that makes me depend too much on myself for everything. It's that sense of entitlement, that, at its core, is whispering, "You don't NEED a Savior...you're ENTITLED to one!"
Oh, it's painful to realize this, but necessary.
If we don't put this terrible, soul-killing, disordered sense of entitlement aside, we can't ever learn to depend on God. The loving God who knows our pride and our lack of humility, but STILL chose to die on the Cross especially in the face of our hostile lack of gratitude.
I'm going to continue pondering this, for as long as it takes. It will take YEARS to root out all the tendrils of entitlement that have taken over my life, but I'd rather spend the time NOW than have it burned away from me in the purifying fires of Purgatory. Which, by the way, is yet another Mercy of God's Justice that I don't deserve and to which I am not entitled.
Everything is a gift. Every moment. Every "inconvenience", every blessing.