Entitlement Syndrome

What would you do with a million dollars? What about 100 million? When the thought of gaining a lot of money without working for it comes to mind, such as winning the lottery or gaining an inheritance, is your first idea philanthropic? Do you think of using a large sum of money to help feed hungry people or cure sick children? For most people, including myself, the answer is no. My first thought when thinking about a large sum of money like that is paying off student loans. The pressures of constant debt, debt accumulated from something that was supposed to better my life, is frighteningly overwhelming at times. The concept of being debt free is almost unfathomable at this point, but that doesn’t stop fantasies of winning the lottery from fluttering through my mind. But once I’ve paid off the measly $50,000, then what? Buy a house? Ok, so I’ll get one somewhere outside of California where they charge closer to what the house is worth (and I’d actually get a yard to go with it.) Tops, I’d spend $200,000. The powerball here in California is sitting at 600 million right now. What could I possibly do with the rest of that money? I’ve always wanted to start a coffee shop. So, about $500,000 to get that off the ground and within a year it should start bringing in business and making me money.

I like the idea of giving back. I want to be able to help others, but I don’t think that handing money to people helps anyone. If I just “acquired” a lot of money, through winning the lottery, inheriting from a distant relative or someone just giving me the money, what have I really gained? If I, in turn, just hand out money to others, what do they get out of that experience? We all need to set goals and experience the setbacks and triumphs along the road to achieving those goals. I truly believe that this is one of the main issues with our country and our political system today. People have become complacent. Everyone in this country feels entitled (I am guilty of this, too). We have been told for so long that we have “inalienable” rights, that we’ve come to believe that we are entitled to everything…that we have the “right” to everything. People live outside of their financial means, charging outrageous extravagances onto multiple credit cards, they then don’t pay their credit card bills and are upset and indignant when those things are repossessed as if they have the “right” to steal those items! Our government treats public money very similarly. They spend quite extravagantly, then expect the public to pick up the tab in higher taxes without question. Why? Because they feel “entitled” to do so.

The truth is, there are no “inalienable rights.” That was jargon used in the 18th century to ensure that the people our forefathers were targeting got a certain kind of treatment. We are not entitled to steal from others, be it another person, company, corporation or whatever. We are not entitled to hurt, maim or kill anyone else. You can argue self-defense all you want, but that is a reaction to harm, not an entitlement.

In the end, we reap what we sow. If we continue down this path of believing that we are entitled to everything and passing that on to our children, eventually we will be completely isolated. I see it more and more as I go out. People treat each other like dirt because they each feel like the other is infringing on their “rights” in some way. There is no respect, no courtesy and no desire to treat others, including friends and family, like you want to be treated. When I’ve tried to mention “the Golden Rule” to some people, I’ve gotten responses like, “Well, I just treat her the way she treats me.” At that point all I can do is feel sad. The idea that people can miss the point so deeply is heartbreaking.

I don’t have money to give others, and since I think that handing out money is a waste of time anyway, I prefer to talk. As a cashier in a convenience store in a questionable area of town, I see a lot of different types of people every day. I try my best to be a good listener for those who are down on their luck and offer sympathy and even a little advice, if it’s solicited.

Sometimes I think we all need to step back from ourselves and take a good long look. When I get angry or upset I like to stop and ask myself a few simple questions: Why? What changed to create my anger? Is this something I have control over? If I am angry at someone else, am I placing blame to avoid my own responsibility? In the course of my life, how much does this issue really matter? Even if someone else is at “fault,” will it hurt me to forgive and move on? For most people, the actual answers to those questions will probably be surprising. Most of the time, these things don’t really matter. Even something as serious as an affair in a marriage. When it comes down to it, if you love your spouse, and your spouse loves you, in the course of a lifetime, one affair will not matter, as long as it doesn’t keep coming up. If the “injured” party holds it over the other’s head, then it becomes a problem. Will forgiving a spouse for getting drunk and having a one night stand hurt you? No, of course, if you do actually forgive, you can’t keep holding the affair over the spouse’s head. So, it’s all about how much you care about the person, rather than being right all of the time.

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