I recall my college years with super fond memories. I am so grateful for all of the opportunities that I had to learn and grow. Recently though, I've noticed that I feel entitled to certain things, and that sense of entitlement has made life difficult because I don't have many of those things. I've been trying to figure out where this thinking comes from, and lately, at least, I've concluded that my college experience is partially to blame.
I wasn't especially aware of them at the time, but the messages (some direct and some not-so-direct) were clear. I was attending a premier educational institution. Consequently, if I could manage to get good grades, I'd be assured an outstanding job... one with prestige and, of course, a good paycheck; I would be successful and have everything that I need and want; I could live a secure, comfortable, and socially acceptable life; I will, in fact, have "made it".
These are, of course, empty promises. Education does not ensure security, comfort, or acceptance (I recognize there is room for argument here...education is a privilege and does seem to guarantee some level of payoff). Life happens, and I made some choices. For me, not every employer, potential or actual, was so impressed by my good grades and college name. And I've had my own doubts, fearing that perhaps I chose the wrong major in college. Then came kids, further complicating things. For others, it's unexpected crises, such as illness, divorce, or unemployment, which destroy the promise of the picture-perfect life. Regardless of the cause, unmet expectations are hard to deal with. I bought into the empty promises, and to the degree that I believed the promises, I'm left to deal with my disappointment. I'm not living the life that my college education promised to deliver, and I struggle with that sometimes, despite the fact that I made some choices that led me here.
In his book titled Counterfeit Gods, Tim Keller writes the following: Everyone tends to live in a particular socioeconomic bracket. Once you are able to afford to live in a particular neighborhood, send your children to its schools, and participate in its social life, you will find yourself surrounded by quite a number of people who have more money than you. You don't compare yourself to the rest of the world, you compare yourself to those in your bracket. The human heart always wants to justify itself and this is one of the easiest ways. You say, "I don't live as well as him or her or them. My means are modest compared to theirs." You can reason and think like that no matter how lavishly you are living. (page 52)
I confess that I spend a lot of time comparing myself to others in my "bracket", which makes me feel like I am entitled to more...more money, a nicer house, plentiful job options. Sometimes, I've found it helpful to take a step back and put things in perspective. Last fall, I received a giving catalog, which pictured various items like animals, school supplies, and farming equipment that I could purchase to give at Christmas-time as an alternative to traditional Christmas gifts. Among the potential gifts included in the catalog was a home that I could purchase for $1,200. I kept that giving catalog in our magazine rack for a long time, so that when I was feeling tempted to complain about my house, I could take a look at the $1,200 shelter that someone in some other part of the world would feel very grateful to receive and feel grateful myself. It served as a reminder that I AM living the good life. I have "made it". I have so much to be thankful for.
I don't have this figured out. I struggle with several questions:
What exactly are we entitled to in this life?
How does our sense of entitlement impact how we use our money?
Should everyone around the world be entitled to a clean and reliable water source?
I'd love to hear your thoughts!