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Entitlement and the Golden Rule, November 17, 2017

A Sense of Entitlement and the Golden Rule

Rev. Yme Woensdregt

I was watching one of the college football games last weekend, when a car commercial came on. The tag line was that “this is the car your family deserves”.

You can substitute anything for “car” in that last sentence … you deserve this computer. You deserve this new phone. You deserve a vacation. You deserve to have the best … to have the most … to have the finest … to have the fastest … to have the coolest.

Let me ask a question. Why? Why do we deserve any of this? When did we start focusing so much on entitlement? Why is it about me, me, me?

Advertisers depend on this sense of entitlement. They use powerful tools which will tap into your sense of entitlement so that you’ll go out and buy their stuff. After all, if you believe you deserve something, why shouldn’t you get it?

The insidious thing in all of this is that we fall into their trap and start using our sense of entitlement to rationalize any new purchase we make. I want it. I deserve it. So I go out and get it or I order it online.

And we end up with a mountain of debt.

It strikes me that we are becoming a more selfish society because of this sense of entitlement. It’s about what I want … what I desire … what would make my life “better”. As a result, we think less and less about the good of others, or of society generally. Society begins to be an impediment to our wants, and so we take less care of those around us.

One part of this is due to the fact that when we think we deserve something, it’s often at the cost of doing something for someone else.

Another piece of it is that when we think this way, we begin to live out of a sense of scarcity rather than a sense of abundance. We become afraid that we won’t have enough. If someone has what we think we deserve, we’re afraid there won’t be enough for us.

It’s the new version of that old thing we called “keeping up with the Joneses”. And if we’re always trying to keep up with everyone else, we will never have enough.

So what can we do? Is there any way out of this?

I think there is.

We call it the Golden Rule. The notion of doing for others what you would have them do for you is at the heart of every caring and compassionate society. I have written before about the Charter for Compassion. The people behind the Charter are committed to spreading the core of the Golden Rule into the lives of as many people as possible.

Stephen Vasconcellos-Sharpe, who describes himself as a positive change agent, writes, “The golden rule is the most basic foundational principle. It’s a game changer when applied. It is said that its simplicity is only matched by the challenges of its application. We desperately need simplicity at this time. Not more language. The great masters have been articulating this message for thousands of years, just as it’s been a critical feature of the indigenous wisdom cultures… according to the Zulu shaman Credo Mutwa. [it is] the one law that was given to us from the stars and embedded in our cosmic ancestry in the atoms that we are made of and that were made in the heart of dying stars. We have struggled as a species to heed the message. Until today anyway. Now the degree to which we apply it may shape the future of life on earth and our very survival.”

The Golden Rule, as I have written before, is at the heart of all the world’s great religions. It is part of our very DNA, as Credo Mutwa described it above. It is “given to us from the stars and embedded in our cosmic ancestry”. This is foundational wisdom for us as human beings. The Golden Rule is at the heart of what it means to be a human being.

The challenge for us is to act on this principle, to put the Golden Rule into action. We give up our sense of entitlement. We begin living in ways in which we honour our interdependence. We are linked as human beings in this world.

Let me take it a step further. We are linked not only with each other as human beings. We are also part of a universal web of life, connected to the earth and all its creatures. We are grounded in the very earth on which we stand.

Ancient and aboriginal cultures have known this and honoured it in different ways. Today, we have forgotten it—and we are doing so at our peril.