A president, having lost an election, spreads lies about having actually won it, to the degree that hundreds of his supporters storm their own government in a failed attempt to take it over and undo the election – after which he denies any blame for it while many of them get arrested.
A dictator bombards a neighboring country, arguing that they’re an urgent danger for having left his country and asking to join an opposing coalition – something they did a quarter-century ago.
A popular successful actor, on the most honoring night of his life, hears a comedian make a dumb joke about his wife, storms onto the stage, strikes him, and yells obscenities at him before an international audience.
What do these huge news stories have in common?
I’ll answer in one word: Entitlement. That’s the attitude one has when they think the rules that apply to others don’t apply to them, and, worse, that they deserve these special rights.
You’ve likely known people like this, especially when you were growing up. Some snotty kid in your school who thought they were “all that” and treated others with disdain or even cruelty. (Maybe you were one of these yourself!) But that’s childhood, when everyone’s supposed to go through bad phases and learn from them. The problem is when we see these qualities in adults!
But meanwhile, while it’s easy to despise spoiled brats, at any age, doesn’t our society also honor them? That president and that dictator gained their powers by thrilling people with their senses of entitlement, creating a viewpoint of “If he can do it, and I’m on his side, I’ll be entitled too! I won’t have to play by the boring rules I’ve had to before. And even my country won’t have to!”
Now this brings up a question, though. When a leader takes charge and directs their people through a difficult situation, making horribly risky decisions, is that also entitlement?
What about when someone sacrifices their own life for a cause, when none of their friends or family would have allowed them to do such a thing?
Or what about when a person walks up to a poor person on the street and insists on giving them their lunch? Is that entitlement?
I will certainly argue that it’s not. Rather, they show a viewpoint that they have the right to make choices for themselves, but each of these involves a thoughtfulness, a consideration of the greater good, that renders their action the opposite.
So let’s look at those examples I started with. Imagine that president had said “I lost, but I think I can do a better job if they give me another chance. I’ll run again, and spend the next four years giving people reasons to vote for me.” Or if that dictator had said “I need to find ways to help that country, to encourage them to ally with us.” Or if that actor had waited until later and publicly stated, “I thought that joke was stupid and even cruel.”
In each of those cases, the person would have still pursued their goal, but in a way that would have honored the rights and even lives of those around them.
Now here’s another question: Is my writing this to you a sign of a sense entitlement? I’m certainly believing my thoughts are worth your attention.
But no, it’s not. Because you have the right to click off this page, or shut down your computer, and walk away and grab a nice pastry any time you like. If I barged into your home, jumped onto your bed, bared my fangs, growled while drooling onto your throat, and, keeping you terrified, demanded you listen to what I had to say about the Oscars Slap, then… yeah THAT would be Entitlement!
So does that mean that nothing can undo the actions that these entitled men have done, or even some of the rotten things some people did as kids? Maybe not. But is there a way to undo entitlement itself? To move on from it?
I think so, and can think of one excellent example. A couple of decades ago, another U.S. President was caught having had, and lied about, an extramarital affair. He denied it for a long time, and confessed to it only when undeniable evidence proved him guilty. Years later, he wrote an autobiography, and in it said some amazing words. He said that he’d had the affair “for the worst reason in the world. I did it because I could.”
It was no big deal for him to confess to the cheating yet again. But instead, he confessed to entitlement. Something so rare as to be truly beautiful.
Have you been guilty of acting entitled? Do you have it in you to admit it?
If so, you will have redeemed yourself. And you can move on into a world of bravery, humility, and strength.
But if not, you’ll be stuck in it. And even those who think you were right to… oh, to contest some election results, or attempt a takeover of your neighboring country, or stand up for your wife to a comedian… even they will see you as less than they did before.
Because you have proved your truth. And the truth isn’t just bad; it’s entitled, which might be the most disgusting quality a person can have.
Look, if I climb onto a couch I’m not supposed to, I know I’m breaking the rules. But nothing I or any other dog does comes from that entitled place (our brains just don’t work that way).
So I’m not asking you to be better than us.
Just… don’t be worse.
All my love,
PS: And just to repeat my last newsletter’s complete text: ALL. DOGS. HATE. WAR.