One of the upsides of not having any job, let alone an office-type one, is that I can wear t-shirts everyday. I recently cleaned out my closet, (BTW: KonMari will change your life), and was reminded how extensive a collection of graphic tees I have. Anyone who knows me, of course, knows my favorites are my SoWorthLoving tees.
I could go on forever about SWL, their message and all it has meant for me, but I think it’s best for you to see for yourself: soworthloving.com.
This isn’t a post about clothes, though, but it is about why I love my SWL shirts and why I’m glad I can wear them everyday.
I was recently in the audience of a sermon that almost immediately set me on edge. I actually had walked into the service thinking that we were going to be talking about how the common description of Millenials, that they are lazy and overly entitled, is inaccurate and unfair. Instead it was a sermon about how we are all entitled.
(Side note: I don’t know about you but I’m really tired of one screwed-up generation calling this generation the screwed-up one.)
To be fair, the speaker wasn’t targeting Millenials specifically. He wasn’t even really discussing the particular things Millenials are accused of being entitled for: that they have unrealistic expectations for jobs and money and they don’t know the value of hard work. According to him, everyone had the potential to be entitled, and we all need to look inside ourselves as to why we feel that way, so we can stop. He went on to describe entitlement as the feeling that you deserve something simply because you deserve it, and, so there would be no confusion, he went on further to claim that the words “I deserve”, by themselves, were dangerous.
I was immediately put off because I saw where his argument was going, or where it could go if he didn’t qualify his statements. But I didn’t want to rush to judgment, so I waited for him to clarify. He never did. Instead he insisted, with many illustrations, that we don’t deserve anything. That God had already given us more than we will ever deserve, and when we realize that, he said, we can look on other people and know we don’t deserve anything from them. He then asked us to apply this lesson to our lives and relationships.
Let me first say, I’m not mad at him. I know what it’s like to build up an argument until it makes the point you wanted to make and then leave it there, without considering the broader implications. But there are some serious broader implications to consider.
Because taken to its logical conclusion, this idea that we don’t deserve anything means we don’t deserve, well, anything. And while “anything” certainly includes preferential treatment and unrealistic expectations, “anything” also includes everything else.
Like fair treatment. Like control over our own bodies. Like free will. Like positive self-image. Like boundaries. Like the ability to have our “no” respected. If we don’t deserve anything, then we don’t deserve anything, and that must included self-esteem and basic human respect.
I get the idea that we don’t want to give people a false sense of reality. That they are more important than anyone else and the world will, and ought to, bow before them. I’ve worked in customer service. I’ve worked retail. Heck, I’ve worked in financial aid. I know all about entitlement. But it’s an overblown sense of entitlement that’s the problem, not simply the feeling that you deserve something,
And I don’t believe the speaker was actually throwing out free will and boundaries when he made the claim that we don’t deserve anything. He was, likely, simply trying to prove a point about how we shouldn’t be self-centered, but that’s not what he said. Instead, we were given a general statement, without nuance or clarification, and told to apply it to our lives. While we should teach people to not be selfish, I can’t believe telling them they don’t deserve anything is the best way to do it. We can’t be so afraid of giving people the wrong idea that we won’t give them the right one.
Left unguarded, the idea that we don’t deserve anything won’t lead us to health and safety. It won’t even lead us to humility and respect. It will lead us to darkness and depression.
Because if I don’t deserve anything then why should I feel good about myself? Why should I have self-esteem at all? Isn’t that an entitlement? Feeling like I deserve something simply because I deserve it? And for that matter, why do I deserve respectful treatment from others? If I find myself in an abusive situation, what right do I have to want out of it, to demand respect from anyone? If I don’t deserve anything, then I don’t deserve better than that.
Taken from the other side, if no one deserves anything, then what right do people have to ask me to respect them? They don’t deserve my respect. True, we’re asked to treat our neighbors as we would treat ourselves, but, as has already been established, we don’t deserving anything ourselves, so how can we treat them contrary to that? Why should I treat them any better than what I deserve, which is nothing?
These are, possibly, extreme examples, but they are logical examples. And they are not so far-fetched. I know, because I’ve heard this sermon before. A dozen times, with the same verses, the same illustrations. The same lesson.
And I believed it. I believed it for so long that I really started to think I didn’t deserve anything, least of all to feel good about myself. I didn’t deserve love from anyone, least of all myself.
It’s been a long road, and I’m still working through these things. It’s one of the many reasons I’m thankful for a company like So Worth Loving. It’s why I wear their shirts. For a reminder that I have value as a human being, not because I’ve done anything to deserve it, because I will never have to do anything to deserve it.
Because the simple fact is we are entitled to certain things. We are entitled to a positive self-image. We are entitled to recognize our worth and ask that other people respect it too. We deserve these things simply because we deserve them.
To think otherwise is to rob, not just myself, but everyone of value. If entitlement in any amount is bad and entitlement means thinking I deserve something simply for existing then how do I possess intrinsic value as a human being? How does anyone? If human beings don’t possess some level of value simply by existing, then we have no basis by which to demand or offer basic human decency.
No, we’re not entitled to everything, but unless we are entitled to something then we have no basis for anything. It’s very easy to tell people what they don’t deserve. It’s the same kind of lesson I’ve heard all my life. But what we often don’t hear is what we do deserve, and I think that’s the more valuable lesson to learn. Because if we don’t know that, we open ourselves up to all of the lies that the world is more than ready to tell us about ourselves.
And I don’t know about you, but I’ve had enough of the lies. I’m much more interested in hearing the truth.
And the truth is you have value. You don’t have to earn it, and you’ll never lose it. I don’t believe telling you this is going to give you an overgrown sense of entitlement, because it’s true for everyone else. We all have value, and once we recognize that it can, should, and must affect how we treat each other. Once we learn what we deserve, we realize everyone else deserves it too.
And that is something we are entitled to know.
(Image by Chaitra: http://itspinkpot.com/creative-convex)