I heard a stat the other day that floored me. During this holiday season, the average amount spent is $1000 per adult in the province of Alberta. $1000 is the average. Calgary's population sits at just over a million. Roughly 650,000 of that number are considered adults. That means that as a city, we potentially spent about 65 million dollars this Christmas season. Crazy right?
You know what's even more crazy?? Entitlement. These numbers of what we may have spent this holiday season seem staggering (and they are!!), but what's even more staggering is the attitude that drives this spending. We believe we have the right to "do what we want" in a sense. While it is true that we have the freedom to choose how we live and how we spend, do not be disillusioned, at some point we will need to be accountable for our actions. For instance, if we rack up huge debt on our credit card, at some point the creditor will come collecting what they are owed...and that can be very unpleasant!!
I guess what is shocking me at the moment is the effects of entitlement that I see in my own life. When I feel that I am owed something, whether that is in a relationship or in a situation, I find that my attitude begins to take a down-ward spiral. We call Christmas the season of good tidings and joy, but I tell you that my joy is fleeting when I'm stuck in traffic or waiting in line to make a purchase!! This lack of joy is rooted in my sense of entitlement. Deep down I believe I am owed something from this world or from other people because I am who I am and who I am is the man!! Arrogant I know, but that's the truth...it's something I'm not very proud of. I think that in all reality many of us struggle with this very same thing (perhaps with feminine undertones if you happen to be a lady instead of a dude!!). We want to be valued and appreciated. But when we pursue fulfillment of these needs through entitlement, we are literally driving the wrong way down a one way street!!
What I'm learning in my life is that the only way to battle this sense of entitlement is to pursue generosity. True, authentic generosity cares for the needs of others instead of your own needs. One of my absolute favorite things to do after Christmas is to go through my closet, movies, video games and other stuff to pull out things that I do not need that I can give to other people. Some have dubbed this habit as re-gifting, but I believe it's more about generosity than anything else. Living a life that is a simple life is more fulfilling than one that is full of stuff. Entitlement spits in the face of such a practice. Entitlement feeds our carnal nature, our hunter-gatherer default programming and our hoarding mentality. Really...do we need all the stuff that we have?
Watching my daughter and my son this Christmas brought me a new perspective regarding the pursuit of generosity vs. the pursuit of entitlement. My kids are learning from their dad and their mom about what generosity is (among other things). If we are giving to receive, then I think we missed the whole point of generosity. If we are giving because we are pursuing a life steeped in generosity, then I think we're on the right track. This year Saydie and I took a bag full of toys down to good will. As I stepped out of the car to get the bag from the trunk my daughter asked me what I was doing with all the toys. I took a moment to explain to her in my fatherly way (the awkward mumblings that I seem to have when I'm asked a serious question by my 2 year old!!) that we wanted to share toys with other little girls and boys that don't have as much as we do. Saydie looked at me with her wide open gaze and said, "that's nice daddy." Yes Saydie, that is nice...and it's what we need to learn to do more of considering that who I'm basing my life on is Jesus, and generosity is a huge part of who He is! (Philippians 2:1-11)
If video killed the radio star, entitlement kills any shred of true, authentic generosity there is. Choose wisely.