Entitlement vs rights

First of all, I am not talking here about basic rights like food, water, shelter and reasonable personal safety.  I’m going a little further up those ‘pyramid of need’ models into the emotional zone.

Most of us reading this blog are lucky enough to own a computer, therefore I am assuming (rightly or wrongly) that the basic phsyical needs are in place.

So, privileged in that way as we are, it’s normal and understandable that a lot of our free time gets taken up by emotional concerns.  Romantic love.  Friendship.  Social activities. Fun.

Lately, I have been refining in my own mind the concept of entitlement vs right with relation to these aspects of life.  Take, for example, yoga.  I have ‘every right’ to go to yoga if I want.  It does me good and certainly does no-one else any harm.  If I have the spare cash to pay for it and I’m not breaking a long standing appointment with a dear friend in need, I am perfectly entitled to go to yoga class.

Here, entitlement and right seem to mean the same thing.

Yet.  If there were no yoga classes running in my area at all, would I then be justified in organising a march to demand that a yoga class is held for me?  I hardly think so.  Yoga, then, while I have every right to pursue it if it’s there, is not my entitlement.  

Relate this to matters of the heart.  Say I meet someone special.  They are single.  They seem to like me too.  We have, then, every right to date each other.  It is not, however, our entitlement that things work out.  It is not my entitlement that this person agrees to date me, even if we are well-suited.  It is not my entitlement to have this person exist in my life.

A romantic relationship is not an entitlement.

Even if our friends have a great one and we wish we had the same.

Even if we feel lonely sometimes.

Even if it feels like we’ll never have one again.

When we feel entitled, we focus on what we don’t have.  This fosters jealousy, feelings of inadequacy and the potential that we’ll push that someone special away anyway.

We have, however, every right to pursue it if it comes into our lives.

Can I be brave here and suggest that the US Declaration of Independence suggests quite justly that citizens have the right to the pursuit of happiness?

Yet, once citizens feel entitled…what happens then?

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