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What are you entitled to?

A Christian Science perspective.

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In a recent Newsweek review of a book titled "The Narcissism Epidemic," Raina Kelley scrutinizes the disproportionate sense of self-importance held by what one of the book's coauthors, Jean Twenge, has previously described as "Generation Me." Comparing her own upbringing with the experience of today's child-rearing era, Ms. Kelley writes, "Gorged on a diet of grade inflation, constant praise and materialistic entitlement, I probably would have succumbed to a life of heedless self-indulgence" ("Generation Me," April 27).

Of course, not every modern child is being raised in such a narcissistic way, and those who are don't need to succumb to the temptation to see themselves as the center of the universe. But the sense of an entitlement culture, for adults as well as children, is of broad concern in many countries today.

Is there an antidote to the temptation to feel a sense of unearned entitlement – or, conversely, to feel like a victim of others' sense of entitlement?

What about a different approach to entitlement – one that rests on a spiritual, instead of a material, outlook? Expressed in biblical terms, one could say that everyone is entitled to fulfil what Jesus described as the two great commandments: to love God with all one's heart and soul and mind, and to love one's neighbors as oneself (see Matt. 22:36-40).

What stops us from recognizing and staking our claim to this spiritual entitlement? Kelley's assessment of the problem facing children and teenagers today includes the phrase "material entitlement." A material sense of entitlement – whether it seems to be satisfied or frustrated in practice – detracts from discerning, claiming, and reaping the rewards of the longer-lasting entitlement to sincerely love the Creator and His creation. Also, a material concept of entitlement is necessarily divisive, pitting one person's sense of deserving against another's.


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