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Beware of privileges and entitlements

November 17, 2016

AS school chaplain, I get to talk with students who are transitioning from one level to another – be it from high school to college or from college to professional life, etc. A common problem or difficulty these students meet in this stage of their life is that of adjustment.

Most of the time, these students realize that they have new responsibilities to assume, new challenges and expectations to meet. Though many of them manage to cope with the new things, some find it hard and fall into crisis, sometimes grave, almost fatal or suicidal crisis.

These problematic cases often manifest a common feature – that of somehow being spoiled by privileges, entitlements, comfort and carefree lifestyle that they enjoyed and received from their parents and peers.

This time though, as they enter a new phase in their life, they notice that these perks are ebbing away for a number of reasons, and they find it hard to go on without them. While this phenomenon is quite normal and should be expected, some of these young ones do not know how to handle it. They are unprepared for these changes, or they simply refuse to make the necessary adjustments.

They continue to expect the same things, when circumstances have in fact changed, sometimes drastically. And so they get disappointed and frustrated, and from there more serious problems can be triggered.

They fail to realize that gospel indication of Christ: “Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled, and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.” (Mt 23,12) They fail to match their growth in their status with the corresponding growth in their sense of responsibility, in the tenor of what Christ himself said: “The greatest among you shall be your servant.” (Mt 23,11)

This is where they have to be reminded – with patience and reassurance but with clear and strong admonition – that they have to know how to wean themselves from their previous lifestyle and start to get real with the objective changes of circumstances in their lives.

Part of this reminder should be the explanation that all the attention and affection lavished on them by their parents and others while they were growing up was meant for them to grow toward maturity and not for them to get spoiled.

Getting spoiled by all the attention, privileges and entitlements given to them can happen when they fail to realize this crucial truth about their life. They fail to act on what Christ himself said: “From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more.” (Lk 12,48)

So this is where they have to be taught how to grow in responsibility, teaching them to be ever mindful and thoughtful of the others, and to realize that our life, like Christ’s life, is meant to serve and not to be served.

In fact, all of us have to do everything to acquire, develop and enrich this attitude in ourselves and among ourselves, inspiring and inculcating it in others as much as we can, for it is what is truly proper of us all.

With God’s grace, we have to exert effort to overcome the understandable awkwardness and tension involved in blending the natural and the supernatural aspects of this affair, as well as the expected resistance we can give, due to the effects of our sins.

We can make use of our daily events to cultivate this attitude. For example, as soon as we wake up from sleep in the morning, perhaps the first thing we have to do is address ourselves to God and say “Serviam” (I will serve). It’s the most logical thing to do, given who God is and who we are in relation to him.

And “Serviam” is a beautiful aspiration that can immediately put us in the proper frame of mind for the day. It nullifies Satan’s “Non serviam” and our tendency to do our own will instead of God’s, which is what sin, in essence, is all about.

And as we go through our day, let’s see to it that everything we do is done as a service to God and to others. Let’s not do them merely out of self-interest or self-satisfaction. That kind of attitude is highly poisonous to us, ruinous to our duty to love. Sooner or later, we will find ourselves completely engulfed by self-centeredness.

For us to be able to do things as service of love to God and to others, we have to continually rectify our intentions. We should be quick to react when we notice that our intentions and motivations are already invaded by self-interest.

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