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Friday, June 16, 2017

Faith-based expectations: Hope meets Entitlement

I was talking to a friend today about faith and expectations we have for our lives.  His thoughts were that in approaching our faith and our Higher Power (God), we should be modest in our expectations but be prayerful for what we'd like.  As I thought about for a minute it and occurred to me what he meant:  Entitlement vs. Hope.  That is to say, we should be modest and not be demanding or feel 'deserving' of an excessive amount from our Higher Power--entitlement.  However, it is reasonable for us to hope that we are blessed with good fortune in our lives.  Without even thinking about it, I believe we can take some of the following as entitlements to expect of our higher power:

  • Good or excellent health.
  • Good or problem-free childhood/adulthood.
  • Good job.
  • Good transportation.
  • Good friends/relationships.
  • Good entertainment/times.
  • Good place to live.
  • Good things.

I could summarize all of these things into one phrase: A good life.  Now, in most cases, there is nothing wrong with wanting these things.  That is provided that they DON'T get in the way of our faith (as we understand it) and our civil and moral responsibilities.  In fact, is quite reasonable to want each of these.  Anyway, my friend was saying, inherently there is nothing necessarily wrong with wanting, wishing for, or praying for things we'd like or want or want to happen.  However, we should be careful to avoid slipping into an attitude of 'entitlement'.  When we slip into that attitude we risk the following:
  • Loss of motivation (laziness)
    • If we are feel like we are entitled, I believe we are less likely to put in the work for that which we feel entitled to.
    • This speaks to the old saying that "God helps those who help themselves".
  • Loss of faith
    • If we feel entitled to some or all of the above list just by virtue of being, when we don't get them to the extent that we feel we should, we will tend to feel our faith drained.  In other words, we will tend feel like "He doesn't care" or "He let us down".
      • In a sense we are playing the role of 'God'.  That is to say, behaving as if we know more than our Creator what is best for us or care more than he does.
    • Unfortunately, when our life doesn't go the way we think it should, i.e., "He hasn't provided", we are more likely to decide that we can't count on Him.  
      • This creates a vicious cycle were we tend to exclude our Higher Power and "Lean on our own understanding", resulting typically in less good fortune.  This tends to cause us to blame Him and further exclude Him and the negative cycle continues.
  • (Unhealthy or improper) anger
    • When things don't go the way, we may ask "why He failed us", instead of realizing that we--humanity-have played a role in our own individual and societal failings.  
    • These feelings can lead to poisonous resentment and anger.
    • We need to realize, not everything is going to go 'according to script', but that He usually helps us get what we need.  
    • We need to realize that there are many much less fortunate.

Now let's talk about Hope.  What exactly is hope as I see it.

  • Is usually a health attitude.  
  • Is typically an understanding that we won't always get what we want, but that we will likely get what we need.  
  • Is something that when exercised right is followed by proactive steps in working towards what we want or need.  
  • Is an understanding that both we and our Higher Power play a role in working towards what we want or need.  
  • Is a something that when exercised right is a sense that we aren't 'owed' things, but instead 'blessed' with things.

Ultimately, I guess my takeaway from our conversation was that we need to focus less on what we think we should have, more on what we do have and understand He will provide what we need.  That is to realize that it is not our role to 'expect' or 'demand' of our Higher Power, but instead work along side Him with His guidance to help us meet our needs.  Unfortunately, as I write this, I realize it, like most good advice in life, is easier given than followed.  But, nonetheless...

--  Rich

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