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Pride, entitlement, and resentment

September 8, 2009

Seth R. has provided a new raw, visceral, and thought-provoking comment to chew on at ClobberBlog.

I’ve focused a few articles here purely on comments from Seth. I think he’s functionally abandoned 9-Moons and now, he gets out his weekly dose of writing on other people’s blogs. This comment, like others I’ve discussed here, has several parts that each provide the components of an entire meal for thought, but today, I just want to talk about one part.

This is the lesson I have learned from life – that absolute conviction that you possess all the facts in question usually means you’ve oversimplified everything. This false certainty leads to pride. The pride leads to feelings of entitlement and eventually resentment.

These feelings bubble to the surface when you feel like the world isn’t meeting your artificial needs.

Damn it! I DESERVE to be treated better than this! I’m a freaking special piece of whoop-dee-doo, and they can’t do this to me! People were supposed to take care of me. They were supposed to give me what I wanted. I deserved to have the truth meet my needs. I DESERVE a Church that serves my needs and props up my ego! I DESERVE a God that does the same!

Then they hurt the people they love, and run off to the internet to make jackass comments about the system that didn’t wipe their nose for them.

Gotta love this guy.

Whenever I see one of Seth’s rants, I try to ask myself, “Does this apply to me?” Am I the recipient of this diatribe, the focal point of this magnifying glass on opprobrium? Because if I’m not, then I feel as if I’m doing something right. (I’m telling you: Seth should be a general authority!)

I’d like to think that in many places, I avoid this diatribe. I like to think that I don’t make my arguments contingent on a personal interpretation of historical facts (in fact, if anything, I downplay history and theology perhaps too much, although I do have opinions on what historical narratives I buy into or what I don’t.) I’d like to believe that I don’t oversimplify, and as a result, I don’t have an “entitlement” complex or feel resentment.

That’s a big difference I see between myself and many ex- and former Mormons. I can completely understand their feelings of betrayal (because quite honestly, regardless of what Seth says, I think the church does OFFICIALLY make some claims about its organization, its worldview, its claims to truth, that the average reasonable member would be reasonably justified in buying into…and these claims, some of which can be dubious, will lead to disappointment if they don’t work out for an individual.)

At the same time, I often don’t share in this betrayal. My problem isn’t that I had certain expectations (artificial or not), and then when they were broken, I fell to pieces. Rather, I have lacked certain expectations, and as a result, I’ve lacked a reason to stay in, and it’s just been recently that I’ve figured this out and stopped racking myself over it.

So, in general, I don’t think I fit the whiny, self-centered model that Seth describes of expectations, entitlement, and pride.

BUT.

There’s been something biting at me. It’s this sneaking sense, in the back of my mind, that things could be better, and so whatever that better is, I long for that. C.S. Lewis’s concept of Sehnsucht, and by close association, his Argument from Desire, make too much sense to me (at least, sehnsucht), and because of that, I worry (because the argument from desire shouldn’t make sense, even though looking at it, I can’t put my finger on why not, in the same way I can’t put my finger on what I long for.)

I don’t want to be entitled. I don’t want to have this sense of longing because of some kind of false pride. And, on a conscious basis, I think I do a good job at holding it down. I hate to say this, but I have a rather nihilistic (although it’s also absurdist and existentialist, so I think that makes it better) take on atheism. I give great props for happy-good-time atheists who paint a great picture of everything, but I don’t even try to do this.

I don’t expect a greater reward; I don’t expect people to somehow be saved by some divine force, and so on. If we get a reward or are saved, it is by ourselves. It is something we do in the face of a universe that doesn’t care to make the job easier in the slightest — not out of malice or anything like that, but because the universe isn’t conscious enough to care either way.

At the same time, still I LONG. Not for a greater reward or to be saved by a divine force (I don’t long for god…sorry), but rather, for good things like love, peace, joy, people not being jerks. Even though I consciously know that I am not entitled to any of these things (and so I’m really not consciously surprised when I see hate, war, misery, people being jerks). So, I’m wondering…is this yet an artificial need? If I listen to Seth, then I must admit it is and I’m one of those terrible people. BUT IF I DON’T LISTEN TO SETH, I feel pincered back against C.S. Lewis (and I just hate his arguments and how all the people on campus here love his guts.) Unless this is a false dichotomy and I can’t put my finger on it.

I think I’m ultimately safe. Even though I’m running to you all on the internet to make jackass comments, it’s not because the system won’t wipe my nose for me. I don’t want the system to wipe my nose. I wish my nose didn’t run and that there were a way to become strong enough so that I could stop it from running. If there must be jerks, I don’t yell at the system for having jerks. Rather, I lament because no matter what I say or think consciously, subconsciously I am very affected and susceptible to jerks. Even though I should recognize that trolls happen and I should not feed them, deep down inside, I must, or something isn’t right.

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22 Comments
  1. I normally enjoy Seth’s rants. But this one… I don’t think I “got” it, or didn’t get who it was directed at. Me? You? Kevin Graham? I kind of just read it and said… okay… where did THAT come from?

    I don’t think Seth will ever be able to become a General Authority after making all these disgruntled comments on the Web. The Internet has a long memory.

  2. I think I’ve gotten to the point where Seth bottles up comments that he’s been meaning to make for like…the past week or so (so everything he’s read could be part of it) and when he gets the outlet, it all comes out.

    So, I’m not thinking it was necessarily aimed at the people at the Clobberblog discussion, but rather perhaps something one of us said reminded him of something he heard in the DAMU or on Main Street Plaza or wherever else.

  3. Alright kids.

    I am in the room, you know.

    Andrew, I don’t think you were the target. Neither was Jack. Neither are the guys at Main Street Plaza (except when Guy Noir was still commenting there). I think your “bottled-up” observation is probably about right.

    I comment in a lot of different places, and I don’t always keep track of my audience that well. So I tend to speak what’s on my mind and it isn’t always completely relevant to the conversation.

    “I don’t think Seth will ever be able to become a General Authority after making all these disgruntled comments on the Web. The Internet has a long memory.”

    Thank goodness.

  4. Oh, good. I’m relieved to hear that you don’t think I’m an arrogant idolatrous narcissist.

    I am in the room, you know.

    But it’s much more fun if we carry on the discussion as if you aren’t.

    Hey Andrew, don’t both you and Seth do fencing? Which one of you would win in a fight?

  5. Depends which weapon.

    I prefer sabre. It’s more “visceral.”

    Of course, I’m so out of shape that I can’t guarantee much.

  6. “Oh, good. I’m relieved to hear that you don’t think I’m an arrogant idolatrous narcissist. ”

    If you are, I’m sure it’s only in a good way. 😉

  7. Of course, I’m so out of shape that I can’t guarantee much.

    Okay, I think my money’s on Andrew then.

    Speaking of out of shape, weren’t you supposed to run a triathlon this summer? How’d that go?

    If you are, I’m sure it’s only in a good way.

    Well, your wife did say I deserve any compliment I get, intentional or not. Maybe this qualifies.

  8. i don’t know, maybe it’s no contest.

    i fence with the lazy slow poke-you-in-the-toe epee. but my spritely youth’s probably an advantage. 😀

  9. Well, my wife and I were going to be both training. But she started getting this numbness that migrated up and down her left side.

    After a trip to the ER – where they found nothing wrong with her at all – we consulted with a doctor and neurologist and we’re not sure what the problem is. But with this kind of numbness, there’s always a possibility of Multiple Sclerosis. So we’re worried about that.

    Misty finds that strenuous exercise seems to exacerbate the numbness for some reason. So that kind of took the wind out the sails. Once she dropped it, a lot of my motivation dropped too.

  10. Okay, funny tangential story, not about fencing but about weapons.

    Not long after we were married, my husband’s twin brother and our friend Bob stopped by our apartment while Paul was at class. They decided to play with my husband’s weapons. I was reading a book on the couch and I could see Bob tossing the battle axe into the air and catching it out of the corner of my eye. I said in my best nagging woman voice, “Knock that off. You’re going to get it lodged in your hand.”

    And Bob said (while still tossing), “Don’t be silly, I’m not going to get it lodged in—”

    CH-THUNK!!

    Bottom corner of the axe went right into his hand.

    My husband’s brother stared at it in shock, a little freaked at the blood dripping onto the carpet. I sighed, got off the couch and said in a you’re-a-dumbass voice, “Well, I guess we’d better go run your hand under water.” After John calmed down, he and Bob departed for the emergency room. In case you were wondering, I have found that blood is much easier to get out of a carpet than Kool-Aid, soda or grape juice.

    This is one of the few incidents in my life which keeps my faith in gender differences hanging by a thread. A woman would never toss a battle axe into the air and get it lodged into her hand.

    A woman would have caught it every time.

  11. That doth stinketh, Seth.

    I hope your wife’s health improves and the numbness problem goes away.

  12. Ah – Seth must be talking about me!!

    The C.S. Lewis comments are interesting – both the desire and the longing – thanks Andrew for sharing.

    In all honesty, there are some things I do feel entitled to as a human being. But not in terms of certainity about religion. It’s not about having unreasonable expectations, it’s about making choices about where I want to spend my time and on what I want to spend my time. And I believe each human has certain rights and things they ARE entitled to (including some basic respect…)

    I can choose to not spend my time with a certain religion, because it doesn’t meet my needs (or my longing). I can choose to still talk about my opinions about a religion and make anonymous comments about it on the internet. Just like I make observations about all sorts of things in life. So I suppose I believe in free speech and freedom of religion (with some caveats, when harm will be done to ourselves or others).

    So I fundamentally disagree with Seth here. Each person deserves happiness. Each person deserves the right to their feelings, observations and experiences. But I’m not about to tell a person how to go about that – whether or not they believe (or don’t believe) in God, a higher power, etc.

    I shouldn’t have to stop talking about my own feelings, observations, etc. just because it may upset another person.

    And I think the real hurt caused is in the eye of the beholder. Simply because something I say (about women in the LDS church or mental health) hurts one person who is currently LDS, doesn’t mean that there aren’t other people (including some LDS or others) who may agree with me or who may appreciate the observation (thinking about things in a new light).

    With that said, I think there are some things which could be damaging to certain people/organizations. But I don’t think sharing my thoughts/experiences should be included in that group.

    How we make the hurt/damaging determination is a difficult thing, however. Some hurt/damage may be valid, for an organization like, say, the Ku Klux Klan. A religious organization, not sure, the line is less certain to my mind.

    I don’t think talking about basic human rights is being whiny or overly entitled.

  13. aerin:

    The real question, IMO, is if they are “basic human rights” or if they are “artificial human rights.” I WANT to believe they are basic human rights, but I know that if I say they are artificial, then if I can internalize that, then I don’t get as mad at when mine are abused.

    I mean, let’s think about buddhism. So, isn’t this kinda the very premise of buddhism. Your wants and desires and longings and so forth are ALL artificial…and ALL of them are the cause of your suffering. So yes, even your “basic right to happiness” is artificial. The goal is to extinguish and fade away all of these desires.

    Again, I’m not comfortable with that conclusion. I want to believe, as you say, that talking about basic human rights isn’t being whiny or overly entitled. But at the same time, I have to think that what we call “basic human rights” are partially something we’ve come to grow up with in a civilized society and so we take them for granted. But even this doesn’t seem fully true…for example, if someone grew up in a terrible oppressive regime, I’m pretty sure that wouldn’t “squash out” any idea of basic human rights. No, I’m certain they would still long for something better.

    It’s a back and forth…am I making any sense?

  14. I am pretty confused – I have been thinking about this for an hour or so and I’m still confused.

    I do think there are such things as basic human rights. I don’t think they are artificial.

    I am not sure that even devout buddhists would argue against that (I could be mistaken). I think I understand what you are saying about desires, even the desire for happiness. I know that’s what many buddhists believe (that desires lead to unhappiness). But I don’t think they would be in favor of not allowing a person to speak (telling another person not to speak) or telling another person they can’t worship/believe how they choose.

    The UN charter (I believe) does give people the rights to free speech and religion. That may be majority rule, which can be problematic. I think it’s worth saying, though, that most cultures/civilized societies agree with those rights. Can those rights be changed in the future? Perhaps.

    Which brings me back to – I am still not sure why it’s being whiny or entitled to discuss what type of society we want to be a part of, what type of religion we want to be a part of, if any, and what rights we want to protect.

    • Here, since I’m not Buddhist (and I think that even different “sects” of Buddhism would have different interpretations), i just can’t know what the position would be. I don’t know if the position would be, “Yes, there ARE true basic rights,” or “nope, EVERYTHING is artificial”. Or even a concession, “It’s artificial, BUT some artificial rights can be worth fighting for” or “there are true basic rights, BUT we still must learn to relinquish them”.

      I don’t know.

      and I agree, regardless of how it works out, people should be able to speak as they want and believe as they want.

  15. I think any “whineyness” would depend on how reasonable your demands on the community are.

  16. We’re still talking about Seth as if he can’t hear us because it’s fun, right?

    Given what had happened at my husband’s church this weekend, when I first read Seth’s comment, I really did think it was directed at me (at least in part). Desire for better treatment? Check. A sort of “they can’t do this to me” outrage? Check. A belief that I’m special? I am special, TYVM.

    But then we get to the part where Seth begins denouncing the desire for religion to meet our needs, and that’s where he loses me. If religion isn’t going to meet our needs—be it the spiritual need to be forgiven and reconciled to God or something more creaturely like the desire to be a part of a community—what’s the point of it again? Seems to me that religion is all about meeting our own needs and then seeking to meet the needs of others.

    So I don’t think religion can be divorced from personal needs. I can’t speak for others, but I come to God because I’m empty and I’m seeking to be filled, spiritually and through human interactions and by seeking to give back and fill the needs of others. If I’m feeling empty in spite of practicing a religion, something needs to change, and if there isn’t anything I can change about myself to remedy the problem, maybe it’s my church that needs to change.

    I think that the real problem comes when people confuse their needs with their wants and reject religion because it did not fill their wants. That’s when all the things in the title of this post—pride, entitlement, and resentment—come into play.

  17. re Jack:

    I agree…I don’t really know how to “respond” to Seth’s answer to “downplay” the role of religion. For me, my position is that I EXACTLY don’t expect religion to meet my needs…so why stay in it? What compels me to it? Oops. It appears there’s not much. I can see that Seth is arguing against a “need” (which is actually a want) to have certainty, all the answers, etc., but I think in arguing against this, he ends up advocating for having quite few answers.

    But that gets me back to the question…what’s really an artificial need (merely a want) and what’s a genuine need?

  18. what’s really an artificial need (merely a want) and what’s a genuine need?

    Well, that’s the thing. Every religion answers that question differently. Christianity says that you need to be reconciled to God. Mormonism agrees with that and adds that such reconciliation can only be obtained through the ordinances offered therein, the latter being what Seth focuses on. Other needs and/or wants are all secondary to that.

    But there’s something you keep saying that I want to focus on:

    Not for a greater reward or to be saved by a divine force (I don’t long for god…sorry)

    And:

    What compels me to it? Oops. It appears there’s not much.

    How relevant is longing and personal desire in terms of our needs? I think we’ll agree that just because a man doesn’t feel sick doesn’t mean he isn’t.

    It falls on a religion to convince people that what it’s selling is what they need whether they feel like it or not. I think that’s where a lot of religions lose it with certain people, yourself included, apparently—and me as far as Mormonism goes.

  19. re Jack:

    Relating to your last few paragraphs, I think you raise a good point. It does fall on religion to convince people that what it’s selling is what they need. The problem is, much like with the sickness example, this can backfire. Some ways are more effective than others.

    For example, let’s look at the man who is sick but doesn’t feel sick. I find this is a troubling example, but it’s particularly troubling when I phrase it differently. Let’s say the man is disordered but doesn’t feel disordered. The problem I find is…part of the disorder diagnosis requires a…well…dis…order. A disease requires a dis…ease. These are subjective reactions. So, if the individual with disorder or disease does not feel disordered or feel disruption of ease, then I think things stop there…no matter what everything else says. Leave the guy alone.

    In fact, when someone is sick/disordered/diseased but doesn’t feel it, I think the people calling for treatment are BANKING on the idea that even if they don’t feel sick now, soon they WILL. And perhaps then, there will be worse symptoms that are less resolvable.

    But I don’t think everyone is convinced by worse symptoms that they don’t see or find reasonably possible (whether it is that of disease or that of a religion: the potential for hell or whatever is suboptimal.)

    And I’d say you’re right. It is here that I have the disconnect. The religions I’ve seen and dealt with do a particularly poor job of getting me to find the “worse symptoms” looming ahead as being reasonably possible. I don’t perceive that I have the problem that they have the solution for, and the problems I *can* feel, they don’t have the cure for.

  20. I think he’s functionally abandoned 9-Moons and now, he gets out his weekly dose of writing on other people’s blogs.

    See, this is why Hellmut and I have been trying to convince Seth to be our token faithful Mormon permablogger. Clearly the (more or less) faithful scene is too easy for him, and he prefers a little cross-belief dialog. 😉

  21. Great discussion. Thanks for sharing…all.

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