Way before I joined the world of parenthood, KLR told me about a concept she had heard at a training for work. The presenter* explained that we can view the world and the many things in it as either rights or privileges. This was a game changer for me. His example, as retold to me: one of their many children chose not to listen to a parent and complete a given task/chore/assignment. The family was scheduled to enjoy an evening out at Pizza Hut that evening, and because there were a gazillion children, this was very much a treat and a rare occurrence. As a result of the child’s decision, s/he had to make a bologna sandwich to eat before they left and then watched the family enjoy Pizza Hut for dinner, not allowed to eat anything. He said, “all children have a right to eat dinner, but an evening out for pizza is a privilege.”
Such perspective has invaded my perspective at multiple levels. It changes the way I view my daily work, my job, the food I eat, the places I shop. There came a time when I discovered that the job of a parent isn’t a right but a privilege. Most recently, my relationships have fallen under this scrutiny.
The perfect storm of Thanksgiving / hosting numerous people at my house / first trimester pregnancy blah / kids, thus me, getting sick / watching a sappy chick flick caused me to reach a new appreciation for the privileges within my relationships with others, namely, my husband.
Certain rights exist for everyone in marriages, specifically the right to be treated with dignity and respect, the right to share responsibilities, the right to participate and make decisions in an agreed upon manner. Likely, a few more should be added to this list, but these were the biggies that came to mind.
I’m privileged to partner with someone who doesn’t just love me, but loves me so selflessly and completely. He loves me in ways that I never knew I needed. While we can expect to share parenting duties, I’m often awed by how he takes on more than “his half” before I need to ask, let alone beg. He lovingly welcomes my crazy family to invade his home and his sense of routine. He doesn’t want to simply accomplish a task, but he does it with excellence (so our house wasn’t just spruced up for festivities, but the the blades on the ceiling fans were washed clean. Seriously.)
I could choose to view some of these things as rights. But in truth, they’re not. I have a right to be loved, but I have no right to say that I must be loved like this. I hold to nothing that allows me to call the shots. And as I sit back and view this gift in the light of privilege, I’m overcome by gratitude. I, being my selfish and egocentric self, do not deserve such a person in my life.
Perhaps this is the secret to true gratitude: understanding it’s not due to me. I didn’t earn it. I can’t claim my share based on “fairness.” But I can be grateful. And I can reciprocate. I can hope to love in the same selfless manner, not just to he who has shown me but also others who “don’t deserve it.”
The challenge with privileges comes when you experience them every day – you begin to expect them. You treat them like rights. But it’s the wrong place to put them, and in so doing we tarnish their beauty. It looses its purity. Perhaps I’m the only snob out there who struggles with this, the high expectations of others to love me as I need it, without question. Perhaps the rest of the world already knows that such a gift should be prized. Perhaps normal people keep their undeserved-ness close, so not to squander the gift of grace. But it’s become heightened for me, and I can only hope it changes the kind of wife I’m becoming.
*I don’t know the name of the guy; I do know he has a DVD out there called “You’re a better parent than you think” but I’ve not watched it. I just took his concept, ingested it whole and fell in love.