Sunday’s Wisdom #195: Other People’s Stuff

“I don’t deserve it. I haven’t earned it. You don’t earn other people’s wives‘ fur coats!”
– Doloris Van Cartier, Sister Act

It has been so long since I last saw this movie, and still this quote has stayed with me.

Doloris has not exactly led an exemplary life. She’s a singer in a Vegas club, she’s a mistress to the club owner who’s also a mob boss, she’s selfish and shallow, etc. When she wants more from the married man she’s having an affair with, she doesn’t get it, but she does get a fur coat that is absolutely the envy of the other girls. Doloris likes it, until she sees the name written inside it: the man’s wife. He didn’t even spend money on it, just gave it to her like a hand-me-down. She is devastated, and fed up with where her choices have brought her, to the point she is determined to end the affair and leave Vegas. I remember the moment where one of her friends/coworkers urges her to keep it anyway, because it’s a nice thing and she deserves it. That’s when Doloris replies with this quote, and she absolutely has the right of it.

The world tells us to want what other people have, that we deserve what other people have, because it’s fancy and expensive. But no matter how fancy it is or how much it costs, no matter how much we like it or how much we want it, it’s not ours. You earn what is yours, not what belongs to someone else. If you take it, you are taking it. If it is given to you by someone else, they are taking it, and so are you. How special and deserving can you really be if you can’t even be given something that is yours, and yours alone?

Even more particular, Doloris was being given this fancy coat as a means for the man giving it to her to keep her, as if she were an object. It wasn’t a gift, it was a collar. A very soft and expensive collar, perhaps, but still a collar, which I believe I mentioned my feelings on last week.

More generally, though, it’s always stayed with me, ever since I saw this, even if I wasn’t able to put it in such words as a kid: you aren’t owed someone else’s nice things. You don’t deserve it, you won’t earn it, you can’t claim it. It belongs to someone else. Not you.

It’s such a simple thing, but we seem to have forgotten it somewhere along the way.

A lot of what is wrong with the world would be a whole lot better if we all stopped trying to have other people’s stuff and focused on earning our own stuff, ya know?

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