I was sitting in the car waiting for someone, listening to the radio. I heard several commercials in a row. What struck me was the number of times I heard the phrase, “You deserve…” According to advertisers, I deserve a lot—certain foods, cars, the purchase of services, a break, a vacation, personal wealth, etc.
As a Christian, I struggle with this concept of entitlement so heavily promoted in our culture. It has impacted the way we think about our relationships, deal with our finances, and manage our emotional and spiritual lives. When I am entitled, I begin to think people treat me unfairly or give me enough. Financially, I can end up in debt because I deserve to have what I want. Emotionally and spiritually, I can live in anger, resentment, and frustration because others are not responding to me in the ways I deserve. Just watch any reality TV show for examples. The shows are filled with entitled people who complain about not getting every whim met.
This excessive self-focus and self-indulgence promoted daily leads to selfishness and narcissistic behavior. We have kids who show respect to others, marriages that end because one spouse feels entitled to a better life, and debt up to our eyeballs because we buy what we cannot afford.
I am entitled to nothing, but incredibly blessed. As a Christian, God chooses to love me and give me good things because it is His will to do so. His goodness towards me has nothing to do with me earning anything. He offers us salvation through the gift of His Son. He justifies and redeems me and calls me His own. My efforts, money, and status have nothing to do with any of His goodness towards me.
I don’t deserve a break today! But occasionally, I experience one. I don’t owe it to myself to purchase a particular item, but occasionally I can. My children don’t deserve to get everything they want, but occasionally they do. School children do not deserve to feel good regardless of their behavior. And God doesn’t owe me anything, but liberally gives me much!
How do we change an attitude of entitlement?
Begin with owning your behavior and being realistic about your actions and the impact your behavior has on others. Other people are not always the problem. We make mistakes and have weaknesses. Without the Holy Spirit operating in our lives, our tendency towards self-centeredness grows. So, humble yourself before the Lord and realize without God you are nothing.
Second, be grateful for what you have and the people God has placed in your life. Even those who irritate you are being used to refine and build your character.
Finally, focus on helping others and not just yourself. Get your eyes off you and onto the needs around you. When we do, our attitude changes.
Do you see entitlement as a growing problem in our culture and relationships?
Dr. Linda Mintle is a licensed therapist who hosts her own website (www.drlindahelps.com). Follow her on Twitter and Facebook (Dr. Linda Mintle, Author and Speaker) and look for her new book Letting Go of Worry due out Sept. 1, 2011.