Entitlement is a word that has been thrown around more and more the last few years. It is a word that seems to be used a lot by people and especially the media as they discuss the Millennial generation. Just so we are all on the same page, the Millennial generation consists of anyone who is between the ages of 18 and 33. I am four years too old to be considered a part of this generation.
Do I think that the Millennial generation has a high sense of entitlement? Yes I do. The truth is that we can’t really limit the issue of entitlement to Millennials though. I think the sense of entitlement has increased greatly over the last few decades across all the different generations, at least in the United States. In our country today, the American Dream has trained us all to want only the very “best” for ourselves, and those we wish well upon. We want good, quality food served to us in 10 minutes or less. If we don’t have the money to buy something we want, we have a tendency to just charge it. We live in a country today where the average American household has more than $15,000 in credit card debt. I think we are all a little guilty of feeling entitled.
Researchers have explained in detail why entitlement is a prevalent attitude among the Millennial generation: it was fostered and allowed by everyone else who is not considered a Millennial. At some point, parents decided that children needed coddling, a ribbon for finishing last and whatever else they deemed necessary to ensure a kid’s happiness. It’s easy to point a finger at specific generations, but the reality is that we all struggle with entitlement each and every day.
Entitlement is that little voice inside our heads that takes “I want it” and turns it into “I deserve it.” We tell ourselves in our own heads something like: I’ve worked hard. I’ve earned some extra. I’ve spent a lot of money at this place over the years. I deserve some payback. Nobody else is taking care of my needs, so I’ve gotta do what I’ve gotta do. Have you ever thought any of these thoughts?
Have you ever said or thought: “I want it now”? A promotion? A new pair of shoes? A new purse? Or what about, “I deserve more”? A trip to the beach? An upgrade from your flip phone? I’m willing to bet that we’ve all felt entitled to now or more on several occasions.
So once we have established that entitlement is a problem that spans all the generations, the next logical question is what do we do about it? What’s the antidote for entitlement? How do we win the battle against this mindset? There is a one word answer:
We need to take all those things we feel we deserve and transform those things into things that we are grateful for. The road from entitlement to gratitude is tricky because it takes fighting against our sinful nature of dissatisfaction. It is more natural for us to be dissatisfied with something than it is for us to be grateful for something that we have been given. Let me give you an example. If we are put into a room full of great things, our natural tendency will be to find the one thing in the room that seems sub-par and that one sub-par thing will be the thing that stands out to us and will be the one thing that we comment about to others. The other things that are perfectly fine and great will just fade into a blur in the backgrounds of our minds. To cultivate an attitude of gratitude, we have to decide to turn the blessings that God has given us into praise to God who has given us these blessings. Let me say that one more time so you really get it:
To cultivate an attitude of gratitude, we have to decide to turn the blessings that God has given us into praise to God who has given us these blessings.
Why? Because every blessing we don’t turn into praise to God is turned into pride that we have in ourselves. God is the giver of all good gifts. Allowing our hearts to return praise to God enables a spirit of gratitude to help shape us into the people God desires us to be. When we don’t acknowledge God as our giver and provider, our pride takes control and we give ourselves credit for the work that He has done. This is where pride and then entitlement enter into the picture.
Choosing gratefulness over entitlement is something we have to train our minds to do. It doesn’t happen overnight, but rather it happens a little bit at a time.
Are you truly content? I mean really, peacefully content with what you have right now in your life? In the book Of Philippians, Paul tells us about what contentment really looks like.
Philippians 4:11-13 (NIV)
11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
Paul learned contentment during his life. He did not always have this level of contentment, but he learned how to have it through giving praise to God for the blessings that God had given him. You too can learn contentment as well, through the practice of gratitude.
I would like to encourage each of you to take some time to examine your life and identify where you have feelings of entitlement. I know that one area of my own life where I felt a real sense of entitlement was my football career. I felt that I was responsible for my own success. The harder I worked to improve, the better of a player I became. I saw my success as a direct result of my own efforts and I was filled with pride in myself, which led to a sense of entitlement that I would display to those around me. I was so short-sighted then. What I did not realize was that none of that success in football would have been possible if God had not blessed me with the gifts I would need to be successful. Everything that I accomplished on the field was because of God, not because of me. Once I came to understand that, I realized what an amazing gift God had given me and only then was I able to give God the praise that He had deserved all along. My only regret is that I did not really understand that until after my playing career was over.
Once you have identified areas of entitlement in your life, then the next step is to get into a gratitude routine. Take a moment each morning to list and consider your blessings and turn them into praise. A good way to do this would be to write a list of your blessings and then pray those things on your list back to God giving Him praise for those blessings. You might be surprised just how long your list of blessing will become over time.
Embracing a spirit of gratefulness will change your heart and attitude from the inside out. Don’t be shocked if you begin to feel content with your circumstances, both in times of plenty and in your times of need. Let’s all take the challenge of making entitlement a thing of the past and usher in an attitude of gratitude to our Heavenly Father.