We’ve all seen it and embraced it at times. I’m talking about entitlement which Webster’s Dictionary defines as: the condition of having a right to have, do, or get something. To be sure entitlement in its purest, most basic sense isn’t something evil. Rights were included in our country’s founding documents, for example.
There are certain other logical rights that simply make sense and are reasonable. If you pay for something you should get and keep that something in return. If you are invited to speak to a group of people, you are entitled to be heard and uninterrupted.
Our government, rightly, wrongly or some of both, offers entitlement programs such as social security and Medicare. And it seems reasonable that if we pay into those programs that we are entitled to at least some sort of benefit even if it can be argued that those entities are a poor use of funds or have been mismanaged for decades.
But entitlement today is rapidly moving to another threshold of expectation that has now gone well beyond the practical, fair and wise intent of Webster’s definition. Let me start with a few examples to illustrate my point.
Many people who have received government benefits for what were initially good reasons feel entitled to those benefits even if they no longer need them.
Many workers believer they are entitled to health insurance even if their employer can no longer afford that insurance or never promised it to them in the first place.
Millions believe they are entitled to the benefits and resources of another country even if they are not citizens or never earned the privilege of those benefits.
Children and teens often feel entitled to whatever possessions (especially technology) their friends have such as phones, summer camp experiences, the right clothing, etc.
Even in churches people often feel entitled to know everything the leadership knows, to have their preferences about music, teaching, who leads the church and how the church is led adopted and enforced. Some even act entitled about programs that they want or ministries they believe must be adopted and become angry when the church doesn’t deliever.
But this level of entitlement is not only harmful – it’s dangerous. Let me suggest several reasons why:
- It breeds selfishness. It loudly proclaims, Listen people, I”m the most important one in this business, organization or church so give me what I demand.
- It fosters disunity. Organizations work best when people work together, have common goals and share resources. Entitlement steals unity.
- It distracts the group from its most important goals because the ones feeling entitled are making demands generally unrelated to those goals.
- It reproduces more entitlement as young children especially see the adults in their world expecting so much to revolve around them.
How do we battle against unhealthy, unwise entitlement? First, we share our perspective without demanding. We offer to be part of the solution, to join the team that could help us get closer to our goals without ignoring the bigger goals and vision of our organization.
Second, develop a more thankful heart. Entitled people are generally not very thankful people. Instead of demanding more from those who lead or serve you, go thank them, tell them how much you appreciate what they’ve done. If there are issues that need addressing do it in a grateful context.
Third, remember that everything we have is on loan from God. We don’t deserve it anyway. God has lavished us with so much, especially in America, that we would be wise to count our blessings and when those entitlements come along anyway we’ll appreciate them a lot more.