Who do you know that acts entitled? I bet you can think of a few people…your teenagers, your adult children, your brother, your sister, your grandchildren, or maybe a few millennial employees you have.
Our list is pretty long on who suffers from entitlement. But there is one person who is always absent from our list. It’s the one person who suffers the most from entitlement and is completely blind to it…me and you.
It’s so easy to see entitlement in others, but almost impossible to see it in the mirror.
Maybe you are pushing back right now and thinking, “I’ve never looked for a handout my entire life. I’ve worked hard for everything I have. I wasn’t born with a silver spoon in my mouth. I’ve always paid my own way.”
Money is only a small piece of entitlement.
Because it’s so easy to see in others and impossible to see in ourselves I want to give you a little test to see if you are entitled.
You might be entitled if…
-You get mad when others are late for appointments and meetings, but it’s okay when you are because you know…traffic was bad, you couldn’t get your dog to go back inside, and your kids missed the bus.
-You get frustrated when others bail on social plans, but it’s okay when something comes up for you.
-You expect others to help you move, but you never have time to help someone else.
-You send the evil eye to the person with more than 10 items in express checkout, but your 14 yogurts really only count as one…it’s just yogurt.
-You listen to KLove or JoyFm, but never support it.
-You think our national debt is immoral, but it’s okay for you to carry credit card debt.
-You can have a hard day and come home and do nothing, but get mad at your spouse for doing the same thing.
-You’ve texted someone else while someone is talking to you.
-You’ve spoken to the coach on behalf of your child.
-You’ve spoken to your child’s teacher about a grade they received.
-You think everyone should come to your house for the holidays.
Are you seeing it a little more clearly? Painful right?!?
Let’s go a little bit deeper for those of us who are Christians.
You might be an entitled Christian if…
-You expect your child to be loved, taught the Bible, and have the time of their life, but you never serve in kids’ ministry.
-You complain how your church spends money all the while you consume free childcare for events, free t-shirts, free coffee, free classes, and never give.
-You take up all of the prayer time in your small group with your problems.
-You get frustrated when an usher directs you to a seat because… “Who do they think they are to tell me where to sit? I can sit where I want to. I was here on time. Why should I have to slide in for those who are late? Besides I bought this seat!”
-You think the staff should be at your beckon call, but when the staff asks for your help you don’t have the time.
Now that you are good and mad at me…
Let’s just assume that we all struggle with entitlement. It’s part of the human condition. It goes all the way back to Adam & Eve and the fruit on the tree. They were told not to eat it, but they felt they were entitled to it. They deserved it and everything it promised.
A lot of times we think entitlement is a problem for the younger generation. In fact, the biggest complaint people have about the millennial generation is that they have a sense of entitlement.
Ironically, the people who complain the loudest are the parents of that generation. I always want to say, “Who taught the millennials? Who parented them?” It’s funny how parents complain about the next generation like they had nothing to do with it.
Entitlement isn’t something just the younger generation has to overcome. This is huge…The older you get the harder it gets to resist entitlement. The older you get the more you have to fight against it.
Why? You’ve earned it. You have worked hard. You’ve paid your dues. With the younger generation we say they have a sense of entitlement because there is nothing for them to really point to as an achievement.
This isn’t true, as you get older. With each passing year you rack up more achievements and accomplishments. And each new level brings a new battle with entitlement.
In the Old Testament we see a young David doing really well with his battle against entitlement. He was anointed the new king of Israel, but he didn’t act like it. The problem of course for David is that the current king is still alive and he wants the kingdom to remain in his family. He wants his son, Jonathan to become the next king, not David. Interestingly, David and Jonathan are best friends and Jonathan is okay with not being the next king.
One day while David and his men are on the run from King Saul they seek refuge in a cave. While they are hiding out in comes none other than the king himself to go to the bathroom of all things. Saul takes off his robe and sits down to do his business. (Yes, it’s really in the Bible. 1 Samuel 24)
David’s men think this is their big opportunity. Now is the time for David to kill Saul and take what he is entitled to. “God’s delivered him into your hands. Kill him! He’s been trying to kill you and you’re the rightful king. God even said you were. Take him. You’re entitled to it! You deserve it! Besides our circumstances always are proof of God’s approval.” (Right?!?)
David resists the calls of entitlement. He waits on God to exalt him at the right time. God does just that without David having to kill the king.
Fast-forward 20 years. David is around 50 years old. David has achieved a lot by his own blood, sweat, and tears. It’s the golden age in the nation of Israel because of David.
Remember how we said the older you get the harder it gets to resist entitlement?
David sends someone else off to fight his war. He’s entitled to a break. He’s earned it. It’s probably better for national security for him to stay home anyway. While he is at home notice what happens…
Oops…David saw something he wasn’t suppose to see. No harm, no foul…unless you’re entitled. “I am the king after all, I am entitled to know who beautiful naked women are who just happen to be my neighbors.”
“King David, I found out that your neighbor is the daughter of one of your 30 mighty men. She is also the grand daughter of one of your senior counselors. Oh and if that isn’t enough to curb this growing sense of entitlement she is the WIFE of one of your best soldiers. She is spoken for. Leave her alone.”
David has a mental conversation with himself. A conversation that isn’t recorded for us, but one we are familiar with. It’s one powerful entitled men often have that end with I deserve it.
Entitlement led David down a path that didn’t just end with adultery at best or at worst rape. It then led to David having Bathsheba’s husband killed. David started a new cycle in his family of rape and murder amongst his children who became so entitled they sought to overthrow their own father.
Maybe you’re thinking, “I’ll never go that far.” You don’t have to go that far to wreck your life and your relationships. Even a little bit of entitlement can ruin a marriage, a friendship, a career, a company, or a church.
The battle with entitlement doesn’t go away the older you get, it gets harder. It gets harder because it is easier to justify. The older you get the more things you can point to as proof that you do in fact deserve it.
While you keep finding more and more proof you are having a mental conversation with yourself. A conversation you keep winning because the evidence is overwhelming. It all points to the simple truth that you do indeed deserve it.
Every mental conversation around entitlement begins with a simple question we ask ourselves: “Do I deserve it?”
When that’s the only question you ask yourself you will always come up with a reason why you do.
I deserve it because my spouse isn’t meeting my sexual needs.
I deserve it because I’ve had a long day.
I deserve it because I work hard for this family.
I deserve it because I’ve got the company to this level.
I deserve it because I need me time.
When you answer “yes,” your character loses and so do the people who look up to you.
Instead of asking, “Do I deserve it?”
The better question to ask is, “Can I serve through it?”
Can I serve through my position instead of letting it serve me?
Can I serve through my pain instead of letting it be an excuse for self-indulgence?
Can I serve through my long day by not getting drunk?
Can I serve my family by not making this expensive purchase?
Can I serve through this level that I’ve achieved at my company?
If King David had asked himself a different question than, “Do I deserve it?” A question like, “Could I serve through the pain or through my position?” his legacy would look much different.
It was a question that was easier to ask when he was younger and hadn’t accomplished as much.
Which question are you asking yourself?
With each passing year it gets harder and harder to ask the right question.
Even though you don’t ask the question out loud everyone will eventually know which question you chose to ask. Just because you asked the right question when you were younger is no guarantee you’ll continue asking it when you get older.
Make the conscious choice to serve through your influence and power instead of using it to serve you.
We all yearn for leadership that’s selfless and that seeks to serve the greater good. Let it start with us.