There is a simple idea that is rampant today, more prevalent than ever in human history. It scampers across every city and infiltrates every home and business. We blame the younger generation for it, and criticize them for proliferating it. All the while, we unconsciously let it invade our own lifestyle and pass it on to our friends and children. What is the contagious concept that has become such a hot buzzword? Entitlement
Who do you think of when you first hear the word? Be honest. Is this the disease exclusive to the younger generation, of millennials, of a certain race or demographic? You are a part of the problem, and I am too. We are all acting like spoiled children, clinging to our entitlement mindset. Don’t believe me?
When driving in the car, we are entitled not to be slowed by other drivers. When the light turns green, we are entitled to move within 0.86 seconds. We’re entitled to the right of way every time, regardless of someone else’s needs, carelessness, or intelligence. We are entitled to an open left lane when in a hurry.
When at a restaurant, we are entitled to a short wait time for food from the kitchen. We are entitled to a steak that is perfectly cooked, just a little past medium-rare, but not quite medium. We are entitled to our glass remaining full, and being served by an infallible waiter with a pleasant attitude.
When we are at the doctor’s office, we are entitled to a perfect and immediate fix, without pain or scars. We are entitled to the prescriptions we want, even if the trained professional thinks there are better options.
When we are at church, we are entitled to a room that is 72 degrees, great music, and an inspirational message that lasts no longer than 60 minutes. Oh, and the message must be delivered by a sinless person with good comedic timing.
When at home, we are entitled to a quiet haven where we can remain undisturbed with other people’s problems. We are entitled that someone will risk their life to patrol our neighborhood or to get our power turned back on during a storm.
When we are at the public park with our kids, we are entitled to use it without a homeless man sleeping on the bench.
The dangerous message is not just that we can have it all, but that we have earned it, that we deserve it. We believe this is true and live by it.
The problem? It’s unsustainable, unhealthy, and impossible. It produces disappointment, anger, and even rage. It lends to the horrible tendency to blame others and, thus, to become victims ourselves. Our expectations are too lofty and too selfish. We are setting ourselves up to be more bitter. Entitlement thrives when gratitude is sparse. It swells in the presence of anger, bitterness, and unforgiveness. Entitlements block us from gratitude. It’s gratitude that produces happiness. If you think of your favorite people to be around, I’d be willing to bet that this is the number one virtue producing your affinity for them.
Gratitude is a choice. Compassion is a choice. Selflessness is a choice. These choices have very predictable results.
In pointing fingers at the “entitled generation,” we ourselves show our own entitlement tendencies. We think we are entitled to live in a place where people don’t fail our personal expectations. If we are the narcissistic kings of our own self-made, selfish reality, we will always be disappointed. A surefire way to be depressed and angry is to focus solely on the self.
It’s not an age problem. It’s a cultural problem. It is not a result of poor actions. It is happening naturally as a byproduct of inaction. Choose to think differently. Choose to be grateful. Change the culture through individual responsibility. Raise the standards for yourself but expect less from the world.