"Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things."
1 Corinthians 13:4-7 ESV
As much as we try, as hard as we work to do good, we mess up. All of us. Every. Single. One. Mastering the art of humility and the ability to say sorry is part of the maturing process for humans. Christians have a leg-up in that effort. We have resources; The Holy Spirit (our inner gift from God), the Bible (God's text to us readily available in multiple versions and languages) and God's church (a community of like-minded believers) all work to assist in our growth and maturity as believers.
But...we have to work for it.
It takes a deliberate level of introspection to turn away from the things we want, the things we claim we deserve, and instead focus on God and the direction he provides. Our selfishness begins at birth and we make decisions based on our beliefs (either conscious or subconscious) of how our world and the people in it operate. As we grow we learn how to motivate/manipulate people, change minds, earn rewards and punish those who do not give us what we want. Silent treatment anyone?
Our choices are based upon how we see things work. We learn to avoid pain and suffering, we participate in activities we enjoy and work to validate our abilities. Our close family and friends model behavior and cement our beliefs in what authentic relationships look like. All of us are dysfunctional on some level, we are human after all, but dysfunction is definitely a scale. It is up to each of us to take time for introspection, and with the Lord's resources mentioned above we are all capable of far more than merely caving to our current wants.
Entitlement works its way into our hearts as we learn how to operate in our world. All of us carry some thoughts on what we feel we deserve and are entitled to have. Just like our dysfunction, we live on a spectrum of entitled thoughts and feelings. No one likes discomfort or inconvenience, but entitled people are ones who do not see how their choices impact others and live to serve self. Their thoughts are not on how to care for others, but rather on how others fall continually short in caring for them. Talking to the entitled person about the hurt they cause is difficult, their immediate response is defensive and their words often cruel. Feedback, in their mind (unless it reflects well on them), is no gift. It is inconvenient and unwanted because the requirement is personal introspection and an acknowledgement of wrongdoing. Neither of those things is fun for anyone, but it is next to impossible for the personhood of the Entitled to endure.
"Repent, therefore, of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you." Acts 8:22
One of my favorite definitions of repentance says - repentance is "the act of turning away from places of false trust and putting our faith in God alone and what he choses to provide" (Developing a Discerning Heart). This definition requires something more of me than acknowledging wrongs committed, it also calls me to refocus the direction of my heart towards a loving creator who will help me change.
I am "turning away" from choices I make that put my comfort above others, or decisions uncaring about what God requires in the face of my personal preferences. The places of "false trust" I may run to instead of God; money, time for myself, shopping, personal athleticism, winning a game, validation at work, sex, drugs, alcohol, co-dependent relationships, etc... my Savior calls me away from and points me to his life of perfect service and sacrifice. "Putting our faith in God alone" is easier said than done when it also includes "and what he choses to provide." The last part of that statement does not sit well with the entitled person.
"I deserve this, I earned this, I worked hard for this," are perfectly acceptable points of consideration in some circumstances. However, as a believer, it seems even these statements are surrounded by humble consideration of the fact Jesus died for me. Had Jesus not died for me I would truly receive what I deserve, and what my sinful person deserves is not a pretty picture. But because Jesus spent time in human form and died on a cross God no longer sees my dark and selfish heart, he sees the beautiful picture of his son in my place. That image is incredibly motivating to a heart pointed in the direction of a Savior and away from places of false trust.
The Entitled have a core attitude that says, "I have a right to the things I want, and I will punish whoever stands in the way of my desires." In especially hard cases it may even say, " Serve me, or you will suffer the consequences." (Darby Strickland). This may look like a spouse expecting dinner on the table promptly at 6:30 every night no matter what, or the mom who expects unconditional compliance from her children, or a teen who requires the latest and greatest phone, or a child refusing to leave a store without a new toy and a parent experiencing the consequences of their lack of toy-purchasing.
It's important to note the difference between the entitled person and a person who simply has a personal preference. The difference is in the "I will punish whoever stands in the way of my desires." We all like dinner cooked for us, and there is nothing wrong with parents pushing for compliance from their children. The distinction is in the absolute service to the needs of the entitled individual. Others work to keep them happy, because when the Entitled is unhappy, the whole house knows it, feels it, and hurts.
The Entitled "need to come to see themselves accurately, and humbly receive the mercies of God for them in Christ" (Darby Strickland). There is hope for all of us. Those living as entitled, and those living with the entitled person. God wants heart change - and he provides the means for significant change to happen. It takes time and energy and a great deal of prayer, but change is possible.
**If you want to know personally if you are Entitled, maybe consider how you make an apology as a first step. Do you say, "I'm sorry if I hurt your feelings but....(then you list all the reasons you hurting their feelings is their fault)?" This is a sorry sorry. Or do you say, "I'm sorry I hurt your feelings when I ....(fill in the blank) will you please forgive me?" Ask yourself - How hard is it for me to examine my wrongs? Do you believe you are right all the time? Do you believe you deserve the things you want and others are supposed to behavior according to your expectations? These questions are not to shame, they are to inform. God can change you, so the hope is in that fact. You are not stuck as a selfish person, forward movement is a part of the process of a maturing believer.
If you are living with an Entitled person than this entire blog post probably resonates with you. Your life is most assuredly centered around keeping one person happy so others do not hurt as a result of their displeasure. If this is you, I am so sorry. There is hope, there is healing and there is a way forward.
Our podcast today is with Rachel Rosser-Schulte. She is a Licensed Professional Counselor who counsels women in all walks of life. Today we discuss entitlement and the impact of the attitude of the entitled person and how our hope in Jesus saves us all from a life of selfishness.
Entitlement: When Expectations Go Toxic by Darby Strickland, The Journal of Biblical Counseling, Christian Counseling and Education Foundation, 2015.
Developing a Discerning Heart, a discipleship Bible study with Entrust Ministries.