EntitleMEnt: Trophies, and Ribbons, and Praise ... Oh My!
I deserve. It's not my fault. Where's my trophy?
What has happened to our culture? Humanism. The humanistic manifesto of "good without God" which places humanity at the center of the universe is doomed to collapse. Without a God consciousness, mankind seeks self-preservation and personal promotion. Hearken back to the late 1960s and the rise of the self-esteem movement. Feelings trumped hard work and "earning" an award was not a requirement.
In The Me, Me, Me Epidemic, Amy McCready writes, "Children grew up with lavish praise for everything they did, becoming praise junkies who learned to demand acknowledgment or rewards for completing mundane or expected tasks—even once they were grown.”
Instead of embracing courage we prefer comfort. Challenges in life are viewed as negative and must be removed before our child gets hurt. Impossible, pain is inevitable, and no amount of coddling can alleviate the heartache that comes as a result of a fallen world. It's perseverance that develops character, not participation trophies.
As an educator for over 20 years, I watched the creeping pandemic of over-parenting tie the hands of future generations. The poison of entitlement has produced people with weak character, the result: poor decision makers, inadequate problem solvers, and weak-willed narcissists.
Entitlement means to believe oneself to be inherently deserving of privileges or special treatment. The spirit of entitlement dehumanizes segments of the population deemed "unentitled." Take the infamous college admissions cheating scandal where at least 50 wealthy parents schemed to have their children get into elite colleges, thus stealing the seats of otherwise "inferior" children.
But before we believe this is only a sin of the rich, this spirit has crept into our culture despite the size of our bank account. In The Entitlement Cure, Dr. John Townsend describes this mindset in four ways: an attitude of being special, an attitude of being owed, a refusal to accept responsibility, and a denial of one's impact on others.
1. AN ATTITUDE OF BEING SPECIAL.
Do you know what's special? The miracle of birth, or overcoming all odds and winning a gold medal. How about sacrificing life or limb to protect your country?
I will never forget attending a school Field Day several years ago. It was sunny with a light breeze. The kids were giddy with excitement. They were outfitted in class shirts and ready to compete. I sat at the finish line of the 50-meter dash. The starter gun blasted, and the kids were off. The finishers were identified in order and handed their ribbon. First, Second, Third ... huh ... Fourth, Fifth, Sixth ... What is happening? That's right ... everyone got a ribbon. I say if gold, silver, and bronze is good enough for the Olympics, it's good enough for Field Day. A peach-colored 9th place ribbon is an abomination.
Life is tough and not everyone deserves a ribbon ... especially one that's pastel. Ironically, the attempt to make everyone special by definition means no one is special. Our distinction is found in our identity in Christ. God designed each of us as a unique soul created to serve. Use your "special" God-given gifts to make the world a better place.
2. AN ATTITUDE OF BEING OWED.
I run into people all the time who feel the world owes them something. The advertising industry has capitalized on our "worthiness" and the urge to ascend the throne of "I deserve." I deserve a better car, a bigger house, and a larger paycheck.
Don't feel entitled to anything you didn't sweat and struggle for.
- Marian Wright Edelman
Not if you didn't work for it. No one owes us anything. You know what we deserve ... hell? We are indebted, and Jesus paid the price for our sin. God deserves our allegiance, our praise, and our gratitude.
One of the best pieces of advice I ever received was, "Expect nothing, but be grateful for everything." Gratitude is a powerful weapon that shifts our focus onto what we "have" as opposed to what we "don't have."
3. A REFUSAL TO ACCEPT RESPONSIBILITY.
Identity politics has created a culture of victimhood. Each disenfranchised soul rendered powerless against their circumstances: the government, their boss, or cruddy gene pool. These self-imposed victims justify their behavior, shift blame, and defend their motives.
The seduction of victimhood is the attention. People prop up their pain as superior, certain the rest of us are unable to imagine what they have been through. So they deserve special treatment. Guess what? Scripture says there is no trial or temptation that is not common to man. That's right, pain is common. When sin entered the world sorrow became a part of the human condition. Everyone has a story of betrayal, rejection, and heartache.
I get it, things happen that we have no control over, but we always have a choice when it comes to our response. What happened to personal responsibility? Decades of overindulged children have developed self-esteem so fragile that any hint of criticism and they scurry to their safe spaces.
Come out come out where ever you are. I know, looking at our mistakes and failures can be ugly, but it's how we grow. Stop the excuses. Excuses are like waving a red flag alerting everyone you're about to shuck your responsibility. Own it. It's quite freeing.
4. A DENIAL OF ONE'S IMPACT ON OTHERS.
With narcissism deeply entrenched into the entitled's psyche, there's no room for empathy. Empathy is the ability to understand and feel what another person is feelings ... to be able to walk in their shoes. According to emotional intelligence author Daniel Goleman, "Empathy helps us to develop deep levels of rapport and trust." He continues to say, "Having poor empathy skills can lead to serious consequences. It can lead to conflict born of misunderstanding. Without it, we can feel lonely within a relationship."
The narcissist doesn't see or care about the impact their decisions have on other people. They're too busy taking selfies, picking the perfect filter, and watching the "likes" rack up. Desperate for the love of strangers.
Entitlement is selfishness. Scripture says:
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own inters, but each to the interests of others.
The epitome of selfishness is to dismiss the fact that we affect each other. According to Neuroscientist Dr. Caroline Leaf, "When we study the nature of the mind and how it impacts the brain, we realize that humanity, and indeed the world, is entangled. We are designed to sympathize with one another, to reach out in love and to care about our neighbor. We all have mirror neurons, which enable us to experience what other people are going through—our brains literally act as a “mirror." When we empathize with other people, many different regions of the brain collaborate alongside the tiny, powerful mirror neurons, allowing us to truly put ourselves in another person’s “shoes”; we have been hardwired to experience powerful compassion for others. We are designed for relationships, so it would make sense to have brain wiring to support healthy relationships."
The disease of entitlement ruins relationships, destroys careers, and erodes culture. It distorts our thinking and rewires our brains. Dr. Townsend suggests a cure to undo the negative effect of entitlement, he calls it the "Hard Way." "The habit of doing what is best rather than what is comfortable to achieve a worthwhile outcome."
What is best? Seek out your God-given purpose, be grateful, eliminate excuses, and grow in empathy, so you can show empathy. Oh, and no more peach-colored ribbons!