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Perhaps you have heard the old phrase, “Accentuate the positive; eliminate the negative.” We're going to be talking about eliminating the negative, including traits, behaviors, emotions, activities, and attitudes that tend to either create some of your own stress or at least make the normal stress worse. Some of these situations can’t be avoided completely (grief, loneliness, financial debt, being overwhelmed, etc.). However, as we understand how these things can increase our stress or decrease our ability to deal with stress, it will help us decrease the behaviors that may create our own stress or makes our stress worse.
The one we're trait we're going to be discussing today is ENTITLEMENT.
In recent years, the word entitlement has undergone a shift in its meaning/focus. Entitlement has become the belief that one is inherently deserving of privileges or special treatment and that privileges are no longer privileges, but instead they have become rights. A “sense of entitlement complex” means that a person arrogantly believes he deserves certain privileges. This belief is often linked with self-centeredness, narcissism, and borderline personality disorder.
A sense of entitlement is often the result of failure to learn as a child that you are not the center of the universe and other people do not exist to serve your needs and wants. I recall one day when a mother called her twelve-year-old son over to see me. I had not seen him in several years. When he arrived, while looking at me she asked him, “Is there someone special over here?” He looked around and replied confidently, “Me!” Then as a bit of an embarrassed afterthought, Mom asked, “And is there anyone else over here that is special?” The young man looked around and without any hesitation said, “No, just me!” Not even his own mother was considered special to him.
The term culture of entitlement suggests that many people now have highly unreasonable expectations about what they are entitled to. Recently, I read the results of a survey where high school seniors and young adult ages eighteen to twenty-five were asked what, if anything, they thought they should be entitled to receive for free.
The number one answer, selected by the majority of respondents, was a free college education provided by the government (aka the taxpayers), and in second place, a down payment on their first home—also provided by the government (the taxpayers). Other things chosen from the list included guaranteed job and salary, a thirty-hour work week with higher wages, free health care, interest-free loans for cars and homes, basic food needs, no income tax, no property tax, guaranteed income if they didn’t work, a laptop, and a get out of jail free card for first offenses. That is entitlement.
Reading this survey reminded me of a conference talk given by Elder Dale G. Renlund. He referenced a comment made by Elder Wilford W. Andersen of the Seventy regarding helping saints who live in poverty. Elder Andersen said, “The greater the distance between the giver and the receiver, the more the receiver develops a sense of entitlement.” Is it any wonder that so many young adults felt like the distant “government” should provide them with so many privileges for free? Many of them had never been employed and of those who had been employed, most didn’t make enough money to have to pay taxes.
As a matter of fact, many had been the recipients of “earned income credit,” so they ended up getting money they had not paid into the system. Obviously, not all young adults ages eighteen to twenty-five fit into the entitlement generation criteria. Many young adults are extremely dedicated to working hard and being very productive members of society, looking for ways to make their community and the world a much better place.
We all want things we can’t afford. But some people feel they are entitled to whatever it is they want, and they deserve it all now at someone else’s expense. How stressful is it to have so many unmet expectations? Entitlement can cause severe relationship problems, challenges in employment, a lot of disappointment, and extensive amounts of stress. Oddly, the attitude shows up from two different angles. Some people believe that they are better than everyone else and therefore they deserve special treatment. Others believe their life is worse than everyone else and therefore they deserve special treatment.
Different roads that lead to the same entitlement. Having an attitude/belief that you are entitled to get things you have not earned can cause a great deal of stress throughout your life. Caution: This does not mean that we should not help those who are in need. The scriptures clearly tell us that we need to help the widows, fatherless, hungry, homeless, etc. The differences here are between want versus need and earned versus entitled to have at someone else’s expense.
What are your thoughts on this? Let us know in the comments!