The Entitlement Trap

Recently I have become more aware of a phenomenon in our society. I see it most in teens and young adults but it lurks in just about every corner of society. I am not exactly sure sure when or where it started but I see it gaining momentum and becoming the norm rather than the exception. The phenomenon I am referring to is entitlement. The idea that someone owes you something for which you do nothing in return. 

I remember one Christmas when I was in high school I just knew that my parents would get me a car. Most of my peers had cars and I was a good kid, therefore, in my eyes, I deserved one too. Imagine my disappointment when none of the colorfully wrapped packages under the Christmas tree contained car keys. I even checked driveway and garage to be sure that there was no car. And then being the naive teenager I was, thought, "How could my parents do this to me?" 

Well I'll tell you how my parents could do that to me- they knew there were more important ways to distribute their income than their teen daughter's wants. If they had sat me down at the time and explained that getting me a car would mean less money in their retirement, less money in my college fund, or them going into debt I would likely have thought that that was acceptable. In my mind, everyone had a car and that alone merited my want of one passable. 

Luckily for my future self, my parents continued to teach me that they didn't owe me something simply because I wanted it. I am sure they got tired of hearing me complain about not having this or that, but they did not give in. Instead, they helped me find a job and taught me about money management. I then got to choose how I spent my hard-earned money and it was much different than how I spent money given to me. Today the dividends of their teachings are paying off but I know I am not immune from feeling entitled.

We've all heard stories of our parents or grandparents barely scraping by when they were starting out. I used to think this was common for young adults, yet, as I look around,  many in my generation feel that they should be able to bypass this step. And parents are catering to it. I personally know parents whose married son and his wife have been living with them for years. Not because they cannot afford to move out, but because they would rather save money on rent so they can travel. I also know people who have no retirement money because they are paying for their child's out of state college tuition and they don't want their child to have student loans. And what about parent's who can easily afford to pay for whatever their child desires? What kind of message are they sending to their child?

In a society where getting something for nothing is pervasive we should regularly evaluate where we fall on the entitled spectrum. What do we expect from parents, friends, the government, etc? And why? What sacrifices are we encouraging others to make on our behalf?

The more I grow up the more I see how many people are caught in the entitlement trap. Becoming aware of this has helped me to check myself when I begin to feel entitled. Here are 3 things that have helped me in this quest.

1. Want Less- Getting into minimalism helped me realize that people and experiences are much more valuable than things. Because of this I am learning to appreciate people for who they are, not for what they could potentially give me.

2. Expect Nothing- Having high expectations for something generally always leads to disappointment.  (If you have had a birthday I am sure you have experienced this!) Expect nothing from someone else (in terms of entitlement) and you will not be disappointed. Remember that no one owes you anything.

3. Be Grateful- Having said all of this I am not suggesting that someone never does anything nice for you, I am simply saying that we should be sincerely grateful for what we are given instead of expecting it (see the difference?). Contemplate the sacrifice given by others so that you could receive something. Express gratitude and be sincere about it.

I think Job said it best, " Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither; the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord." (Job 1:21) I think we would all do well to adopt his philosophy.

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