A sense of entitlement. It seems to permeate our younger generation. It may be that they are inundated with so much media and external stimulation that they expect more than many of us who are parents ever did.
I was recently telling a friend of mine that after school on a rainy day I was content to come home and read my Laura Ingalls Wilder (“Little House on the Prairie”) books until it was dinner time. It was really enjoyable to me. My mom would later call me to dinner, and I never felt slighted at the lack of entertainment.
In fact, I do not remember pestering her much at all to amuse me. I am not saying this to pat myself on the back. I am simply making an observation as to the difference in myself and my own children; for I do not discriminate as I write. I speak not just of this younger generation on a whole, but my own children as well, who can exhibit behavior that begs activity.
There are definitely times when they entertain themselves, but they do it less often than my childhood friends or me. Unless we have company I will often hear, “We are bored. What can we do?” And this is a generation that has Nintendo DS, Xbox 360 and iPods.
Children are not the only ones who display a sense of entitlement. Adolescents and adults who have never had to work, individuals who feel sorry for themselves and always expect and ask for more, people who are wealthy but have not been taught or never developed gratitude for what they have. These are just a few categories of life circumstances that can lead to a sense of entitlement.
The root is not really the problem once the entitlement has developed. But the root is vital if we are in the position to prevent entitlement by training up children who have not yet become entitled. Entitlement reeks of egocentrism. It is the complete opposite of the kind of life Christ wants us to lead. And if we are Christian parents, we need to look at how we are raising our children now — to nip any entitlement in the bud.
One way to shake an attitude that reeks of “things being owed” to a person is to look at those who have less. Next, examine those who have less and are grateful. Gratitude is a positive character trait that is vital to living an emotionally and spiritually healthy life. Those who do not take the time to be grateful, and teach their children the same, will reap the consequences of a bitter and selfish attitude.
The following Scripture is helpful for those of us who are adults. Adolescents and children can be taught the concepts, but the adults in their lives need to live them and teach them so they become concrete and easier to understand.
Colossians 3:16 says, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hears to God.”
The term, “songs” here has to do with remembering the acts God has done in the past and praising Him for them. Have you ever found yourself in a trial and chosen to praise God anyway? There is power in that act of obedience. It is gratitude, thankfulness to be alive, and knowing there are others who suffer so much more, that we need to demonstrate in our everyday life and that we need to teach the next generation.
It may take feeding the poor at Thanksgiving or Christmas. It may require taking a mission trip to a Third World country, or it may simply take pointing out someone less fortunate at the grocery store and teaching your children to smile or even silently pray for them. However we choose to accept the lesson or give it, the bottom line is that we need to live lives of gratitude, not entitlement. Because entitlement is a turnoff, and even if we think we are hiding it, it is evident to all.
The Rev. KIMBERLIE ZAKARIAN’s column runs every Saturday. Reach her by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by mail at Holy House Ministries c/o the Rev. Kimberlie Zakarian, M.S. La Vie Counseling Center, 650 Sierra Madre Villa, Suite 110, Pasadena, CA 91107.