The Entitlement Mentality

In September, the American Association of Christian Counselors held their 2015 World Conference in Nashville, Tennessee. I had the privilege of attending over a dozen of the approximately 200 sessions, and I was blown away by the amount of quality information presented! Over the next few weeks, I’d like to shed light on a few of those topics. For this post, I’d like to share some reflections on entitlement research that Dr. John Townsend (founder of the Townsend Institute for Leadership and Counseling) has been working hard to present and apply to the world of counseling.

Entitlement is thriving in America through selfishness in relationships and lack of responsibility. Millennials get a particularly bad rap when it comes to entitlement, especially in the workforce. Saturday Night Live has even capitalized on the theme with the humorous Millennials sketch. (If you are in need of a good laugh, take the 3 minutes to watch it!) Highlighting a few of the points from his new book, The Entitlement Cure, Dr. Townsend offers some challenges to the entitled mindset.

1- Change your language. Instead of saying, “I deserve…” start saying, “I am responsible for…” Even a simple language adjustment can help us to look for what we can contribute rather than what should be handed to us. Acting out of this mindset may also help you reach personal goals more quickly!

2- Keep your commitments, especially when they are inconvenient. In a world held together by follow-through, we need to make sure to keep our promises to the best of our ability. This step may also require you to pause before making commitments and set boundaries around your priorities.

3- Do the next right thing. Even when no one is looking or handing out specific instructions, figure out what the next right thing is and do it. Ask a friend to hold you accountable in these small challenges!

4- Practice altruism by caring for the well-being of others. Mirror neurons are brain cells which help animals observe and imitate one another. For example, when my dog picks up a toy, there is activity in the same part of her brain as when she sees her playmate pick up the toy. Mirror neurons help them to imitate and play with one another. Research suggests that mirror neurons in our human brains are the foundation for empathy. That means that by intentionally practicing and witnessing selflessness, our brains might literally adapt to push entitlement aside!

5- Remember grace. Entitlement is sometimes a result of an improper view of imago dei (for Christians, being created in God’s image). If we put ourselves in too high a position, we may experience an arrogant entitlement. Grace can help us to keep a good balance as forgiven sinners. As an illustration, pretend that a person is drowning in the ocean with giant waves swelling all around him. Almost immediately, a lifeguard swims into the current, pulls the distressed swimmer ashore, and saves his life. As the crowd gathers to see what has happened, who do you think receives praise: the drowning man or his rescuer? Imagine the nearly drowned swimmer standing up to say, “Do you see how amazing I am? I almost died, but I didn’t! I am truly wonderful.” That would be outrageous! Instead, it is the lifeguard who is hailed as the hero for saving the lost swimmer. So, remember grace and accept the humility it requires. In the moments when you nearly drowned, you didn’t save yourself.

So, let’s fight entitlement together. What are you responsible for? What is a commitment you will keep (even if you want to back out)? What is your next right thing? What is one selfless act you can perform today?

Published by Jessica Gage, MA, LPC, NCC

I am a Licensed Professional Counselor in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (license #PC007550) and a National Certified Counselor.

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