Today at church, the pastor’s sermon started out on a topic that I was very interested in: the demise of society. Unfortunately, he took it in a different direction and I sat there on the bench, feeling disappointed. Not necessarily in his sermon—for what he said was about having faith in God and God delivers on promises—but in what he didn’t say.
The pastor opened his sermon, mentioning how important the church is for children. In particular, the Rafter Cross Cowboy Church has a wonderful summer Kids Rodeo program (or camp…I’m still having issues always understanding the southern accent around here) and the pastor mentioned how the kids involved with the rodeo were not hanging around town and getting in trouble all summer. That church was a safe place, a place where people don’t have to worry about keeping up with the Jones or peer pressure.
Now, had I been delivering the sermon (cough cough…enter Reverand Dr. Price), at this point, I’d have gone down a different path.
Something is happening in our society that is festering raw wounds. As wounds fester, they infect the other skin around them. It’s ugly and yucky, unable to heal quickly or, in some cases, at all.
I believe this is the sin of entitlement.
Let me give you a perfect example.
The previous evening, Cat and I took her yearling, Beau, to the Williston Horsemans’ Association to watch barrel racing. I laugh that Cat was my date and Beau was hers. The parking areas were packed with truck and trailers. But there was one spot open between two trailers. Perfect. Not too far away and certainly not on the edge of the woods (where it was really dark).
When I pulled into the spot, three older women (not youths, mind you) started giving us dirty looks. Like seriously hostile looks. I had no idea why. After all, there was plenty of room on both sides of us.
PLENTY of room.
Cat gets out of the trailer and one of the women makes a comment to her. A not-so-nice comment from the looks of the scowl on her face. Cat said nothing in response and went about her business. I, of course, asked Cat what happened.
“She said something about her horses’ kick,” Cat responded. “As if I was going to walk up to them.” Roll of the eyes.
No sooner had we taken Beau out of the trailer before another woman rode up and stared at our truck. She obviously knew the other three women and began griping about not wanting to ride her horse in between her trailer and ours. Again, mind you, there was a good seven or so feet between us.
“I got a stud here,” she snapped at me. “Can you move your trailer back?”
I must have just stared at her.
“Those mares’re in heat. They’ll kick your trailer and he might, too.”
Let’s dissect this.
Clearly the reason no one had parked in this spot was because they had chased everyone else away. To avoid a confrontation, I did move my trailer. I’m the first person to support safety, but I would’ve reacted with less grumbling under my breath if they had only been nice about it.
But they weren’t nice. They had their own agenda and didn’t give a rat’s butt if other people were inconvenienced. In my mind, if a stud horse was rambunctious, why on earth would you park right in the middle of the lot? And if the three mares were kickers and/or in heat and/or so poorly behaved that they needed a 24-foot gap between their trailer and another one, why park in the middle of the lot?
The answer is entitlement.
People feel that things are owed to them, even at the risk of inconveniencing other people. They believe that they inherently deserve special privileges or treatment with little or no regard to others—usually the latter. They rarely give back, unless there is something in it for them. They are takers and prey upon givers.
And I do believe that they are predators.
Too often I’ve been at the mercy of these self-centered people. In hindsight, it’s my own fault. I give too much. I believe too much. I help too much. The problem is that people with self-centered entitlement issues look for people like me.
I’ve had several recent situations dealing with entitled narcissists. In all of these cases, I was treated with little to no respect until something I had or could give back was needed or wanted. They approach situations with the expectation that something is owed to them. Those women were owed that extra space even if it meant no one else could park there. They deserved it because there were better than everyone else.
Over time, resentment builds and, in some cases, situations deteroriate. Forget trying to confront them about the situation. They will never see your perspective. Why should they? In fact, some of them make up their own narrative…a false one at that. And, as a result, they start burning bridges with people.
What they don’t realize is that burning bridges are hard to repair.
Now, Jesus tells us to forgive others. Let’s not confuse forgiveness with self-preservation. We can forgive others from hurting us, but that doesn’t mean we have to keep letting them walk all over us.
Children (and adults) need to learn to be held accountable for their actions, words, and deeds. Too many parents coddle their children, fighting their battles even into adulthood. In fact, many of the parents demonstrate the same, ungrateful and selfish behavior that their children have. Can you imagine what type of behavior the children of those three women have?
I’m not certain when or how this cycle of self-importance escalated into a generation of entitlement, but I do know that there is only one way to stop it. Stand up for yourself, say no and don’t let yourself be manipulated. But do it with as much kindness as you can. Pray that your behavior is contagious and helps the other to see the error of their way, do not engage but, rather, move on. Remove the festering wound from your body by focusing your attention on helping people who are appreciative, not those who expect your help without any sort of gratitude.
The sin of entitlement is a war raging through our society. The only way to fight it is to ensure our children learn to the difference between a privilege and a right. And, as far as the privilege goes, teach them how to be respectful, appreciative, and genuinely grateful whenever anyone does something kind to them.