How to Avoid the Entitlement Trap

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Entitlement is defined as “a guarantee of access to benefits because of rights, or by agreement through law.” It also refers, in a more casual sense, to someone’s belief that he/she is deserving of some particular reward or benefit. It is often used as a negative term in popular parlance (i.e. a sense of entitlement). The legal term, however, carries no value judgment: it simply denotes a right granted.

As I thought about writing this article, I had thought of going one direction with it, however the Lord graciously intercepted my path and it took a hard right turn before I knew what had happened.

In that sweet voice of his, He said, “To teach your kids not to have a sense of entitlement you need to model that for them.” Ouch! Now, I know it’s a word from the Lord when it kind of stings and takes me a little while to process what I heard. And He didn’t stop there.

He had more to say. “What if one day your husband loses his job, or for some reason you aren’t able to keep the standard of living that you’ve become so comfortable with?” I thought about how much I love my home that we built only four short years ago after carrying around the house plans for over ten years, finally making it a reality. “What if you had to say good-bye to that?” I thought how sad that would be. I had handpicked every detail in that home right down to the toilet lids. The Lord asked, “Why would that be sad? Who said that you would be able to maintain the same standard of living for the rest of your life? Who said you’d have this house for the rest of your life? Who said that no changes would come your way?” Wow! What unrealistic expectations I’ve had! So why do my kids have a sense of entitlement?

Hmm, maybe the apples don’t fall far from the tree. He reminded me that He doesn’t promise these things. Mathew 6:19-21 says, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” He gives us lots of sweet promises, but the ones I mentioned above are not included. How easy it is for me to get caught up in the world.

So on this day, I had quite the paradigm shift. I will try my best to change my thoughts and prayers from “Oh Lord please don’t let these things ever happen or be taken away from me,” to “Thank you Lord for this day that I got to enjoy, this home, and all the memories made in it.” I pray that I will learn to be grateful for today instead of having expectations that resemble those of a spoiled child.

So why do our children have a sense of entitlement? That question was answered for me in a much different way than I expected. I pray for your family as well as ours that we will continue to search after Him, for His ways are higher than ours and His blessings far greater than we could ever imagine.

Heather Butler is a regular contributor to the Soul Care Collective.
Image attribution: Rawpixel Ltd. / Thinkstock

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Heather Butler is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She has been in private practice for over ten years. She counsels couples, families and individuals including teens. Heather and her husband have been married for over 18 years and have two children. Their daughter is 18 and will be attending college at UK in the fall and their son is 13. They are active members at Southland Christian Church and have taught a marriage class there for over ten years.

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