Entitlements are not pretty. Well, my entitlements are not pretty, but the paper I wrap them up in attempts to be pretty. Then, they don’t look so obviously like entitlements, but well wrapped packages– and I feel more justified in maintaining them. What I am becoming aware of is this: instead of receiving the desired possible satisfaction or control from my wrapped packages, often these pretty packages bring disappointment in the end. Entitlements set up expectations in my heart, which instead of providing an open door to freedom, build a highly guarded wall for my protection and security.
So, what is an entitlement anyway? It is really a way of thinking which gives me the right to certain things. “I deserve it.” (And honestly, much of the time I am unaware I have them!) Entitlements have many forms, but as I think about my own, they tend to be more of the emotional or relational variety. I have a way of thinking (And as I talk with others, I find I am not alone in this.), which prompts me to feel that others owe me something. Some things people might owe me include: acceptance, recognition, support, a listening ear, inclusion, encouragement, love, forgiveness… As I think about that list, I feel a little uncomfortable. Shouldn’t I expect others to love and support me? Isn’t that what friendship, family and community are all about?
The expectations of entitlements
However, what if my entitlements really place the reality of my security into another person’s hands? If this is true, then I feel better about myself when others speak highly of me, support or include me; and I feel worse about myself when my name is not mentioned, I am not selected, etc.
What if my entitlements put expectations on community that are not realistic? I possibly might strive and look for the perfect community, which feels so difficult to find and keep. Or I might think that: “If this group was more loving they would meet my needs better.” Or, “if I had a ‘group,’ a closer family, a spouse, a tight community, then life would be better. As my entitlements grow, so do the list of expectations and then, my disappointments also grow.
This has been a repeated theme for me, that I started noticing at home, of course, with my husband. Poor guy, he always gets the brunt of things! There are times he does not notice things or verbalize something. Let’s just say, I got my haircut, and he does not comment about it. He could have other things on his mind or he notices it, but forgets to say something. My expectation is that he should say something about it, then, he should tell me how great it looks, and next he should let me know that I am the most beautiful woman in the world! He should make me feel great! But because he didn’t say anything, I will wonder if my hair doesn’t look good, if I will ever have a “good hair day” again or if something is wrong with him. Ok, this is a petty example, but I am noticing that the lack of words or the wrong words can make me feel frustrated, less secure and rather empty. I am entitled to be appreciated, loved and have my needs met by him. When the entitlement is not met, then I feel I have a right to clarify, address it, and argue my case that “at the moment, my needs are not being met!” Hmmm, I seem to be depending on another’s words in order to feel better.
Now that these entitlements are on my radar, and in plain view, I find I have them in my friendships and with acquaintances as well. Wow, they are all over the place! I am aware of these pretty wrapped packages when a friend does not ask me about something or does not initiate with me. I find them hidden when I am not asked to do something, given a position or I wasn’t thanked or appreciated for my efforts. There is an underlying expectation that this other person should make me feel better about myself.
As I live with my entitlements it does many things:
- It opens doors to doubt and discouragement.
- It puts expectations on relationships, that shouldn’t be there.
- It puts demands on people or things that are too heavy.
- It stunts my own personal growth, as I look to others for security.
- It keeps my real needs heavily guarded and protected.
- It holds my life a little too dear, along with my needs and wishes. Life soon circles more and more around me, and my desires!
How are yours wrapped?
I would guess that everyone has entitlements. How are yours wrapped up? Your entitlements may be very different than mine. Expecting a position or a certain privilege might be wrapped as something that is earned or deserved. Sometimes financial security can be cleverly disguised as financial responsibility. I must have a certain degree, lifestyle, home, salary, or car to drive. Setting up boundaries and maintaining high control over my schedule, is hidden as a “guarding of my time.” Trusting in God, giving generously and following His lead can take a back seat to “security. “
How do I know if I have entitlement issues?
- How I feel about myself is largely affected by my interaction with people.
- Disappointment seems to be around every corner.
- My time is protected like an idol.
- I find I need to justify how I spend my money, how much I make, or what possessions I have. I justify that I live in moderation compared to the next person.
- I value community so much that it often doesn’t feel right and it lets me down.
- I find myself blaming others often, for how I feel.
- Other people are to blame for my lack of success or position.
Entitlements prop up expectations and rights that are not realistic or helpful. They attempt to suck the life from things that are not meant to give us life, ultimate happiness, or certainty. My happiness cannot be found in another person, in a position, a well-maintained schedule, or in what I possess.
Finding the door of freedom
Entitlements seem to come with a price, bringing bondage, not freedom.They are not free. I am continually challenged by this verse:
He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it. Matthew 10:39
Instead, I desire the opening of my hands– loosening my clutch on my entitlements. Instead of preserving my highly guarded rights, I want to find my security, and trust in the right place. In this place I can learn to love unconditionally. I can give financially more generously. I can trust God with my time. I can rest in His best. As I abide in Him, I am living my life connected to Him and with Him. This gives me life. In John 15 it says:
These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.
Giving up my entitlements rids my life of unnecessary expectations that weigh me down. Instead of protecting my life with a highly guarded wall for security, I want to lose my life. Releasing my entitlements opens door to real life and freedom.