Don’t Get Mad, Grow: Overcoming the Entitlement Mentality

Overcoming entitlement mentality
As long as our hearts have the entitlement mentality, personal growth in our relationship with God and with others will cease.
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I grew up as the youngest of three, and the only son in my family.  I was the epitome of a spoiled child.

My parents worked hard to support us, and my older sisters often took on the responsibility of helping me when my parents weren’t able to.

My sisters helped me complete school projects, run my high school “campaign” for student council, and finish my college applications and essays. And on top of all that, they gave me rides anywhere I needed to go.

Sports came easy simply because my school wasn’t known for being a powerhouse of athleticism. I became a varsity starter on my soccer team simply by showing up, not because I had any exceptional skill. 

I could have responded to all these opportunities and resources with gratitude. But instead, my approach to life was fraught with entitlement.

Entitlement is a mentality rooted in the false belief that “I deserve or have the right to do and have whatever I want without working for it.  And I will punish, resent, or blame anyone or anything that stands in the way of my desires.”  

The movie Back to the Future illustrates this in the character of Biff Tannen, the entitled bullying nemesis of George McFly.  In one instance, after borrowing and wrecking George’s car, Biff holds George responsible. He blames George for not making him aware that the car had “blind spots.” 

Although sadly amusing, I can relate to this entitled attitude in which it’s easier to blame others rather than take responsibility. This is why I constantly need the anchoring of the Scriptures to keep me grounded in truth and growing in humility.

We can often be deceived about who we really are before God when our hearts are in an entitled condition, as Jesus describes in Luke 17:

7–8 Jesus continued, “After a servant has finished his work in the field or with the livestock, he doesn’t immediately sit down to relax and eat. No, a true servant prepares the food for his master and makes sure his master is served his meal before he sits down to eat his own.

9 Does the true servant expect to be thanked for doing what is required of him? 10 So learn this lesson: After doing all that is commanded of you, simply say, ‘We are mere servants, undeserving of special praise, for we are just doing what is expected of us and fulfilling our duties.’”

Luke 17: 7-8 TPT

In this passage, Jesus is teaching us that entitlement is the enemy of gratitude. Instead of being grateful, the entitled servant expects to be thanked and thinks he or she is deserving of special praise just for doing their job.

As long as our hearts are entitled, personal growth in our relationship with God and with others will cease. Entitlement undermines intimacy because we get angry with God and people around us when they don’t give us what we want. In fact, the “entitled life” is one in which happiness is elusive, our heart remains dissatisfied, and we feel alone. 

It takes Scriptures and spiritual friends to help me see the depths of my entitlement mentality. Only then can I continue to grow in my relationships and become who God envisions me to be. 

Are you entitled? Anger is usually the telltale sign for me.

  • When you face obstacles, stress, and pressure, do you become mad and resentful? Or do you choose humility by relying on God more to grow through them?
  • Do you get angry because someone or something isn’t making your life easier? Things aren’t working out the way you believe you deserved or expected? Or do you choose to learn, pray and pursue understanding how you can change?

In Luke 15, Jesus tells a story of a father (who illustrates God) and his two sons. Both sons had an entitlement mentality, and both sons encountered disappointment. Yet the younger son grew spiritually from his disappointment, while the older son became more angry. 

The conversation between the father and his older son at the end of the story teaches us some keys to overcoming the entitlement mentality and so that we can grow instead of getting mad.

4 signs that we have an entitlement mentality

We have an indulgent view of God

11 Then Jesus said, “Once there was a father with two sons. 12 The younger son came to his father and said, ‘Father, don’t you think it’s time to give me the share of your estate that belongs to me?’ So the father went ahead and distributed among the two sons their inheritance.

13 Shortly afterward, the younger son packed up all his belongings and traveled off to see the world. He journeyed to a far-off land where he soon wasted all he was given in a binge of extravagant and reckless living. 

Luke 15:11-13 TPT

The younger son’s attitude toward his father was one-sided and self-centered. He assumed part of the estate belonged to him when it really still belonged to his father. The son therefore requested this share of the estate be given to him rather than waiting for it to become his inheritance later upon his father’s passing.

Too often, I’ve had an indulgent view of God, where I think God is only in my life to wait on me hand and foot. I’ve treated God like I treat on-demand video, expecting he should always be there to provide what I want, when I want it, and how I want it. If there’s any delay, I become angry that God isn’t giving me what I believe should be mine.

When we have an indulgent view of God, we blame him for any stress or pressure we experience.

I can harbor resentment toward God during difficult times (Job 36:13 NIV), thinking “Why is God letting this stress, pressure, or disruption happen to me, when I wanted and deserved better? I thought he was here to help me. I thought he cared.” 

When we have an indulgent view of God, we’re not only entitled, but we get mad and blame God for any stress, pressure, or delayed gratification we experience. Our motive is to use rather than love God.

We choose emotions over truth and scriptures

Once the younger son received his share, he decided to “journey to a far off land” (vs 13). His emotions led him to believe he’d be happier and better off on his own, apart from his father and brother. His emotional bingeing and reckless living soon left him empty-handed and alone. What felt good at the time led to no good for his life. 

There are too many times in my pride I feel that I know better than God and I trust my own instincts and emotions rather than holding to the truth found in Scripture. When led by my emotions and impulses, I no longer believe that the source of my satisfaction, spiritual growth, and purpose is God alone. 

I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.”

Psalm 16:2 NIV

I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.

John 15:5 NIV

We can’t discover significant growth or experience any spiritual fruition in our lives without being in a relationship with God.

Entitlement exchanges relationships and intimacy for instant gratification. We view relationships based on what they can give us and how they can serve our pursuits, rather than enjoying being together and helping each other become who God destined us to be.

In Luke 15:14-19, the younger son hit rock bottom. He was hungry and completely humbled. Yet rather than be resentful about his situation, he chose to return to his father. His view of himself changed from being entitled to being no longer worthy of sonship, hoping to simply be accepted as an employee working to earn his keep. 

14 “With everything spent and nothing left, he grew hungry, for there was a severe famine in that land…17 “Humiliated, the son finally realized what he was doing and he thought, ‘There are many workers at my father’s house who have all the food they want with plenty to spare. They lack nothing. Why am I here dying of hunger, feeding these pigs and eating their slop?

18 I want to go back home to my father’s house, and I’ll say to him, “Father, I was wrong. I have sinned against you. 19 I’ll never be worthy to be called your son. Please, Father, just treat me like one of your employees.”’

Luke 15:14,17-19 TPT

Reflection Questions:

  • How do you respond when you don’t get what you pursued or set out to accomplish?
  • Do you tend to live by your emotions or by the Word of God when faced with difficulty?
  • How do you see a sense of entitlement keeping you from humbly drawing closer to God?

We rebel and refuse to pray

25 “Now, the older son was out working in the field when his brother returned, and as he approached the house he heard the music of celebration and dancing. 26 So he called over one of the servants and asked, ‘What’s going on?’

27 “The servant replied, ‘It’s your younger brother. He’s returned home and your father is throwing a party to celebrate his homecoming.’ 28 “The older son became angry and refused to go in and celebrate. So his father came out and pleaded with him, ‘Come and enjoy the feast with us!’

Luke 15:25-28 TPT

Instead of celebrating his younger brother’s return, the older brother became angry and refused to go to his brother’s homecoming.

  • Why did he want nothing to do with his younger brother, the homecoming celebration, or his own father?
  • Why did he refuse to go to his father and have a conversation, let alone ask what the celebration was all about, but instead called one of the other servants?  

Similar to this older son, there are times where I’ve refused to pray or want a conversation with God because I was blinded by my victim-mentality, thinking everyone – including God – owed me for all the “hard or diligent work” I’ve contributed.  

The reality is when we are entitled we hold to the false belief that God and others should be initiating, serving and pleading with us — because we value ourselves above all other relationships and take togetherness with others for granted. 

Jim Detmer writes about such a pattern of entitlement in his article, “How to Become Resentful and Entitled”:

“One of the destructive patterns we see in leaders and teams is the movement from obligation to resentment to entitlement.  The pattern begins by doing something from obligation. The essence of obligation is “I have to.” I have to is one of the cornerstone mentalities of victim consciousness.

When I act from obligation I sow the seeds of resentment.  Resentment is a hardening of my heart, mind, and body toward anyone or anything that I believe is making me do something…If I work on Saturday because I have to in order to meet HR’s requirements for performance reviews by Monday there is a good chance I will resent whomever is “making” me do this…But resentment is not the end of the process. Next comes entitlement. Entitlement is a belief I hold with certainty that ‘I have a right to.’ When we do things from obligation and harden into resentment our payback is our entitlement.

Entitlement can show up in many ways. Some examples …

I ‘had’ to go to dinner with clients so I could get the sale. I resent that my boss is not appreciating all of the extra time I put in with these late-night dinners. I feel entitled to a bigger bonus for my extra hard work.

“How to Become Resentful and Entitled” by Jim Detmer

The older brother had every luxury and amenity one could want from a wealthy father, in addition to an inheritance he was looking forward to. Yet, he was a victim in his own mind, and we’ll see why as we continue the story. 

Reflection Questions:

  • Do you make choices and do things more out of obligation than inspiration? 
  • How do you respond when someone around you gets more gracious and generous treatment than you expected? Do you begin to resent them or rejoice with them?
  • Are you eager to pray or resistant to pray? Is there anything you hold against God rather than being humble with him? 

Our experience of life is isolation and bitter loneliness

29 “The son said, ‘Father, listen! How many years have I been working like a slave for you, performing every duty you’ve asked as a faithful son? And I’ve never once disobeyed you. But you’ve never thrown a party for me because of my faithfulness.

Never once have you even given me a goat that I could feast on and celebrate with my friends like he’s doing now. 30 But look at this son of yours! He comes back after wasting your wealth on prostitutes and reckless living, and here you are throwing a great feast to celebrate—for him!’

Luke 15:29-30 TPT

When we’re entitled, we no longer view God and other people as relationships. Instead, we see them as targets and obstacles to blame for why we aren’t experiencing more happiness and joy. 

The older son was resentful toward his father. He kept a record of all the “never’s” he held against his father. From his vantage point, his father had “never thrown a party,” and “never given him a goat to feast” with his friends. He seemed to blame his father for why he didn’t get to enjoy celebrating with his friends.

The older son remained physically present at home, but he did not enjoy a close relationship with his father. He was isolated and bitter in his heart. 

Choose to value the relationships you have.

When I’m bitter and entitled, I miss opportunities to enjoy growing closer to God, and closer to friends and family. Although I may be physically present, entitlement fuels bitterness that leads me to be relationally isolated. 

Rather than holding on to the “never’s” in our life and stunting ourselves from growing closer in our relationships, we can choose humility and gratitude. We can choose to value the relationships we have, and deepen them through vulnerability. 

Reflection Questions:

  • What do you prioritize over building close relationships?
  • Do you see God as an obligation or a relationship?
  • What do you think is the relationship between loneliness, bitterness, and entitlement? How can you defeat these by turning to God with gratitude, changing the way you think, and prioritizing relationships?

3 keys to choosing spiritual growth over stagnating resentment

31 “The father said, ‘My son, you are always with me by my side. Everything I have is yours to enjoy. 32 It’s only right to celebrate like this and be overjoyed, because this brother of yours was once dead and gone, but now he is alive and back with us again. He was lost but now he is found!’”

Luke 15:31-32 TPT

In this Scripture we see the father (God) pleading and speaking lovingly to his oldest son. He wants to help him change from the inside out – starting with his thinking and attitude. 

Have you ever found yourself expecting everyone around you to come and plead with you, persuade you, and pursue you, simply because you didn’t want to give up your resentment?

Fortunately, God provides us a road map to growing personally and spiritually, rather than remaining mad and stuck in the stagnation of entitled resentment. 

Luke 15:31-32 provides us 3 keys to overcoming entitlement and experiencing spiritual growth in our faith and relationships. These keys are found in the father’s conversation with his older son:

Change your view of God from indulgent to intimate

“My son you are always with me by my side”

Luke 15:31a  TPT

What mattered most to the father was just having his older son with him by his side, not what his son could do or produce for him.  Do you value togetherness in relationships – being with friends, and being with God – over only looking for what God and others can do for you? 

Rather than using relationships to indulge ourselves, we can build relationships to help others grow – and in so doing, experience intimacy with God and friends.

Embrace shared attachment over personal achievement

“Everything I have is yours to enjoy. It’s only right to celebrate like this and be overjoyed”  

Luke 15:31-32a TPT

The father in this story shared everything with his sons. The most memorable and enjoyable relationships are those in which we give to others. We can do this by choosing to give our whole hearts to serving others, sharing our lives with them, and prioritizing their growth and success over our own personal achievements.

To overcome entitlement, we must redefine our source of happiness. The older son seems to have relied on his personal achievements (“performing every duty” and “never once” disobeying, Luke 15:29) rather than attachment, and this left him resentful.

When we value attachment to God and others over personal achievement, we’ll grow spiritually instead of getting mad when we don’t get what we want. 

Live for God’s purpose over self-importance

…“but now he is alive and back with us again. He was lost but now he is found!’”

Luke 15:32b

Up until this point, the older brother’s self-importance blinded him from seeing what was most important in life, and especially to his father: family. 

The greatest priority the father had was having both of his sons back at home, together with him. 

Likewise, God’s priority is helping those who may be lost in life to find him (Luke 19:10). When we share the same selfless purpose that God is most passionate about, we grow closer to God and develop confidence in knowing that he is working through our lives to help others lost in life find their way.

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