A few weeks ago, someone on Twitter criticized me for saying a joke similar to one I said a year before. And they were right. Someone had done something in the news, and every time I see this particular news story, I tend to think the same thing. So, I tweeted about it because that was on my mind.
And so he called me out for it. Which is a bummer, because essentially what he was saying is “You’re not allowed to have the same thought more than once in a given year. I’ve read all 13,000 of your tweets, and I expect each one to meet my personal level of excellence. If I ever see two thoughts that are similar, I will let you and everyone who follows me on Twitter know about my disappointment in your creative output.”
Exaggerated? Certainly. But at the heart of it is a sense of entitlement. In moments like that, it’s fun to point a finger at a stranger and call them entitled. Whether it’s online or on the news, there’s a parade of entitlement in society, and it’s easy to think it’s a problem that faces other people, but not me.
That’s not the truth, though.
If I want to remember how entitled I am, I only have to watch a YouTube video that has a commercial on it first. Are you kidding me? How dare you show me a 15-second commercial, YouTube? I am enraged! I currently pay you 0 dollars and expect you to continue to give me free content quickly and in bulk!
That one is easy and doesn’t cost me much ego to admit. This one is a little closer to home, though.
As I recently wrote on my other blog several weeks ago, I found out I lost 99% of all the Facebook fans of Stuff Christians Like. The group went from 10,000 people to 23. Facebook changed the rules of groups. There must have been something I was supposed to do in order to accommodate that change. I did not do what I was supposed to do. And so the group essentially disappeared. Why? I was lazy. I started to coast on a few of my social media platforms. I thought I had set them in motion, and that’s all I had to do. Bottom line? I got entitled.
“Look at me with my book and my blog! I’m Jon Acuff. I don’t have to do the hustle things that built the blog when it comes to my Facebook page. It will just magically take care of itself.”
I was entitled. And I’m not the only one. We’re learning how to demand instant, free gratification at every corner. If our phone takes a four seconds to load something, we’re frustrated. If a free social media platform we’re using goes down, we’re indignant. If an app dares charge us more than 99 cents, we’re shocked.
And the danger is that how you practice is how you play. It is physically, emotionally and mentally impossible to be entitled all day on the little things and then not have that same sense of entitlement creep into other parts of your life.
I didn’t believe this until I started having a hard time listening at home. (Which I wrote about in Quitter.) As soon as my wife would start saying anything I didn’t find interesting, I would tune out. I’ve never been a great listener, but this was getting out of hand. One day in a meeting at my old job at AutoTrader.com, I realized what was going on.
Every week, five days a week, I was checking out in meetings. Most of the meetings I went to did not have earth-shaking implications for my life, so in a lot of them I got bored. I would daydream about things I wanted to do, run through my personal to-do list, or try to think what my favorite word might be. (I settled on a tie between nougat and bungalow).
Then, after hours and hours of not listening to other people talk, I would go home and act surprised that it was difficult to listen to my wife. It was happening because, for forty hours a week, I was training myself not to pay attention to people. It was happening because we are whole people and can’t separate ourselves into “buckets.” The practice vs. play principle is why Tiger Woods took so long to be awesome again. You don’t get to detonate some parts of your life and think the other parts won’t be impacted.
If you practice entitlement, you will be come entitled.
The problem is entitlement isn’t new. We didn’t invent it. Our generation didn’t create it. It’s been around forever, and the first place we see it is in the Garden of Eden.
Entitlement is one of the buttons the enemy pushed with Adam and Eve. In Genesis 3, he says of the tree, “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
Adam and Eve, in perhaps the greatest moment of entitlement in history, think to themselves, “You know what? God is holding out on us. We deserve to be like him. We deserve to know good and evil. The garden is a nice start, but it’s not enough. We deserve more.”
And so they ate it. And we’ve been taking bites out of things we don’t deserve ever since.
Let’s kill entitlement. Let’s not be the generation that says “I got my first job. I deserve my fifth house. I’ve been working for 14 minutes, so I want the house it took my parents 40 years to get.”
Let’s not be the generation that says, “I’m 22. How come nobody at work treats me like an expert in this industry?” (I personally tried this. It’s a great way to make your co-workers miserable.)
Let’s not be the entitled generation.
Have you ever bumped into entitlement?