The Age of Entitlement


“..whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave.” Matthew 20:26-27

 Most have heard of the Age of Enlightenment which occurred at the end of the 18th century in Europe.  It marked the age of reason and humanism, leading to an elevation of the religion of man. It was the turning point to Post Christianity.

Three centuries later, we are encountering the Age of Entitlement, particularly in the next generation. It is growing and is very real. A recent study revealed that millennial professionals scored 25% higher on entitlement issues than those 40-60, and a remarkable 50% higher than those over 60.

Another study found millennials were 3 times as likely to have a narcissistic personality trait, which is entitlement on steroids.

What does entitlement look like?  It means that a person believes he deserves certain privileges and is often arrogant about it. People have unreasonable expectations as to what they are entitled to or what they believe they deserve.

Things like the sense that one “deserves” a job because they graduated from college.  If they have a job, they think they are underpaid or deserve more perks than co-corkers. Ask any business owner who has encountered this – you usually get an eye-roll response.

My post on  “Arrogance” discussed this issue. One reader suggested that I should repost it every month. Nuff said.

Christopher Caldwell’s book traces the American “genealogy of our current discontent.” He places its roots to the 1960’s when the Great Society was created and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 enacted.

The legislation had unintended consequences.  The reforms unleashed a federal bureaucracy to become the “eyes and ears” of civil rights enforcement causing almost every aspect of life to be inspected for proper racial balance.

The reforms were intended to end racial discrimination; instead, the process “nurtured it”.  Racial neutrality was replaced with racial quotas, disparate impact, and affirmative action.  These policies became the blueprint of change of constitutional culture for women’s rights, sexual preference, and “lately, gender identity.”

The “victims” are now entitled to special preferences, not because they deserve them, but because of who they are.  Discrimination didn’t require intent; it could be inferred by the fact that a group did not have a “proper” racial or gender balance.

It continues today: Goldman Sachs, an investment banker, recently announced that it will not take a company public unless it has “at least one diverse member on its board”. Starting in 2021, they will require two women directors.

There is even a presidential candidate who claimed she was of Cherokee Indian descent to advance her education and career. She gamed the system to advance her own interests, using her “entitlement” as a native American to open doors.  Tests later showed that she had less Indian DNA than most northern Europeans.

I mention all of this because I believe it is a relevant context for the next generation. It has set the stage for their own sense of entitlement. It has become the norm.

Tim Elmore unpacks it this way:  “The source of entitlement is arrogance; the symptom of entitlement is resentment.”

On the flip side, Elmore notes: “The enemy of entitlement is humility; the antidote is gratitude.”  One of MentorLink’s core values is for our leaders to embrace humility – Jesus was a servant leader who led from a position of humility, not strength, power or entitlement.

As one leadership expert notes: “Everything good in leadership starts with humility. Everything bad in leadership is rooted in arrogance.”  “Arrogance demands and expects while humility receives and enjoys.”

The entitlement mentality is frustrating for prior generations who believe in self-reliance and that achievement of success is earned through effort, not position or entitlement.  Those biblical values have been eroded in a post Christian era.

The challenge is that the next generation is sadly confused about what they are entitled to just for existing. They need help to overcome resentment over what they don’t have and learn to appreciate what they do have.   That’s what being humble is all about. It starts with gratitude.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:   Your mentee may be arrogant and not realize it. You can help him develop an attitude of gratitude.

FURTHER READING:  The Age of Entitlement by Caldwell (2020)

How to Overcome the Dangers of Entitlement – Leadership Freak

Five Steps to Reverse a Sense of Entitlement – Growing Leaders

WORSHIP: Listen to Good, Good Father by Chris Tomlin

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Post Christianity

notredameA damaged Notre Dame in Paris.

But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 2 Corinthians 3:16

I often refer to this era as being “post-Christian” without unpacking it.  In his annual Christmas address last month,  Pope Francis stated,  “We are not in Christianity, not anymore.”

Something that is “post” means that it comes after something that existed. For Christianity, it meant that the world before this current era was largely a Christian world.  That statement has broad implications in the mores and political discourse around the globe.

To the western culture, which was based on Judeo-Christian principles, it is a huge earthquake. The Reformation brought cultural values of truth and the rule of law to the top of the list.  In a post-Christian world, those values take a back seat.

Institutions in America at one time were trusted are now not trusted because people see the lack of truthfulness and integrity and it undermines their trust. Politicians openly lie  (“if you want your doctor, you can keep him”).  The euphemism for lying is you “lacked candor”.

John S. Dickerson wrote an article in World Magazine titled “Facing Cultural Storms”. He discusses trends facing the world starting with the decline of Christianity and the drift towards socialism away from capitalism.

Dickerson names other trends:  the fast rise of Islam around the globe and the “civil war” of ideologies in a post-truth era. As for the ideology war, the next generation is being taught that all belief systems are equal and can coexist without conflict. Even someone from ISIS would challenge that statement.

The evolution away from Christianity started with the medieval culture. Norman Cantor, a medieval historian put it this way: “Medieval culture was a culture of the book, and in the middle ages, that book was the Bible.”

What then happened has been described as a macrosocial change. It began with the French Revolution, which established the religion of man. Alex de Tocqueville commented on the process of de-Christianization this way: “In France, Christianity was attacked with almost frenzied violence.”

In 1793, Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris was formally transformed into the Temple of Reason. Statues of Rousseau and Voltaire replaced statues of saints. The recent fire which destroyed Notre Dame has been met with large support to have it restored.  Most of that support is to rebuild it as a historic tourist site.

The post-Christian change has been gradual, driven by the subculture at the top levels of society – the educational system, the media and top levels of the legal system – which are now mostly secular.

It has been a trickle down change from the top by the “elites” and the courts. Most Universities  embrace gender and race diversity, but not political opinion.

Conservative professors at Yale are pushing back at their isolation because their opinion is treated as non-objective and “invalid”.  Liberal faculty “cull out” conservative graduate students.

A 2014 Stanford study shows a 6-1 ratio of liberal to conservative faculty nationally (28-1 in the Northeast), whereas only 26% of the American population was liberal according to a 2019 Gallup poll.

As one writer cynically noted, the lyrics to the song “My country ‘tis of thee, sweet land of Secularity” is the new national hymn in America.

The Pew Foundation tracks the changes. Christianity declined by 10% between 2007 and 2014, and those professing no religion (the “Nones”) increased by 50%.  Not good trends.

This is a trying age. My friends and I are constantly shaking our heads at where it is headed. Trends like socialism, which is inherently anti-Christian, are worrisome.

As I noted recently, 70% of millennials favor socialism.  They don’t know history and are blinded by the verbiage that sounds good and therefore it must be good.

The problem? Socialism has never worked. This time won’t be different. It has consistently led to major human catastrophes by socialist leaders like Stalin and, more recently, Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela.

The decline in Christianity has led to an absence of traditional teaching on social mores. The sexual revolution redefined the nature of sex, gender, relationships and the family unit away from Christian teaching.  Public schools are now being required to add LGBTQ curriculum regarding gender fluidity which is contrary to biology.

Tolerance is now a high cultural value particularly with Gen Z. It collides with any notion of absolute truth   and turns to intolerance in public debate. 

Should we despair? I think not. Christianity has thrived for two millennia through different governments and societies. Notwithstanding a bumper sticker that says, “WE HAVE NO HOPE”, we always have a hope based on a relationship with Jesus.

The challenge is to recognize that things have changed quickly and dramatically over the past 50 years. We have to be strategic in articulating our virtues and values in a culture that has been turning a deaf ear to anything with spiritual overtones.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  Your mentee has been raised in a post-Christian world and may need help in navigating through falsehoods to real biblical truth.

FURTHER READING: Hope of Nations: Standing Strong in a Post-Truth, Post-Christian World, James S. Dickerson.

Facing Cultural Storms – World Magazine

WORSHIP: Listen to Glorious Day by Passion.

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Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. Philippians 4:6

 A phobia is an irrational fear or aversion to something.  It is often used as a description of an anxiety disorder.  An essay by a member of Gen Z, Taylor Brandt,  suggests the term may apply to the next generation.

Things like safe spaces on campuses, trigger warnings, bias response teams were never part of campus life until the last 10 years. To this next generation, these phobias seem real, yet older generations are dismissive because we didn’t experience it. We even call them “snowflakes”.

A 2018 survey by the American College Health Association showed that 63 percent of college students reported feeling overwhelming anxiety over the previous year. Another 42 percent said they felt so depressed it was difficult to function over the previous year, and 12 percent seriously considered suicide.

How did this occur?  Taylor Brandt searched for answers for his own issues.  He read The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas are Setting up a Generation for Failure  and found it helpful.

The books’ central thesis is that young people have been “immersed in a world characterized by paranoid concerns for safety”. It leads to a distortion of their thinking and damaged mental well-being.  The next generation has had adversity removed from their lives, leading to unintended consequences.

The authors unpack “Three Great Untruths” which have negatively impacted the next generation.  Each Untruth has three things in common:  each contradicts ancient cultural wisdom as well as modern psychological research and does harm to those who embrace them.

The first Untruth is Fragility: “What doesn’t kill you makes you weaker.”  Instead, as Frederich Nietzche noted the truth is “that which does not kill us makes us stronger.”  Just the opposite.

An example comes from biology and the development of the peanut allergy. It is attributed to parents and teachers in the 1990’s who started protecting children from peanuts even though the real incidence of allergy was only 4 out of 1,000 kids under 8.  By 2015, the rate was nearly 32%.

Attempting to protect children from harm might actually cause more harm. What is true in biology extends to economic and political systems, according to Nassim Taleb, author of Antifragil.

The next Untruth:  Emotional Reasoning. This is the triumph of emotional reasoning and decision making. Subjective feelings trump objective truth. Being in touch with your emotions is not always bad, but taken to an extreme, it leads to an overcorrection.

These connections to feelings has led younger people to think they are in constant danger (witness the embrace of climate change through a constant drum beat that the world will end in 12 years).

The last Untruth: Us Versus Them. Life is a battle between good people and evil people. This results in typecasting – you are either good or bad. Nothing in between. It has led to increased tribalism and “common enemy” and tribalism which humanizes people of different groups and sets them against one another.

Ironically, from a Christian worldview, we are all sinners after the fall in the Garden of Eden – broken sinful creatures who need God to save us from ourselves. We are given the opportunity of redemption through Jesus. We are actually a “common humanity”, not “common enemies.”

The authors of Coddling think the last Untruth  is a “Marxist approaches to social and political analysis”. It creates tribalism and class warfare leading to socialism (or worse)  A worldview that identify people as potential threats because of their perceived position of power is toxic. It may be one of the sources of Gen Z’s poor mental health.

The Untruths have resulted in Groupthink largely spawned by social media, something that didn’t exist in prior generations.

Tyler Brandt ends his article with a challenge to his generation:  adopt a worldview which is more generous to other people, seeing them not as just good or bad but being more nuanced than a stark all or none approach.

Finally, Tim Elmore suggests that there is now a normalization of anxiety. Based on the data and studies cited above, he is on to something.  We now have to approach the idea of phobias of the next generation, whether real or imagined, as something to be dealt with.

His suggestion is that we meet those with high anxiety with empathy. Telling them to “grow up” may be counterproductive until you have sympathized with them as a means of helping them withdraw from their emotional crises and bring them hope.

The challenge for parents and mentors alike is that we will need to be sensitive to the needs of the next generation in tackling their high levels of anxiety. The solution, of course, is a spiritual one.

Mentor Takeaway:  Phobia or not, the next generation has a high level of anxiety. Being able to discuss real issues as opposed to perceived threats to their safety may be beneficial to a mentee’s life.

Further Reading:  Antifragile: Things that Gain from DisorderTaleb

3 Harmful Ideas that are Weakening my Generation – Tyler Brandt

The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas are Setting up a Generation for Failure  Brandt and Lukianoff

WORSHIP: Listen to This We Know by Vertical Worship.

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 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

 I thought I would avoid the sappy New Year’s post about making good resolutions for 2020. Last week, I ended my post on Generosity suggesting that a good resolution would be to try and become more generous in 2020.

I reflected on how few resolutions stand the test of time, and a better idea is to suggest ways to make a resolution a reality.

Most annual resolutions don’t last a month. For decades, I have watched the annual crunch at health clubs and Y’s which occur in early January because people have made a resolution to become more fit.

By mid-February, health clubs have returned to normal. The “fit” resolution is well intended. But instead of becoming a year-long habit to good health, it is put in the rear-view mirror – at least until another New Year when it is likely dusted off and renewed.

Studies show that only 2% of New Year’s resolutions are kept, which means, that there is a 98% failure rate. One reason:  people bite off more than they can handle and set their expectations too high.

The old joke is how do you eat an elephant?  The answer:  One bite at a time. This is more profound than you might think because imbedded in this silly joke is the key to having success at achieving a lot of goals: start with small steps.

One man who had a job that kept him at a desk all day. He had a small paunch around his waist wanted to correct it.  A friend told him to start small by doing 2 pushups a day and to do an exercise called a plank for 20 seconds (it’s an exercise that strengthens stomach muscles).

A year later, he was up to 50  pushups a day and  could hold the plank position for 5 minutes. Oh, and his paunch went away. Why do small steps work?

Mark Twain put it this way: “The secret of getting ahead is getting started.”  If you focus on small steps to get started, they don’t feel overwhelming. Inertia begins and it’s easier to keep moving ahead.

From a small start, our mind is geared to being positively reinforced by having early success. It’s the ability to see results one step at a time. It also helps create valuable habits, which help us achieve larger goals.

Progress creates its own momentum. Teresa Amabile, author of The Progress Principle, found that progress creates the best work experience. The idea is that forward momentum in meaningful work creates the best result.

Stanford Professor Szu-chi Huang says, “When you are just starting a pursuit, feeling reassured that it is it’s actually doable is important, and achieving a sub-goal increases that sense of attainability.”  Going back to pushups, starting with 2 is achievable. Trying to do 20 might seem impossible.

Small steps which aren’t overwhelming means that they are more likely to last. “Sudden radical transformations don’t have the same staying power” according to Ann Gomez, a productivity and leadership consultant in an article in Thrive Global.

I took up riding a bike when I was 71. I started with short rides in our neighborhood – mostly 5 to 7 miles. From there I steadily increased them. To be honest, I did not set out to do long distances, but as I increased my stamina and strength, I was able to enjoy the experience.  Now, I consider a 20-mile ride a short ride.

The picture above is from the Wright Brothers National Memorial in Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina. It commemorates the first power driven flight by man.

The complete inscription reads: “In commemoration of the conquest of the air by the brothers Wilbur and Orville Wright conceived by Genius, achieved by Dauntless Resolution and Unconquerable Faith.”

It took the Wright brothers years to achieve success. They started with unpowered glider flights in 1899, leading to the first powered plane flight on December 17, 1903.

Their achievement is really a study of trial and error through small steps.  To get to the powered flight, they had to succeed at glider flights. It was one small step of many incremental steps leading to success.

The challenge is to make goals that we can achieve, like an annual New Year’s resolution. Starting with small steps is the best secret to long term success.

The lesson of starting small should be passed on to the next generation. They often have lofty goals and want to tackle big things, yet they need to realize that the best avenue to success may be to “think” small.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  Helping your mentee achieve a larger goal by getting them to focus on small steps may be an important lesson.

FURTHER READING: The Progress Principle: Using Small Wins to Ignite Joy, Engagement and Creativity   by Teresa Amabile

WORSHIP: Listen to You Make Me Brave by Bethel Music.

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generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed. Psalm 11:25

Giving and generosity heightens during the Christmas holiday season. But I prefer to think of being generous a 24//7 activity that occurs 365 days a year (366 in leap year, of course).

Some people are naturally generous – with their time, their talents and their resources. Some, however, are almost cruelly stingy which was brought to mind by a recent event. A neighbor was moving and had workers helping with transporting their furniture.

My wife, a natural giver, dropped by at lunch time and asked if she could make lunch for the hired hands. My neighbor was sitting in his kitchen eating his lunch. He looked up and said: “We’re not feeding them!”

This was right before Christmas when one would think that there would be some seasonal inclination of being kind to one’s fellow man. I still shake my head when I think of his response.

My wife and I had a meeting recently because she thought my generosity was getting out of hand. I love to do little things. I really wish I had more resources to do even more, but my wife feared that I was going to give away the store.

During our “meeting”, she said she wanted to have a budget so that she knew my giving t would be controlled. She suggested a number, and I said: “Sure, I’m happy to do that,”  Then she realized that she had set the number too high, but it was done.

Now I have license to give and a generous budget she approved.

In the past couple of months, I’ve given a $100 bill to several couples who have such busy lives that they have had little time or resources to go and have a nice date.  The only thing I asked in return was that they tell me where they went.  One gave me a thank you note detailing their date, complete with their menu selections.

It’s a small gesture of kindness and generosity. The amount of money is not large but it’s impact is seen and felt. I am encouraging them to do something for themselves – have a date with each other at a nice restaurant – something they might not have done on their own.

Over the years in my ministry work for MentorLink, I have encountered a number of people who are wonderful folks. Some of them have vibrant ministries. Some have needs that are way beyond their means. I am happy to chip in when I can because I know that I am investing in their lives which will produce fruit.

Sometimes the needs are personal – a badly broken leg of a son in Kenya or a complicated tooth extraction for a diabetic wife of a friend in India. I can’t do everything, but I prayerfully consider each instance and do what I can.

I helped a young woman in Africa with her wedding to a pastor. She calls me “Dad”, although that is more a term of familiarity than of family connection. I’m known as Uncle Bill most of the time.

I may never see her in person again, but it makes me smile to know that I helped someone celebrate a special event. Having paid for my own daughter’s wedding, I can candidly say that African weddings are quite inexpensive by comparison.

Generosity does not mean money.  It can be include wisdom. For me, that can translate into spending time with the next generations by spending time mentoring them. It can even be by writing a book like Gary Trawick.

Gary’s book, “Give Them Another Chance” contains anecdotal essays from his life as a Judge sitting on criminal cases in a small North Carolina town. It ends with a “Letter to Alex”, his 16-year-old grandson. In the letter, Gary gives advice to make life more meaningful, such as learning a second language and reading a newspaper.

One of his suggestions is to take a mission trip, something I have also recommended. He also suggests being a generous volunteer, another of my suggestions.  I won’t spoil it by giving all of his advice.

His book is short and pithy, a good read for young and old.  You don’t have to write a book to be generous. They are other way which use your own unique talents and resources – it’s up to you to figure out how to give yourself away.

You might be inspired by the song below which has the following lyrics: “I came here with nothing, but all you have given me; Jesus make new wine out of me.”

As we enter into a New Year, people often make resolutions. May I be so bold as to suggest one:  make a commitment to be more generous this next year.  You will be surprised at the hidden and unexpected dividends you receive. While you can’t out give God, you can make the world a little better place.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  Top on my list of generous things is to mentor the next generation. It only takes time and a little effort, but well worth it.

FURTHER READING:  Gary Trawick’s book “Give Them Another Chance”  is a worthwhile read.

WORSHIP:  Listen to New Wine featuring Bethany Barnard.

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