It sounds like a harmless word. Perhaps even a good one. But the word entitlement can be quite a dirty word. Let’s look at 2 examples of why that might be.
Scenario 1 – The Commute
You are driving along in your car on a 2 lane road cruising along at 60 Mph, the speed limit. Out of nowhere a car pulls out in front of you and you have to slow down to avoid hitting it. To make matters worse, they are driving at 55Mph – under the speed limit. Remember, you are only on a 2-lane road. The law states that you cannot pass over a double-yellow line, and there is most certainly one present. You may feel entitled to pass the person because they cut you off and are driving under the speed limit. The right thing to do is to stay behind them and to keep a safe distance. But that feeling of entitlement can become overwhelming to some people and may make you want to tailgate them, break the law, or worse – break the law and then slam on your breaks in front of them to show them how it feels to have done to them what they did to you. It starts with feeling entitled, and if you let that feeling take control, you may find yourself with points on your license, a car accident, or if the other driver is like you – road rage. Not good. Accept that you cannot control other people, accept that there are laws that you need to abide, and keep calm and carry on. Clearly, this is the right thing to do.
Scenario 2 – The Poker Game
You are playing a friendly game of poker. A friend is the dealer and you are surrounded by other friends around you. You have been playing for a while and your luck has been pretty good. Others around you have been less fortunate and they have had to buy back in a few times. This is a defining hand. You are feeling confident with your pair of pocket aces and you make a bold move. You go all-in. You want to end the game right here and take everyone’s money and leave. The dealer goes to deal the last card to you, but he decides to change things up. He reverses the order that he deals the cards. One of your friends gets his 2nd ace after he already had a pair of kings. He wins everything, and you lose everything. Some would say that’s all part of the game and would walk away only feeling deeply disappointed. But you may feel that the dealer’s decision to reverse the order of the last deal broke your winning streak and caused you to lose. You may be right. You may feel entitled to the winnings – and that is where bad things start to happen. A friendly game of poker can now quickly turn into a shouting match. The dealer gets blamed for his part, even though he played by the rules. The winner is resented because he now has the winnings that you believe you should have been entitled to. And friends become enemies. Clearly, the right thing to do here is to recognize that the dealer’s choice is the dealer’s choice. You cannot control that. Losing is part of the game, and it is part of life. You are not entitled to the winnings because you were never in control of that in the first place. Recognizing that, the next right thing to do is to congratulate your friend, thank the dealer for keeping it interesting, and walk away disappointed, but not resentful or angry.
It is so easy to fall into the trap of letting our emotions control our actions. We are all human, after all. But when it comes to being hurt, our actions can either stunt the pain, or they can prolong it. When we introduce feelings of entitlement, resentment, anger, and vindication into the mix, our pain becomes another person’s pain and if they harbor those same ill feelings, then their pain will circle back again and become ours once more. We cannot directly control who hurts us, but we can control who we hurt – and indirectly, that results in a lot less pain for everyone, including ourselves.