There is a philosophy infecting our society these days that worries me a bit.
It is the idea that if a person wants something badly enough, then he or she is entitled to have it.
I first noticed it while watching one of my favorite guilty pleasure reality TV shows, The Biggest Loser. The contestants being interviewed during the show almost always say some version of, “I should be the winner because I want it so badly,” as if they were in a wanting competition rather than trying to see who can lose the most excess body fat.
It is common to hear coaches tell athletes that if they want to win they must have the desire, and that they can win if they want it badly enough. The trainers on this show say it all the time. It is implicit, though, that when you want something enough to work your hardest, then you have a better chance of getting it. Somehow the subtext doesn’t seem to be coming through these days.
I find myself falling victim to this attitude, too. When I am disappointed about something I can begin to hear that whiny voice in my head saying, “It’s not fair! I wanted that so badly. I should have it, I deserve it, etc.” That sort of self-talk is so harmful.
A sense of entitlement leads to anger and bitterness when it goes unfulfilled. When I recognize it, I try to silence that voice with a dose of healthy honesty.
I ask myself if my failure might be due to a lack of effort on my part. If so, I can resolve to do a better job, next time.
If my disappointment is a matter of happenstance that is out of my control I need to ask myself why I feel I deserved to receive this particular reward.
If I have a dearly desired goal I should work hard to achieve it. If, for whatever reason, the prize is snatched away, I can be disappointed but know that I did my best.
What I mustn’t do is confuse the strength of my desire, when not coupled with commensurate effort, with entitlement.
Grace is defined as God’s unmerited favor, and it is the one thing we may receive merely by wanting it. It should be enough.