I want to begin by making clear that I think that entitlement in some aspects is healthy and natural. Children who are born into a family are entitled to physical care and love by that family until they are able to provide for themselves. They are entitled to it because there is nothing that they must do to warrant or pay for that care and love. I feel entitled to stay home with my children and care for them while my husband provides for us. These two examples are good forms of entitlement based on our divine roles as parents and husbands and wives.
But I think entitlement can too easily be a vice. And a vice for all of us. Elder Dallin H. Oaks said in his talk in the April 2009 General Conference:
The worldly aspiration of our day is to get something for nothing. The ancient evil of greed shows its face in the assertion of entitlement: I am entitled to this or that because of who I am—a son or a daughter, a citizen, a victim, or a member of some other group. Entitlement is generally selfish. It demands much, and it gives little or nothing. Its very concept causes us to seek to elevate ourselves above those around us. This separates us from the divine, evenhanded standard of reward that when anyone obtains any blessing from God, it is by obedience to the law on which that blessing is predicated (see D&C 130:21).I see an entitlement attitude all around me. It's apparent in people that buy brand new trucks but can't even afford to buy their own food or homes. People who go into debt to keep up with their neighbors in the latest fads and fashions. I'd even go so far to say that it may motivate people who buy a chocolate bar and pop at the convenient store every day because "they deserve it".
The effects of greed and entitlement are evident in the multimillion-dollar bonuses of some corporate executives. But the examples are more widespread than that. Greed and ideas of entitlement have also fueled the careless and widespread borrowing and excessive consumerism behind the financial crises that threaten to engulf the world.
Now really there's a bit of entitlement in all of us, isn't there? I feel entitled to a warm shower every day and when I don't get it, I feel like I've been robbed! Is there anything that I've done on my part to deserve a warm shower? Not really. I work hard every day to take care of the kids and my home while my husband works, but a warm shower is probably not a basic necessity of life. It's more of a convenience.
I think entitlement gets to be a problem when we have the attitude that the world owes me something for being alive. I deserve more than I have and better than I've got. The government should care for me because I'm a citizen of this country.
Now don't get me wrong, I know there are people who need government care. Those with debilitating circumstances that keep them from being able to take care of themselves and their families. Let me be quite clear that those are NOT the people I am talking about. I'm talking about the people that ARE able to work and choose not to simply because they'd rather sit on their fannies and watch videos, surf the web or play video games or whatever their pet desire is. They are never satisfied with what they have and always feel like they are entitled to more "free stuff". Some of these people would find that have enough money to meet their basic needs if they cut out the fluff, but they are not satisfied with that so they seek forms of government aid to provide their basic needs so that they can have "extras". And I don't think that the internet, direct TV or cable or video games count toward basic needs.
Entitlement is selfishness. It seeks to put ourselves above others and get ahead in power, fame or wealth. Often times I don't think people realize that they even have the attitude. It's subtle, but rampant. I think the answer is to live simply. To be satisfied with what we have and grateful to the Lord for our blessings. Gratitude is so important. When we really sit down and realize what we have been blessed with, of no merit of our own, we realize that the Lord is good to us. I love King Benjamin's address in Mosiah 2:
20 I say unto you, my brethren, that if you should render all the thanks and praise which your whole soul has power to possess, to that God who has created you, and has kept and preserved you, and has caused that ye should rejoice, and has granted that ye should live in peace one with another—I think that's so true! If we really sit down and think about how much the Lord has blessed us, the entitlement attitude slips away. We realize that we are given so much by the Lord, with very little in return. I know that He will care for us and bless us if we trust in Him.
21 I say unto you that if ye should serve him who has created you from the beginning, and is preserving you from day to day, by lending you breath, that ye may live and move and do according to your own will, and even supporting you from one moment to another—I say, if ye should serve him with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants.
22 And behold, all that he requires of you is to keep his commandments; and he has promised you that if ye would keep his commandments ye should prosper in the land; and he never doth vary from that which he hath said; therefore, if ye do keep his commandments he doth bless you and prosper you.
23 And now, in the first place, he hath created you, and granted unto you your lives, for which ye are indebted unto him.
24 And secondly, he doth require that ye should do as he hath commanded you; for which if ye do, he doth immediately bless you; and therefore he hath paid you. And ye are still indebted unto him, and are, and will be, forever and ever; therefore, of what have ye to boast?
25 And now I ask, can ye say aught of yourselves? I answer you, Nay. Ye cannot say that ye are even as much as the dust of the earth; yet ye were created of the dust of the earth; but behold, it belongeth to him who created you.