The Age and Culture of Entitlement
For years we’ve been immersed in a culture of entitlement. (See also: Living in the Age of Entitlement.) And, as mentioned in a prior post, that negatively impacts character formation. (See also: Culture and Character Impact Each Other.)
The current cultural climate didn’t develop overnight. And it developed for several reasons. For one, we have lived for a while in a time of plenty. We not only have a lot but we’ve also come to expect a lot. Accordingly, we often take much of what we have for granted. And for another, we live in “disconnected” times. Sure, we enjoy constant, instantaneous electronic communications. And we make lots of superficial connections on social media. But when it comes to a sense of community and how we all need and impact one another, it’s another story. We simply expect things to work with virtually no sense of how or why they do.
The Culture of Entitlement and Character Disturbance
Early researchers noted that disturbed characters have an impaired sense of obligation. They tend to act primarily in self-serving ways. And they tend to disregard the needs of others. Moreover, they too easily feel like they’re owed things. As one researcher put it, they think the world owes them and they owe nothing back. A culture of entitlement promotes and even reinforces this kind of thinking.
Researchers now know the reason disturbed characters have a hard time developing a healthy sense of obligation. When you feel entitled, you simply can’t feel obliged. You have to feel indebted before you can feel obliged. And you have to be deeply grateful before you can feel indebted.
An Indulged Culture is Easily an Ungrateful One.
A culture of self-indulgence can’t promote a healthy sense of gratitude. To be grateful, you have to appreciate the value of what you have. And while it may be politically risky to say it, even the least fortunate among us have a lot. At least we have a lot materially. What far too many of us lack, however, is a healthy principle-driven environment in which to develop solid character.
Deprivation Also Breeds Ingratitude
Even in the midst of material plenty, too many these days grow up in conditions that are unsafe, non-nurturing, or inadequately character-promoting. Absent, strung-out, or emotionally exhausted parents leave children wanting and hungry. Abusive caretakers can instill not only ingratitude but also bitterness and resentment. Hurt, bitter, resentful children often turn out much like overly-indulged children: ungrateful. And ungrateful children have a hard time developing a sound sense of social obligation.
Appropriately socializing a human being takes much time and skill. And proper socialization in a culture of entitlement presents unique challenges. I’ll be talking more about the socialization process in upcoming posts. (See also: Socialization is a Process.)
Character Matters will again air live Sunday, Sept. 17 at 7 pm EDT. Therefore, I can take calls at (501) 258-8326.