Our Culture of Entitlement Impedes Character Growth

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.

As always, my sincerest thanks for recommending my books and this blog to others.



22 thoughts on “Our Culture of Entitlement Impedes Character Growth

  1. Passive aggressive guy didn’t feel obligated to anybody for anything. It permeated all aspects of his life.

    On one ocassion he accidentally left the tap turned on in the bath tub. It overflowed and caused a gaping hole in the ceiling below. Not an easy thing to fix. When the landlord showed up to fix it, PA guy showed not a trace of apology, embarrassment…just nothing.

    Another time one of my brothers invited he and his kids to a swim in his pool. He had just undergone a very costly and time consuming procedure to eliminate a specific kind of algae in the pool. He asked PA guy to please submerge his kids bathing suits in boiling water if they had been swimming in public pools, as they could reintroduce the algae if they had.

    The following week he shows up, his kids go swimming and he tells me later that he didn’t sterilize their bathing suits because he thought it was ‘ridiculous.’ So accepting someone’s hospitality but refusing to heed a simple request. This blew my mind. I am very rules oriented. Even if rules make no sense to me, in the immediate, I try to figure out what the rule was created for and adhere to it.

    Another time, similar issue. I was renting a ground floor apartment. One of the specific requests on the rental contract was no bird feeders allowed. Fee with me. I love hanging them and feeding birds but I signed a contract and had to live by the terms.

    Just so happens, Passive Aggressive guy made me a bird feeder out of old plastic pop bottles as a housewarming gift. I thanked him and told him that sadly I couldn’t use it. He blew a fuse. Angry angry. He told me to hang it anyway. I told him I wouldn’t. This went on for quite some time until I had to threaten to call the cops to get him out of my apartment! Again, a simple rule and a refusal to adhere to it because it was an obstacle to his desires and he felt no sense of obligation to me, my landlord or my relationship with my landlord.

    So yes, CD types feel zero obligation to anybody and this will manifest in very basic adherence to simple rules.

  2. LisaO, try going to a gym lately?

    Gyms have simple rules of etiquette and common courtesy that shouldn’t even need to be written on a huge board but the CDs choose to ignore them anyway then exhibit behavior that is inexcusable in a public facility.

    These CDS do feel absolutely justified in doing what they are doing and act like a kindergarten child who has lost his chance to play with the ball. It’s embarrassing to watch. I actually said once while a man was reaming out a gym tech, ” Oh My God! go read the rules already!” This man turned on me with a vicious look and said “is this any of your business?” and I said “yes, because I have to follow the rules too.”

    For the most part this guy would rarely appear at the gym but he had one forbidden habit and that was to bring in coffee in a disposable cup. Since the lid is not resealable then it’s disallowed in the facility. There is not just the written rule but there is also a large picture with a line through it and he still feigns ignorance OR loudly says “YOU MUST BE NEW HERE!” to the monitor who is only trying to do her job.

    He doesn’t give a rats ass about how he looks because his only goal is winning.

  3. I meant Sydney! Woops! The Seinfeld show was chalk full of odd but believable characters. George Castanza was a classic Narcissist and provided a certain amount of insight into how they operate and think.

    The double dipping was about George at a party, taking a potato chip, dunking it in dip, eating the part of the chip that had dip on it and then dunking the remains of the chip back in the dip. Really unsanitary. And a classic Narc move, like the guy at your gym!

    1. Lisa that was a great episode and George is a classic narc. I think one of the best story lines was when his fiance died from licking toxic wedding invitation envelopes and he went on to make her passing all about him. Really you can’t help but sit back and laugh. He’s such an ass.

  4. Sydney, LisaO,

    I am not a TV watch, but one night my X was watching the show. I was real intrigued watching these characters. What was consistently obvious was how each a different personality was at heart a truly CD person. All of them continually feeding off each other and absolutely selfish though professing they were kind, caring sincere people.

    Yes, I saw the episode of Constanza’s girlfriend dying, I believe he was behind her death, yes, he took the stage as the aggrieved at the funeral, rather he used the death to get sympathy and benefit from the tragedy rather than truly morning for the loss of life. Correct me if I am wrong, it was many years ago. I know so their actions were ridiculously stupid, but at the same time I thought, there are so many people in real life who are like these actors. Sad and shamelessly shallow, what our what society has become.

  5. Dr. Simon,

    I’m watching this playing out increasingly with my friends and colleagues. A good number have their adult “children” living with them. They are paying for their offspring’s car payments, cell phones and providing daycare. All while being treated really poorly by their kids. Grown kids. Adults, that is. Some over 30.

    Worse yet are the substance abusers, opposed to employment, in and out of rehab like a revolving door, some with ongoing criminal activity. Their parents are depleting their retirement, savings and even using second mortgages to pay their legal and rehab bills. Junior gets out, gets a reward- a car, a vacation. Like a gold star for getting clean, again. After awhile, he crashes the car, steals from and threatens his parents. He repeats the cycle. They finance it. It is just a relapse, to be expected. He is a poor lost boy(at 30 yo), the substances are to blame. Their love and sacrifice will save him.

    If you really love your son or daughter, and expect them to be employed, sober and personally accountable, you’re looked at like you have three heads. As well as ostracized and smeared. By entitled adults.

    On social media, good enough parents are being labelled/diagnosed as narcissistic by entitled “adults” with no credentials. The extended adolescents’ cheering section is comprised of virtual strangers(friends?), who praise them for being “brave” survivors. Grandchildren bonded with their grandparents are taken away suddenly with no explanation, as punishment. More praise from the crowd. What about really communicating and considering the effects on the grandchildren? Not an option, as the silent treatment is the preferred course of action.

    Thankfully, my retirement is intact. Any child of mine that would like a hug, to talk, or a sandwich is more than welcome. If you make a mess, I trust you to clean it up. Because I love you enough to expect you to be a grownup.

  6. Aishiteru,

    Excellent comment and so true in my family too. Instead of Hello Mom, how are you, what can I do for you, my kids say what what I should be giving them. When I do hold them accountable and refuse not to be the money bags of because you are my parent you owe me the withhold the Grandchildren. Oh well, their loss. I find so many people that are treated the same way. I refuse to reward bad behavior.

    The Bible says and I believe most cultures teach to respect your elders and to honor thy Father and Mother.

  7. Btov, That is terrible! It must hurt to have your kids treat you like a pez dispenser for money and services. You seem to be dealing with it pretty well.


    A Narcissistic society is in a head on collision with an economy that forces diminished expectations. Kids who should be out of the house and on a clear career path, with kids of their own are forced to live with their parents. This isn’t their fault. (At least this is true where I live. )

    The parents feel bad for them and are trying to maintain the illusion of a middle class life for them while the ‘kids’ themselves have a general sense of anger, resentment and displacement. Unfortunately, those who are helping them hinder them by keeping them in an infantile state and the young adults feel it and react to that.

    This is a problem that is neither clearly pathological or economic.

    However, in the midst of all this are a core group of families that cater to pathology alone.

    1. BTOV,
      That all sound very familiar. It really is their loss. I applaud your strength standing up to the bad behavior. Hope you find peace and joy on so many levels.

      Lisa that sounds familiar. There’s a bigger picture to consider. I think there are many alternatives that don’t involve making parents uncompensated daycare workers/landlords/ATMs for angry, resentful, ungrateful adult children. Why not explore the possibilities that would foster personal growth and accountability?
      Maybe simplicity and authenticity work better than living an illusion. Perhaps working more hours in lieu of screen time. Delaying gratification is so healthy; what could you give up to be independent? Living a lifestyle you can afford without parental subsidies could be an adventure in character development. Tiny houses, small apartments, living with roommates, trading daycare with friends. Relocating for better opportunities. I’m sure some parents would love to help, without their grandchildren becoming their responsibility. There are endless options that involve personal sacrifice and really hard work. There would be little time to feel anger and resentment. Displacement would take a backseat to accomplishment.
      The more parents foster extended adolescence, the more anger and resent there will be. If you work OT and raise your grandchildren while your adult kids coast you cripple their character. The results are what we’re witnessing within our society. Rationalizing, ingratitude, resent, entitlement, anger, being comfortable with a parasitic lifestyle. That all sounds so familiar…

      The struggle is real. It is healthy. No excuses. Think bigger.
      No one owes you anything. Put the phone down and sweat.
      Be different. Love your parents. Ask them how they are and what they need. Pay them back. Take care of your own kids.
      Be sober. Be kind. Be brave. Be honest.
      Live a real life.

  8. Aisheratu,

    I totally agree with you! I know a few people who meet your description. It really frosts me to see kids who are better off than their parents, in particular, take advantage of their time and energy, particularly if they are elderly and a bit infirm.

    For context, I live near the second most expensive real estate market in the world. I am currently providing room and board and moral support to someone with disabilities who has a govt pension designed for 70’s rental market and food prices.

    I am helping a few other very hard working younger people as much as I can. They work 7 days a week and make fairly good money but they can barely afford to eat in this environment. It’s bleak.

    But, for the purpose of discussion we will stick to describing the incredibly spoiled entitled few who lean on their parents and refuse to grow up. They’re out there!

    1. Lisa you’re doing a beautiful thing. Sharing with people really in need is beyond cool. If a young person is working hard enough to break a sweat, wipe their brow. The disabled and the elderly need every bit of care and help we can give. Encouragement in action is so powerful. You are a gem.

      I too live in near a very expensive rapidly growing city. There’s a serious case of the haves vs have nots and it is getting tense. Gentrification, affordable housing/ livable wages and increased crime are festering issues. Just feels like chaos on so many levels. I really fear the working and middle class are taking it for the team in our current political character- deficient quagmire.

      Back on target, I’m lucky to know some terrific twenty somethings that are hustling to make a living and a difference in this world. They give me hope and so much to think about. Thank God for them!

      1. Thanks Aisheratu,

        i’m doing what I can. I still have a few pretty crappy personality traits I am working on. Am definitely not a saint!

        I have read that when some people are near death they comment that love is paramount and they wished they had understood this more, in life. When I die I want to feel that a legacy of good deeds will have a follow on effect that will outlive me. I am “paying it forward” in my way, as many others do in their own way.

        So important to understand that there are vast battalions of good people still out there, even though character deficient people, psychopaths and narcissists are gaining so much traction.

        Important, nevertheless, to be the change you want to see. Even though I am not super religious, I do say the Lord’s Prayer with great focus on, “thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.” Wouldn’t it be wonderful? A life of less pain and suffering for everybody!

        1. Lisa, I so dig your take on things. I’ve got some crappy traits to work on myself. Work in progress, evermore.

          Most of the dying don’t have much pretense left. They understand truth and love.

          Being the change is just love and faith in action. I don’t know about being hyper religious, but caring about God’s will and the wellbeing of others sounds like truth to me.

  9. Whilst all of this is true there are many people who go through the very same experiences and do not turn out CD and researchers are now finding CD is also rooted in the neurology of a person.
    People with CD do not change for the better – they only acquire more strategies to get their ways.
    There may be many reasons why they are who they are and do what they do however the solutions to contain the damage they are capable of causing are limited: stay away from them altogether whenever possible, minimize contact and stay rooted in facts (rules, laws, events – video tape whenever possible) when contact cannot be altogether avoided.
    Emotions are to CD people like blood is to sharks.
    If you know CD people you avoid them, if you know them they cannot hurt you.

  10. ElleJH

    “Emotions are to CD people like blood is to sharks”.

    Exactly – that’s why we have to fix that which is within ourselves to fix and concentrate on that aspect alone, so we can heal. No point going anywhere else with narc abuse now. Their time is numbered providing we starve them out of existence by healing ourselves.

    1. Once my wife’s mother (yep, some things run in family) made a comment that I don’t have any emotions. When in fact I was attempting to control my anger to avoid outright fight, as I was already in conciliatory mode and I wanted to avoid fight with someone much older (and presumably wiser) than me. That time this comment just irritated me, but now it gives me smile…
      …I disappointed her. I guess I was natural hardened criminal somewhat impervious to manipulation though lacking in the understanding, so just about managed to give sufficient fight, then escaped, and now doing much better. 🙂

      1. AndyD
        The times I let my emotions go – intentionally let them go because I’d just had it with holding it all in and walking away frustrated and his tactics being successful because I would walk away – I was shocked at myself, the boiling anger that did come out and was directed to him. Pure, unfettered, all out anger. He’d never seen this kind of anger in me. I’d held back for too long and was just done with taking his crap. Never got physically violent, but boy did I want to pop him one.

    2. For me that is the key, healing myself. I see how I was the perfect victim. I had a CD sister growing up and when I complained about her stealing, etc., my parents would get angry at me because they basically didn’t know what to do. Our parents fell into her trap and actually rewarded her in many ways for her bad behavior. But I felt pretty worthless as a child from neglect and so at the age of 18 or 19 – hard to remember, I fell into a sociopaths trap, for 14 years. Healing is a long slow process.

  11. CD don’t think like us at all. They always accuse us of having no emotions but that’s their projection/confession. They use their reptilian brain where as neuropathological people use their mammalian brain – they can reason. From what I understand the CD always function in survival mode. That is exactly how reptiles function (no I am not talking about reptilian shapeshifters alla David Icke) I am just talking about how they operate.

    This is how I see it. Because they are functioning in survival mode they have to make sure they keep us in survival mode too – in order to make them feel better, in other words they have to bring us down to their level. I think it is as simple as that. Plus they use covert manipulation in order to keep us in a permanent state of Stockholm Syndrome. When they are attacking, slandering and maligning us it costs them NOTHING. It does not tax their energy at all because it is how they operate. On the other hand it has the reverse effect on us. If we defend ourselves or try to vindicate ourselves it costs us a great deal! The longer we stay involved with their kind the longer we subject ourselves to emotional abuse and acute energetic depletion.

    Get out, run don’t look back and heal. When we are whole and healed these predators won’t be able to impact us in any way, shape or form. We will be immune to them.

  12. Yes, I see this all the time. In my family for example, confront one with the truth, my mother-and it makes me mean and creul-my brother does the same thing, only more dirtected at mental competency. Can I cross a busy street to work?

    Use the crosswalk.

    By attacking my ability to feel or be competent-it better demonstrates who (what) they are.

    Sad-you die alone, to me, nothing worse.

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