Entitlement is a word that seems to be floating around quite a bit these days. Last year I had a lengthy discussion with a gentleman who serves as vice president for student services at a private university. As we reflected on college students that are a part of “Generation Y”, it did not take him long to bring up the subject of entitlement. In working with this group of young people over the past decade, he has noticed that they have very high expectations of the university.
These students often prefer private dorm rooms. The dorm setting in general is most likely a tad nicer than a generation ago. They also anticipate their dining experience in the school cafeteria to feel more like Chili’s than the high school cafeteria. It is a given in their world that the university will provide the latest and the greatest in all matters of technology. Staffers coordinating student services of all kinds feel the pressure, because there is no shortage of competition among universities. It is a challenge to serve an entitled generation.
Last night I was reminded that members of Generation Y (also known as The Millennial Generation) do not have a corner on the entitlement market. In our quest to see as many of the Oscar Best Picture shows this year, we watched “The Best Years of Our Lives” last night. It received the Best Picture Oscar in 1946. This three hour movie is an excellent representation of what life was like for returning veterans after World War II.
The movie followed the victories and struggles of three men as they adjusted to life back in their home town after the war was over. One of the characters was a captain who served as a bombardier on a B-17. He could not wait to get home to reunite with his gorgeous wife. But upon his arrival, he found her to be impatient, intolerant, and entitled… During one of their dialogues she said to him in a selfish rage: “But these are supposed to be the best days of our lives!”
Her character stood in stark contrast to the demeanor and attitude of others in the movie who patiently dealt with the important men in their lives, as they adjusted from the traumas of war. As the movie came to an end, I thought about the contrast in mindsets. One woman felt entitled to a good and prosperous life. The other characters allowed genuine love and loyalty to carry the day.
Today I am thinking about entitlement, but it is not in reference to the generation of my three children. I am reminded that we all have the propensity to feel entitled. We all have unrealistic and fundamentally selfish expectations of what those closest to us are going to provide. In fact, we all have improbable expectations of life itself. But there is a cure…
I am convinced that unwavering loyalty alleviates a spirit of entitlement. I am actually thinking that I should enter every important relationship with a mindset of giving with no expectation of anything in return. I am not entitled to some kind of idyllic life. In the process, I think I will actually experience the best years of my life.