Before Your Heart Gets Whiplash

Sometimes I wonder if Black Friday makes the enemy all too happy.

It’s not that shopping and saving 60 percent on this year’s best gifts is diabolical or anti-Christian. And running through Target in your pajamas at 2 a.m. to snag the hot item at the top of your brother’s wish list may be silly and laughable, but it’s not devilish.

It’s not necessarily the gifting or couponing or sales. It’s the sharp 180 degree turn from giving thanks to the Giver of all good things to a laser focus on ourselves. As my thoughts shift from gratitude to gift giving in a span of less than twenty-four hours, my heart gets whiplash.

I’m not about to offer a tirade against the commercialization of holidays, I promise. But I do wonder if Black Friday butts up against Thanksgiving as our enemy’s perfect pivot from a season of gratitude into a season of entitlement—one of gratitude’s biggest, baddest, and most potent enemies.

Just as soon as the thanks and praises are spoken, they fade like an autumn morning fog as our eyes and hearts shift to a shiny season of gifts we feel we deserve.

That’s what makes the enemy nod in approval—an immediate shift from the grace-inspired gratitude to wish lists scripted by our pride.

It really is that subtle. Give thanks. Clear your plate. Browse the store aisles. The gratitude fades while the sense of “more, more, more” revamps.

But entitlement doesn’t have to strangle your gratitude. As we turn to Jesus, we can learn to identify our pride and to follow His jaw-dropping example.

The Gift That Keeps Un-Giving

Entitlement isn’t just a holiday thing—it’s a year-round, everyday sin of pride that we often swallow in huge doses . . . and we may not even realize it.

Entitlement says, “You deserve this.” But its voice takes many tones: Sometimes it’s sweet, enticing, and comforting, while other times it sounds simply logical as it states a case. It doesn’t necessarily sound like the typical boisterous brat you might naturally envision (though it can). It sounds much more like a little complaint here, a rationalization there.

Entitlement will convince you to get more. It will persuade you to avoid anything you feel is beneath you. It will inspire complaining. It will ensure grumbling. It will strangle gratitude for all that you already have, assuring you that you’ll never be happy until you have this. And then that. And then those, too.

In a Desiring God article “Entitlement Will Rob You of Rest,” Chelsea Patterson Sobolik captures the mindset of an entitled person: “Entitlement shows no partiality; it will reach for life’s greatest gifts and claim its smallest pleasures.”

Like fire and ice, entitlement and gratitude are polar opposites; one always consumes the other.

Can you imagine how an “I deserve this” attitude—in the big stuff and in the smallest of things—would kill gratitude dead with one quick slash? Like fire and ice, entitlement and gratitude are polar opposites; one always consumes the other.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth describes these opposing attitudes in the Revive Our Hearts 30-Day Gratitude Challenge:

Too many of us live with a chip on our shoulder, as if the world owes us something. “You ought to do this for me. You ought to serve me. You ought to meet my needs.” But the humble heart—the grateful heart—says, “I don’t deserve this, and it’s an amazing act of grace that you should minister to my needs.”

Stop the Stranglehold

I want to live a lifestyle of gratitude, a lifestyle that expresses joy and thankfulness wherever I go, no matter how my day is going, no matter what my emotions might tell me. But God is revealing more and more entitlement, like hands reaching to strangle my gratitude. Are you seeing the entitlement in your own heart, too? What can we do?

Let’s start by identifying the ways entitlement manifests itself in our own lives.

Ask yourself these questions, and answer them honestly; it may help to journal your answers.

  1. How often do I request that someone meet my needs without ever giving a thought to meeting theirs? (Think parents, siblings, teachers, youth leaders.)
  2. Do I justify spending my time, money, and energy on things that only provide comfort to myself—because “I deserve this” is at the top of my mind?
  3. How do I react when something doesn’t go according to my plan or my desires?
    • Do I complain, cry, grumble, rehearse every reason this injustice shouldn’t have taken place?
    • Do I think things like, I can’t believe this happened to me or I shouldn’t have to deal with this. I deserve better.

As you search your heart, ask God to uncover any attitudes of entitlement. But don’t stop there. We need the gospel to show us where to turn our gaze.

For This, We Owe Him Everything

When our flesh wants us to live like the world owes us something, it’s time to run to the One to whom the world owes everything.

When our flesh wants us to live like the world owes us something, it’s time to run to the One to whom the world owes everything.

If anyone deserved to be entitled, it was Jesus Christ; yet He emptied Himself of every royal glory and became a servant (Phil. 2:3–8). Jaw-dropping humility.

And at the cross Jesus endured the crucifixion—what we could consider as the greatest injustice this world has ever seen. But as our Perfectly Humble Servant, He endured every blow He never deserved.

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth (Isa. 53:7)

We deserve nothing but death and punishment. But He stepped in, was crushed and wounded for our sins—and through Him, we are undeservedly healed (Isa. 53:5).

For this, we owe Him everything.

This—the indescribably good gospel—stops entitlement dead in its tracks. Because when we worship Jesus, when we grasp what He has done for us, we are humbled and grateful, not entitled or selfish.

We Get to Choose

Thankfully, the coming Christmas season doesn’t have to be a season of entitlement. We can choose not to let our gratitude be strangled by the suffocating sense of entitlement.

We get to choose our adventure this December. We can choose Path #1: A season focused on my wishes, my needs, and my preferences—with complaining and a potential meltdown guaranteed. Or we can choose Path #2: A gospel-infused, gratitude-filled, servant-hearted time of giving and worshiping as we embrace the true significance of Christmas.

Has God shown you any attitudes of entitlement in your heart? Let’s discuss!

About Author

Samantha Nieves

Samantha loves grammar, lazy lake days, iced green tea, and writing about the glorious gospel truths that transform our everyday lives. A northern Indiana native, Samantha now lives in South Carolina and serves as the social media manager on the Revive Our Hearts staff.

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  • anna

    This article was titled….”Before your heart gets whiplash”. I’m not sure what the title had to do with the content of the article. I would have thought it was wisdom about heartbreak, or hardship, or guarding your heart, or loss of some kind.

    • Samantha Loucks Nieves

      Hey there—sorry to hear the title set you up to read something different! This is what we were going for with the title and the main idea of the blog post:

      “It’s the sharp 180 degree turn from giving thanks to the Giver of all good things to a laser focus on ourselves. As my thoughts shift from gratitude to gift giving in a span of less than twenty-four hours, my heart gets whiplash.”

      Hope that at least helps explain the title a little more. 🙂

      Samantha

  • @llie

    Woah! This article really got me. I had to read it twice.

    • Samantha Loucks Nieves

      Thanks for your comment! Thankful to hear it was something your heart needed.

  • anna

    Love this! This is sooo very true and something ive dealt with even today!

    • Samantha Loucks Nieves

      Grateful to know that your heart needed this! I need it, too.
      Samantha