Entitlement behavior

Ruth Marcus has a column on entitlement behavior:

By entitlement behavior, I mean the apparent belief of too many political figures — make that too many male political figures — that the ordinary rules of acceptable conduct do not apply to them. Exhibits A, B and C are former International Monetary Fund head Dominique Strauss-Kahn, former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and former Nevada Sen. John Ensign.

Their alleged or admitted actions differ, but these episodes are linked by more than improper sexual activity. These men seem to have thought they could get away with this behavior — not despite their celebrity and power but, at least in part, because of it.

via Bigshots behaving badly – The Washington Post.

The entitlement mindset does not have to manifest itself in sexual scandals like these, but it’s a real danger among leaders of every kind, from pastors to business executives.   Wanting “perks,” expecting kow-towing, concern for one’s status–these can interfere with loving and serving those you are leading, and, hence, the vocation of leadership.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Jonathan

    I don’t think entitlement runs any stronger among these guys. They are just a slice of all society. Our courts are full of entitlement minded people of all walks–same stuff. It’s just that these guys have some celebrity attached to them. Otherwise, would we even hear about these types of typical cases, be they divorce, rape, embezzlement, etc. Nothing new under the sun, all is vanity.

  • Jonathan

    I don’t think entitlement runs any stronger among these guys. They are just a slice of all society. Our courts are full of entitlement minded people of all walks–same stuff. It’s just that these guys have some celebrity attached to them. Otherwise, would we even hear about these types of typical cases, be they divorce, rape, embezzlement, etc. Nothing new under the sun, all is vanity.

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    This was one of the issues with Jim and Tammy Bakker in the 80′s. A pastor friend of mine who had known the Bakkers personally said that they had basically been put up on a pedestal for so long by other people that they started acting like they were on a pedestal.

    Power corrupts… etc.

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    This was one of the issues with Jim and Tammy Bakker in the 80′s. A pastor friend of mine who had known the Bakkers personally said that they had basically been put up on a pedestal for so long by other people that they started acting like they were on a pedestal.

    Power corrupts… etc.

  • Pete

    Consider that most of us are fortunate enough to have friends, family and co-workers around who are free to tell us when we’re doing or contemplating something stupid and to help keep us aware of boundaries. Not so if you’re the star quarterback or governor or big box office draw. Nobody in your circle will tell you when you’re being a dope – nobody would tell the emperor that his fancy clothes were, in fact, no clothes at all. I think a steady diet of that would be incredibly disorienting and is what leads to this stuff. Makes me somewhat more sad for Arnold and his ilk than angry.

  • Pete

    Consider that most of us are fortunate enough to have friends, family and co-workers around who are free to tell us when we’re doing or contemplating something stupid and to help keep us aware of boundaries. Not so if you’re the star quarterback or governor or big box office draw. Nobody in your circle will tell you when you’re being a dope – nobody would tell the emperor that his fancy clothes were, in fact, no clothes at all. I think a steady diet of that would be incredibly disorienting and is what leads to this stuff. Makes me somewhat more sad for Arnold and his ilk than angry.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    The report now is that the French socialist banker politician said to the housekeeper he was trying to rape, “Don’t you know who I am?” I think whoever says that–a common refrain among Hollywood stars arrested for drunk driving and other misbehavior–that we are in the realm of entitlement behavior. He really expected an immigrant cleaning lady to be up on her French socialist bankers! And on that basis to give him sex!

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    The report now is that the French socialist banker politician said to the housekeeper he was trying to rape, “Don’t you know who I am?” I think whoever says that–a common refrain among Hollywood stars arrested for drunk driving and other misbehavior–that we are in the realm of entitlement behavior. He really expected an immigrant cleaning lady to be up on her French socialist bankers! And on that basis to give him sex!

  • helen

    Well, you’ve got “groupies” running after golfers, singers and all sorts of celebrities for the “bragging rights” of saying “I spent a night with him”… no doubt they get to feel entitled to whatever is in sight.
    Although I think they set their sights pretty low!

  • helen

    Well, you’ve got “groupies” running after golfers, singers and all sorts of celebrities for the “bragging rights” of saying “I spent a night with him”… no doubt they get to feel entitled to whatever is in sight.
    Although I think they set their sights pretty low!

  • Matthew Surburg

    Pete @3 is on to something. I wonder how this relates, on a psychological level, to living life in a fishbowl. Pastors, I know, can relate to this, and I would suspect it affects major leaders and celebrities of many kinds. There is always the pressure (in the case of pastors) of always being, say, “Pastor Fuller” and never just “Nick.” That doesn’t lead automatically to an entitlement mentality, and it certainly doesn’t excuse it in any case, but I wonder to what extent that kind of pressure can wear down a person and make it more difficult to maintain his humility. It’s easier to be humble if you’re “just one of the guys,” but when you’re always a little different, well you might just act the part, sometimes in bad ways. Just wondering.

  • Matthew Surburg

    Pete @3 is on to something. I wonder how this relates, on a psychological level, to living life in a fishbowl. Pastors, I know, can relate to this, and I would suspect it affects major leaders and celebrities of many kinds. There is always the pressure (in the case of pastors) of always being, say, “Pastor Fuller” and never just “Nick.” That doesn’t lead automatically to an entitlement mentality, and it certainly doesn’t excuse it in any case, but I wonder to what extent that kind of pressure can wear down a person and make it more difficult to maintain his humility. It’s easier to be humble if you’re “just one of the guys,” but when you’re always a little different, well you might just act the part, sometimes in bad ways. Just wondering.

  • helen

    …”, Shriver blasted such “gutter journalism” and announced, “I wouldn’t be standing here today . . . if my husband were not an A-plus human being.”

    We have to remember where Shriver comes from, and the behavior of the clan, to understand her “grading”!

  • helen

    …”, Shriver blasted such “gutter journalism” and announced, “I wouldn’t be standing here today . . . if my husband were not an A-plus human being.”

    We have to remember where Shriver comes from, and the behavior of the clan, to understand her “grading”!

  • Dennis Peskey

    “The entitlement problem … that reflects out-of-control human nature will be even harder (to solve).” Ruth Marcus has moved into the ranks of Caiaphas (“better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish” John 11:50) as a prophet. The problem is sin which puffs up our old Adam’s nature with pride. We do not listen to God’s beloved Son when He tells us we would have no power if not given to us from above. If we daily do not gird ourselves with a towel and seek only to serve our neighbor, we will be easy prey for the prowling lion who loves the taste of pride garnished with power. These men have the same entitlement I’ve earned – death. This is the wages of sin – what we all are “entitled” and have earned. I pray a Christian may confront them with their sin; I pray they repent and hear the good news of salvation earned for them at the Cross; I pray someone speak the true words of Christ, words of Law and Gospel. Then tell them to get back to work and do what Christ has commanded us all to do – serve our neighbor.
    Pax,
    Dennis

  • Dennis Peskey

    “The entitlement problem … that reflects out-of-control human nature will be even harder (to solve).” Ruth Marcus has moved into the ranks of Caiaphas (“better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish” John 11:50) as a prophet. The problem is sin which puffs up our old Adam’s nature with pride. We do not listen to God’s beloved Son when He tells us we would have no power if not given to us from above. If we daily do not gird ourselves with a towel and seek only to serve our neighbor, we will be easy prey for the prowling lion who loves the taste of pride garnished with power. These men have the same entitlement I’ve earned – death. This is the wages of sin – what we all are “entitled” and have earned. I pray a Christian may confront them with their sin; I pray they repent and hear the good news of salvation earned for them at the Cross; I pray someone speak the true words of Christ, words of Law and Gospel. Then tell them to get back to work and do what Christ has commanded us all to do – serve our neighbor.
    Pax,
    Dennis

  • Carl Vehse

    In her article on Dominique Strauss-Kahn and Maria Shriver’s husband, the Washington Compost opinion writer didn’t include the NY forensic lab report on the maid’s (blue?) stained dress. That should have been enough deja vu for at least some dishonorable mention in “Bigshots behaving badly” to Mary Jo Kopechne’s swimming partner, Monica’s ex-boyfriend, or expressions like “Better put some ice on that.”

  • Carl Vehse

    In her article on Dominique Strauss-Kahn and Maria Shriver’s husband, the Washington Compost opinion writer didn’t include the NY forensic lab report on the maid’s (blue?) stained dress. That should have been enough deja vu for at least some dishonorable mention in “Bigshots behaving badly” to Mary Jo Kopechne’s swimming partner, Monica’s ex-boyfriend, or expressions like “Better put some ice on that.”

  • Booklover

    The best leaders that I know are servant-leaders, people who, even though they possess great gifts, get down and serve right along with those whom they are leading. I am thinking now of our high school choir director, and of our church’s senior visitation pastor. They are loved and respected because of their humble way of serving. These types of leaders don’t seem to make the news.

  • Booklover

    The best leaders that I know are servant-leaders, people who, even though they possess great gifts, get down and serve right along with those whom they are leading. I am thinking now of our high school choir director, and of our church’s senior visitation pastor. They are loved and respected because of their humble way of serving. These types of leaders don’t seem to make the news.

  • helen

    People who act out of line are “News” because the readers can feel superior to them. (Either “I wouldn’t do that.” or “I haven’t gotten caught.” Take your pick.)
    People who do well and are recognized sometimes inspire just a bit of resentment. (I work at least as hard as that, and who ever noticed?)
    So we get more stories about the DUI’s, skirt chasers, and politicians with sticky fingers in the till, one way or another….

  • helen

    People who act out of line are “News” because the readers can feel superior to them. (Either “I wouldn’t do that.” or “I haven’t gotten caught.” Take your pick.)
    People who do well and are recognized sometimes inspire just a bit of resentment. (I work at least as hard as that, and who ever noticed?)
    So we get more stories about the DUI’s, skirt chasers, and politicians with sticky fingers in the till, one way or another….

  • http://journeytoluther.blogspot.com/ moallen

    I had an audio series on Roman Emperors that I had to quit listening to because it was so disgusting. There is nothing new about this “entitlement behavior” – it’s as old as sin and the only cure is the blood of the cross. Given enough power and money, I am sure I too would be capable of lot’s of despicable sinful behavior – Lord have mercy!

  • http://journeytoluther.blogspot.com/ moallen

    I had an audio series on Roman Emperors that I had to quit listening to because it was so disgusting. There is nothing new about this “entitlement behavior” – it’s as old as sin and the only cure is the blood of the cross. Given enough power and money, I am sure I too would be capable of lot’s of despicable sinful behavior – Lord have mercy!

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Obviously echoing some of what the others have already said, but …

    These men seem to have thought they could get away with this behavior.

    I believe that applies to every man alive, not just the famous ones. The only difference among people is the justifications they come up with for their behavior (as well as the resources they have at their disposal for abuse). Doubtless some very ignored people think they can get away with their horrible behaviors precisely because they are the opposite of famous.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Obviously echoing some of what the others have already said, but …

    These men seem to have thought they could get away with this behavior.

    I believe that applies to every man alive, not just the famous ones. The only difference among people is the justifications they come up with for their behavior (as well as the resources they have at their disposal for abuse). Doubtless some very ignored people think they can get away with their horrible behaviors precisely because they are the opposite of famous.

  • trotk

    Entitlement behavior is directly related to what a person believes about himself, and it can occur regardless of wealth of power. I have seen poor, powerless behavior who believe that they are owed the world because of a mantra preached to them by their parents, their situation, or even themselves.

    It is nothing new, and it has nothing to do with money and power, other than that money and power can be one of those things that causes someone to believe they deserve whatever they want. But poverty can do the same thing, thus Solomon prayed “give me neither poverty nor riches.”

  • trotk

    Entitlement behavior is directly related to what a person believes about himself, and it can occur regardless of wealth of power. I have seen poor, powerless behavior who believe that they are owed the world because of a mantra preached to them by their parents, their situation, or even themselves.

    It is nothing new, and it has nothing to do with money and power, other than that money and power can be one of those things that causes someone to believe they deserve whatever they want. But poverty can do the same thing, thus Solomon prayed “give me neither poverty nor riches.”

  • Pete

    Dr. Veith @4 : Bob Dylan wrote “Hattie Carroll” about this exact same problem. Different crime, different century but exact same problem.

  • Pete

    Dr. Veith @4 : Bob Dylan wrote “Hattie Carroll” about this exact same problem. Different crime, different century but exact same problem.

  • Cincinnatus

    tODD has it about right: isn’t all known sin (as opposed to unknown sins of omission and commission, etc.) justified on the grounds of some entitlement mentality? As Plato argued, no one who does what is wrong does so knowing that it is wrong; he who does wrong must do it because he believes it is right. (This is the corollary to his claim that anyone who knows what is good will do what is good; otherwise, one does not actually know what is good).

    Every time I sin knowingly–Christ have mercy!–I do so only after having justified it to myself. Never, obviously, on the grounds of arrogant celebrity in my case, but on the ground of some kind of entitlement.

  • Cincinnatus

    tODD has it about right: isn’t all known sin (as opposed to unknown sins of omission and commission, etc.) justified on the grounds of some entitlement mentality? As Plato argued, no one who does what is wrong does so knowing that it is wrong; he who does wrong must do it because he believes it is right. (This is the corollary to his claim that anyone who knows what is good will do what is good; otherwise, one does not actually know what is good).

    Every time I sin knowingly–Christ have mercy!–I do so only after having justified it to myself. Never, obviously, on the grounds of arrogant celebrity in my case, but on the ground of some kind of entitlement.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Cincinnatus (@16), I think there’s a fairly large divide between truly believing an action is right and merely justifying it to yourself. I don’t have to look any further than my own experience to know that people do wrong while knowing full well that it is wrong.

    Perhaps this only reveals a semantic difference in how we’re using the words.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Cincinnatus (@16), I think there’s a fairly large divide between truly believing an action is right and merely justifying it to yourself. I don’t have to look any further than my own experience to know that people do wrong while knowing full well that it is wrong.

    Perhaps this only reveals a semantic difference in how we’re using the words.


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