I’ve noticed something about myself, and I think it applies to other leaders as well. A sense of entitlement can sneak in when I least expected it. It’s easy to miss in ourselves as ministry leaders because it’s easy to say “What are you talking about, I pour myself out for others all the time?!”
But, I’ve discovered this entitlement attitude can still sneak in and take root. It can sneak in especially after busy seasons of ministry, like right now - after a busy fall and then an even busier Christmas season. All I’ve a sudden I’m a little more tired, and a little less self-aware. I can end up saying in my head “I want…”, “I need…”, “I deserve…”
Part of this is simply the need for self-care and rest, but I/we have to be careful. There is a difference between self-care and selfishness. Sabbath is not lying on the couch for a week, that is not living giving to anyone. Self-care and Sabbath sounds like: “God gives me Sabbath as I gift. I will delight in it, but God is the Lord of the Sabbath and God has the right to interrupt it or change it.” Right? The disciples and Jesus’ times of rest occasionally got interrupted. Jesus got accused of working on the Sabbath because He was helping and healing others. Yes, we need Sabbath rest, but that never gives us the right to ignore others or mistreat others for the sake of ourselves.
Selfishness can creep in, in different seasons for leaders. Selfishness says “I deserve to do absolutely nothing because I’ve worked so hard.” It says: “It is my right to…”, “I deserve…”, “I’m entitled to...”, “I need…”, “I’ve been working hard I deserve to treat myself to…”, “I don’t need to help with…”
Sometimes the higher up the leadership ladder we climb the easier it is for this sense of entitlement to creep into our hearts. Secretly or not so secretly wanting to be the one that gets the credit. Wanting to be the main act, instead of the support cast. Wanting to be the headline instead of the footnote. And that is a slippery slope in our thinking and attitude. Furthermore, it can be a slippery slope towards temptation and sin.
Discipleship is about giving up our rights to serve a greater purpose, to serve a greater One. All the time, not just during work hours. Not just when it is our turn. Not just when we feel like it. Being a Christian is laying down our rights, our entitlements, for the sake of the Gospel. Day in and day out, giving up my rights in order to serve. After all, “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross!” -Philippians 2:5-8
Yup, this is counter-cultural. Our culture often tells us to fight for our rights. Christianity tells us to be willing to lay down our rights for the sake of others, for the sake of the Kingdom.
So here are 7 things I’m trying this Christmas season to protect a sense of entitlement from creeping into my heart. These are things that are different from the usual gifts and money.
7 ways to put others first this Christmas:
1. The Great Clean-out - Clean-out your closets and cupboards in order to give away anything still in good condition. Give away clothes, toys, kitchen supplies, decorations… You can choose to give the stuff you gather to an individual, family or ministry. You could also have a sale and give the proceeds to a ministry.
I tend to live quite simply, but easily came up with over two bags of stuff when I did this last weekend. A good rule of thumb is, if you have not used an item in the last 3 months and it is not an essential seasonal item, give it away. That thing you use one time a year, could it be something you either share with others or borrow from others? Bringing back the old “can I borrow a cup of sugar?” with our neighbours. In my parents rural neighbourhood they all effectively share a wood splitter.
2. Secret Service Day – designated a day, secretly, that you will be fully available to others. On this day, have no agenda of your own, simply let the others around you in your home or community set the agenda for you – do what needs to be done, play what they would like to play, have the conversations they would like to have… Do something you usually don’t do to serve others – cook a meal, vacuum, do that fix-it job you’ve been putting off, help your neighbour etc. If you’re at work leave the door open and follow the interruptions for the day. Interruptions are your boss on this day. If someone calls your office to chat, offer to take time to meet them for coffee. Offer to help someone with their work project instead of working on yours. You've got time for anyone that crosses your path on this day.
3. Special Invite - Take-out or invite-in someone for whom this is a difficult time of year. Maybe it is someone who experiences grief this time of year, maybe it is someone who does not have a lot of family around, maybe it is someone who has just been through a really tough season or maybe simply someone you’ve often thought “I’d like to get to know them better”. Invite them to a special meal or time together, not out of pity, but out of inclusion, valuing them and their presence in your time together. No agenda, simply get to know them better.
4. Hand written thank you note – As you reflect on this past year, who has been especially good to you? In whom have you observed the character of Christ? Write them a good old fashion letter or note. Take the time to tell them the specifics of how you saw Christ in them and how thankful you are for them in your life and in the world.
5. Pray for others - Choose one or two neighbours or co-workers who don’t know Jesus; pray for them by name every day. This time of year, pray for an opportunity to talk about how significant Christmas is to you and your faith.
6. Tip generously – I’ve been convicted what it must look like when a waiter or waitress sees us bowing our heads to say grace at the beginning of the meal only to leave a lousy tip at the end of the meal. I’m growing in tipping more generously. I’m sure those who serve me in this way could also use a little extra this time of year. I’ve got a friend that often gently asks the waiter/waitress before the start of the meal, “In a moment, we’re going to pray. Is there anything we can be praying for you?” and then makes sure to tip big at the end. I’m growing in courage in asking this, I’ve done it a small handful of times, but in this season I am dedicating to you blog readers that it is one of the things I’m going to do more.
7. No boasting – I’ve learned there are certain groups of people that I get around where I feel the need to start proving my worth, my value. I know, that’s ugly. Are there people like this for you? People you get around and you start feeling the need to state what you’ve accomplished this past year, or start name dropping people you’ve met, start sharing relationships you’ve had, experiences you’ve had… in some way, shape or form trying to prove you’re worth something. Well, I’ve determine in the certain groups of people where I can feel this temptation, to remain quiet about any of my accomplishments. I’m giving up trying to prove anything, trusting God for my worth, and putting others first. In my head I remind myself with either “Abba, Father, I belong to You” or “I am a child of the one true King.”
So there you go. You probably have more insight into my heart than you ever wanted. I’ll let you know how trying these 7 things goes during this season (or wait, maybe that would be boasting?!) What helps you fight an attitude of entitlement?