Photo credit: Shewanda Riley

By Shewanda Riley

It’s the most wonderful time of the year or so the well-known song by crooner Johnny Mathis would have you think.  For some people, the holidays are not the most wonderful time of the year. They are actually the worst. Statistics prove that there is a disturbing increase in cases of domestic violence and suicide during the holidays. Why all of this strife when we are supposed to be celebrating the joyous birth of Christ? One simple word:  Entitlement. I know some of you thought I’d write loneliness. But that’s not the issue as I see it. I’m only seeing the issue through the eyes of someone who also struggles with entitlement.

What exactly do I mean by entitlement? The dictionary says that entitlement is the belief that “I deserve certain privileges.” As humans, it’s only natural that we would expect certain things based on the effort we make.   Expectations can dangerously become entitlement when there is not enough gratitude to balance them out. However, entitlement is rooted in a belief that “I get certain things because I deserve them” …and for no other reason.   Expectation is to look forward to something with hope; entitlement is believing that it’s supposed to be happen.    Entitlement is a reflection of pride that if it goes unchecked can lead to arrogance.

A few years ago, I had a discussion with some of my college English students about this same issue. They wanted to argue with me about a policy where I excuse missed assignments.  The fact is that the policy was not something I was required to do but one I did because I wanted to show them “grace.” College students being college students, they acted like I was being unfair because I didn’t excuse more. I didn’t expect them to fall on their knees in gratitude, but   I admit that I got a little frustrated because I felt that they didn’t appreciate my efforts. Just as soon as I thought this, God reminded me of how I sometimes treat his grace the same way. God had to remind me of the times when I showed little gratitude and also acted like what he’d blessed me with was somehow not enough.

Over the last few years dealing with the Covid pandemic and its many aftereffects, we’ve seen entitlement led to negative things like folks fighting over whether they should wear a mask to protect their own health. Entitlement is tricky because it deceives you into believing that your way is the right way for you…and others.

1 Timothy 6:5-6 says, “These people think religion is supposed to make you rich. And religion does make your life rich, by making you content with what you have.” Being content with what you have and gracefully anticipating continued God’s blessings can help you keep from falling into the entitlement trap this Christmas Season. Especially during these difficult economic times, we could benefit by applying these words to our lives.  Instead of giving entitlement to yourself and others, consider embracing contentment and giving more of God’s grace to others.

Shewanda Riley (Aunt Wanda), PhD, is a Fort Worth-based author of “Love Hangover: Moving from Pain to Purpose After a Relationship Ends” and “Writing to the Beat of God’s Heart: A Book of Prayers for Writers.”   Email her at or follow her on Twitter @shewanda.   You can also listen to her podcast at