Death reminds us that life is a temporary privilege, not an endless right. —Craig D. Lounsbrough
The dictionary defines entitled as “believing oneself to be inherently deserving of privileges or special treatment.” The word “deserve” jumps out of this definition. Dangerous possibilities appear whenever we adopt a “deserve” disposition. When we feel we deserve something, we set ourselves up for an all or nothing confrontation with reality. If we get what we deserve, then all is right with the world. If we don’t get what we deserve, we have been slighted. These powerful expectations can fuel disappointments on a massive scale. People can get aggressive when they don’t receive what they are “owed.”
Did you notice how the paragraph above moved from “entitled” to “owed?” The word “entitled” has a negative connotation for us. A person who feels “entitled” is often judged as unreasonable and undeserving. However, receiving what you are “owed” is completely reasonable. This is the tricky nature of “entitlement” because we rationalize it to legitimacy by converting it to what we are “owed.” If someone owes you something, you should collect, right?
The problem with a sense of entitlement is that it is the manifestation of the feeling that we are owed something when in actuality, that “something” is a privilege. We apply it to large and small things alike and when we don’t get what we’re owed, we become frustrated and negative; then we behave accordingly.
The problem with a sense of entitlement is that it is the manifestation of the feeling that we are owed something when in actuality, that “something” is a privilege
At its core, a sense of entitlement is the absence of gratitude. In gratitude, we adopt the attitude of one who is receiving a gift rather than what is owed. When we are grateful, we acknowledge a kindness, a moment, or an experience, as something special. Something that perhaps we did not earn. Something that we may not deserve. Something that we are actually NOT owed.
Of course, there are transactions and interactions in which we are “owed” something. Our society is transactional and it is normal in the course of our days. It is unacceptable for someone not to pay us for a service rendered. Revisit for a moment the definition of entitlement and consider the words “privileges or special treatment.” What we are owed and what we feel we are entitled to can be very different things and yet, they are often confused.
When you start to look around the world, you realize that we’ve come to expect many things that might be considered amazing privileges to people from other nations. Lights that come on every time a switch is flipped? Wow! Clean water at the twist of a handle? Unbelievable! Anytime availability of an internet connection with a steady stream of entertainment? Astounding!
What we are owed and what we feel we are entitled to can be very different things and yet, they are often confused.
Walk out into your world today and think about all of the little entitlements you have adopted in your day-to-day routine. Then, step back from them and consider for a moment how they look through the lens of gratitude. The air in your lungs. The sun on your face. The kiss from a loved one. The dinner sitting on your table. The smile from a co-worker. The opportunity to choose your path and walk it every day. The freedom to be yourself and live your life how you choose. Then consider how grateful you are for the tiniest of gifts you experience.
I suspect you may discover that the world really owes you very little and that the gifts you receive in a normal day are quite numerous. Appreciate them. Every, single, day.