By Molly Brown
If you are willing, try a little experiment. Say out loud to yourself, with as much conviction as you can muster, “I am entitled to ____,” filling in the blank with whatever comes to mind: your car, your house, or other significant possession. Notice how you feel as you say this, how your body responds. You might even find a particular posture that expresses how you feel about being entitled to something.
Now, say out loud to yourself, again with sincerity, “I am grateful for ____,” and fill in the blank again – perhaps with the same thing you mentioned before. Notice how you feel as you say this rather different statement, how your body responds. What posture would express how you feel as you speak about your gratitude?
When I speak about being entitled, I feel strong, self-contained, and a little defensive, as if I need to assert myself against anyone who might challenge my rights to my possessions. I imagine crossing my arms, and maybe frowning a bit. On the other hand, when I speak about being grateful, I feel myself soften, standing with open arms. I feel happy and connected to the world around me.
So much of advertising today appeals to our sense of entitlement. An ad I saw in an airline magazine featured a beautiful, sophisticated woman holding a smart phone, with the text announcing, “You’ve earned it.” At the time, I thought to myself, “and the woman who cleans your office – she hasn’t earned it?”
Ads want us to feel that we deserve, have earned, and are entitled to whatever product they are selling. And it no doubt works – but at what cost to our personal happiness? Would we not be better off feeling grateful for what we have, rather than grasping for more to prop up our sense of self-worth?
When we feel entitled to something, we tend to ignore the costs of the object’s manufacture – to the environment or to the people working for slave wages in a distant impoverished country. We deserve what we have and that’s all that matters. At the same time, we may feel a little guilty about it, because maybe we really don’t deserve it.
On the other hand, if we feel grateful for some useful or beautiful thing, our gratitude can extend to whoever helped create it, and to the resources used in its production. We may feel moved to find out more about the social and environmental costs of what we buy, and make purchases based on our deepest values rather than our ego needs.
Instead of having to defend against our vague feelings of guilt, we open our hearts to our fellow human beings and to the living Earth that supports us all.
Entitlement is based on the false belief in the separate self, or ego: “I deserve and maybe you don’t.” Seven billion-plus people in the world cannot all have the numerous gadgets and comforts that some of us enjoy in the industrialized world. But that doesn’t mean they are less deserving, or haven’t “earned it.”
Nor should we feel guilty to have what we have (unless we’ve acquired it by knowingly harming someone else). We are simply more fortunate; we have been privileged by the circumstances of our life situation.
Let’s be grateful for what we have and seek ways to share our good fortune with others. At the same time, let‘s seek ways to live more lightly and sustainably within Earth’s abundant web of life, according to our deepest values.

By Molly Brown If you are willing, try a little experiment. Say out loud to yourself, with as much conviction as you can muster, “I am entitled to ____,” filling in the blank with whatever comes to mind: your car, your house, or other significant possession. Notice how you feel as you say this, how your body responds. You might even find a particular posture that expresses how you feel about being entitled to something. Now, say out loud to yourself, again with sincerity, “I am grateful for ____,” and fill in the blank again – perhaps with the same thing you mentioned before. Notice how you feel as you say this rather different statement, how your body responds. What posture would express how you feel as you speak about your gratitude? When I speak about being entitled, I feel strong, self-contained, and a little defensive, as if I need to assert myself against anyone who might challenge my rights to my possessions. I imagine crossing my arms, and maybe frowning a bit. On the other hand, when I speak about being grateful, I feel myself soften, standing with open arms. I feel happy and connected to the world around me. So much of advertising today appeals to our sense of entitlement. An ad I saw in an airline magazine featured a beautiful, sophisticated woman holding a smart phone, with the text announcing, “You’ve earned it.” At the time, I thought to myself, “and the woman who cleans your office – she hasn’t earned it?” Ads want us to feel that we deserve, have earned, and are entitled to whatever product they are selling. And it no doubt works – but at what cost to our personal happiness? Would we not be better off feeling grateful for what we have, rather than grasping for more to prop up our sense of self-worth? When we feel entitled to something, we tend to ignore the costs of the object’s manufacture – to the environment or to the people working for slave wages in a distant impoverished country. We deserve what we have and that’s all that matters. At the same time, we may feel a little guilty about it, because maybe we really don’t deserve it. On the other hand, if we feel grateful for some useful or beautiful thing, our gratitude can extend to whoever helped create it, and to the resources used in its production. We may feel moved to find out more about the social and environmental costs of what we buy, and make purchases based on our deepest values rather than our ego needs. Instead of having to defend against our vague feelings of guilt, we open our hearts to our fellow human beings and to the living Earth that supports us all. Entitlement is based on the false belief in the separate self, or ego: “I deserve and maybe you don’t.” Seven billion-plus people in the world cannot all have the numerous gadgets and comforts that some of us enjoy in the industrialized world. But that doesn’t mean they are less deserving, or haven’t “earned it.” Nor should we feel guilty to have what we have (unless we’ve acquired it by knowingly harming someone else). We are simply more fortunate; we have been privileged by the circumstances of our life situation. Let’s be grateful for what we have and seek ways to share our good fortune with others. At the same time, let‘s seek ways to live more lightly and sustainably within Earth’s abundant web of life, according to our deepest values.