Ingratitude robs us of joy, so we must be on guard against developing a sense of entitlement.
If gratitude is so vital, why isn’t everybody doing it? Well, that’s because it is both a skill and a feeling. It is a choice and a reaction. Several common obstacles may water down your capability to appreciate your blessings to the fullest. Any of these can leave you feeling deficient. But, when you are alert to these gratitude blockages, you can minimize their influence so they will not obstruct your potential for joy. One of the worst, if not the worst of all, is what I call “The Owe-Me Attitude.”
This is the relatively modern notion that someone or some group owes us; that we deserve something from others. With this mentality, even if we receive something, it’s not a gift but a right. This attitude dissolves gratitude on the spot. Nothing is quite so powerful and so quickly destructive to your potential for joy, as the attitude of entitlement, or the “culture of complaint,” as some have labeled it.
Moaners and whiners surround us, and they often seem to be competing to see who has the worst grievance against society or who can be the most offended. Though we may laugh at this dynamic or try to distance ourselves from it, it is rubbing off on far too many unprotected people and infecting upcoming generations. Those who consume without contributing to society develop a deep sense of emptiness, which suspends the emotion of gratitude indefinitely.
Closely related to entitlement, but typically on a more interpersonal level, is what I call the Law of Familiarity. This simply means that the longer you’ve been exposed to a particular blessing in your life, the more likely you are to take it for granted. You begin to feel entitled to it rather than being grateful for it.
To maximize your potential for joy, you must go out of your way to make sure you are not taking for granted the wonderful relationships and other blessings in your life. Remember, gratitude expands joy, and entitlement shrinks it.