Entitlement (the sense of) and ingratitude are so prevalent today. Connected to these is discontentment—never satisfied with what one has, the continuous of always wanting more. Such selfish thinking and attitudes come with a costly price, however.
First, these erode one’s happiness. How can a person be happy if he is always upset about what he does not have, but not truly appreciative of what he does have? How can he be happy if he is always cuddling a grudge because someone has what he wants but does not, or cannot, have?
Second, peace is eroded. Like a person with OCD, one cannot enjoy the beauty of a painting because there are scratches on the frame. One cannot enjoy a delicious meal because a family member’s hair is found on his plate.
Third, one’s perception of others—and even life itself—is distorted. Seeing the specks in others’ eyes, a person fails to see the big oak tree in their own eye. Those who “have” are viewed as selfish and bad, all the while an individual is oblivious to their own selfishness and the toxicity of their covetousness.
I have had the opportunity to go to Uganda, Africa twice for mission trips. On my first trip our team visited a refugee camp. It was heartbreaking as we saw all these people who were malnourished. Many of them, like the young boy we met, had family who were killed by “rebel soldiers” from Sudan. This boy witnessed some horrible things, traveled by himself day and night, and was now in a “safe” place, but did not have a home, food, education, video games, phone, etc. Nevertheless, he did not have an angry or bitter spirit.
On both trips we met people who did not have much. In fact, we met some who only had beans and rice to eat—and that was on a good day! Many did not have the luxury of having a house (many still live in huts), variety of nice clothes, or glasses to see better. There is not a Target or Walmart where they can buy food and supplies, nor do they have a sterile hospital to go in case of an emergency. Yes, these people would like to have some of these; nevertheless, they are a delightful and hospitable people.
It is strange to see the unhappiness and anger in so many people in America who have so much. One might have a roof over their head in a safe neighborhood, but it is not one of the “nice” ones on the other side of town. One has a good variety of food to eat each day, but it is not Red Lobster. One has nice clothes from a department store, but they are not designer brands. And on and on it goes. Instead of gratitude there is griping. Instead of appreciation, there is anger. Instead of being content there is contempt. Thus, those who have are viewed as “bad” because they have, regardless of the work or sacrifices they made to get to where they are and what they have.
Gratitude is a choice, and it will play a huge part in one’s happiness and peace. No, it will not cure every ill or fulfill every need; however, it will help one’s perception, and it will help establish a foundation for contentment and hope. Is life fair? No. But it is not as bad as many make it out to be. For sure, there are people who have far more than many of us; yet, many of us still have far more than others.
Jesus asks, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?” ~ Matthew 16:26 (ESV)
Paul writes to Timothy, “For we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.” ~ 1 Timothy 6:7-9
Elsewhere we are told, “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’” ~ Hebrews 13:5
If one’s focus is on everything that he does not have or what is bad, he will miss out on what he has and what is good. If one feels entitled to things, he is going to be upset when others tell him they do not owe him anything.
What about you? No, life will not always go your way, and you will experience bumps and bruises along the journey. But do you have friends and family who love you? Do you have clean water and food to eat? Do you have a home where you are safe and warm? Can you read and write? Are you in good health and in your right mind? If you can say yes to these, you have more than you realize, and still much more than many. Be grateful. Be content. Do not allow ingratitude and discontentment to suck the joy, peace, and happiness from your life.