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Can a Sense of Entitlement be a Good Thing?

Updated on June 11, 2016

What Does it Mean to be Entitled?

Setting aside the obvious generational divide this word invokes, and without an exhaustive debate about differences in economic opportunity, access to capital and education, work ethic, use of technology, and so on…, let efforts be focused, first, on the basics: What does it actually mean to be "entitled?"

To Be "Deserving" of Something, The Prerequisites: #'s 1 & 2

When we say someone is entitled, we often imply that they are erroneously under the impression that they deserve something, In other words, it is generally agreed upon that an individual may only assert a claim or right to something if and when that person has satisfied a set of conditions. When they've earned it, in a sense. These conditions, or prerequisites, typically have something to do with:

  • A person's actions
  • A person's individual attributes/qualities


Apart From Our Own Actions and Abilities, Can Circumstances Outside of Our Control Determine Whether we Deserve Something?

What About Another Alternative: Prerequisite #3?

Buried within this analysis, lies an important, and controversial, third condition that may also allow for an assertion or claim to something:

  • A person's situation

In other words, some individuals may, even if subtly and inadvertently, be seen as deserving of something simply due to the fortunate circumstances under which that person is born and lives. Such factors are often beyond their immediate control, and have nothing to do with their own actions or abilities.

But How Can We "Deserve" Something Simply for Being Lucky?

Circumstances alone can dictate one's ultimate claim to certain rights. For example, just finding ourselves in the situation of being born a human being affords us certain special privileges not worthy of other living creatures. Thankfully, and through no fault of our own, the society we live in today has determined that human beings, without having even taken their first breath, deserve a certain level of treatment, even upon penalty of imprisonment. Other living creatures are not entitled to such birthright advantages in the world we live in today.

In fact, many, more specific, entitlements have been afforded to individuals simply due to a subset of characteristics they have (e.g. race, gender, age, height, weight etc...).. These also came about by random chance, having nothing to do with that person's individual efforts. Indeed, being situated in a certain body, in a certain time, in a certain place, may have meant that the color of your skin might dictate which rights society deemed you worthy of. Your age might dictate whether you deserve to work, what type of assisted health care you are entitled to, or even how much you pay to go see a movie as opposed to others. Even your sexual anatomy might likely determine something as basic as what role in society you deserve to take part in, or maybe even what salary you are entitled to.

Of course, in a general sense, it is well understood that being deemed worthy of either a reward or punishment is based largely upon our own actions. But it is indisputable that human societies have, many times over, bestowed certain entitlements upon select members for having done nothing but be born in the right place at the right time.

During the course of your lifetime, have you benefited from any circumstances beyond your control?

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Is Having a Sense of Entitlement Always a Bad Thing?

The idea that certain individuals are entitled, by birth, to specific rights over others not similarly situated has certainly led to some disastrous consequences historically. The net effects of which are still lingering today. But knowing this, and understanding what it takes to overcome such hurdles, shouldn't a broader sense of entitlement, viewed through lenses of compassion and understanding, be viewed as a good thing?

Shouldn't the feeling that the unlucky among us deserve more... be encouraged?

If there are those of us who are seemingly entitled by birth to receive decent healthcare, access to education, job opportunities, etc..., are not we all deserving of the same, if not the belief that we are?

Why Not Empower the Unlucky With a Sense of Entitlement?

Is it so brazen for the downtrodden among us, those individuals not so similarly situated as ourselves, to believe in good faith that they are as inherently deserving of the same special treatment as any other advantaged human being on earth?

Is not such a belief the very driving force behind all human progress?

Is their assertion of right really the type of claim or sense of entitlement we should be focusing our collective efforts on suppressing?

Or are we safeguarding something else?

What Type of Life do We All Deserve?

If you are in the majority, and perhaps find it difficult to believe there are individuals deserving of either a reward or punishment based entirely upon circumstances beyond their control, or simply cannot understand why some human beings not so similarly situated have a sense of entitlement towards the society in which they live, think about the actions you have taken to ensure your spot in line. What specific qualities do you have that have enabled you to assert a unique claim to the life you enjoy now?

These achievements should not go without merit. But ​to what degree have circumstances beyond your immediate control played a role in your ability to showcase your talents to the world?

  • ​What if things turned out differently?

Would you not feel a sense of self-worth inside you still? Would you not feel just as deserving of those who were afforded a certain ease of opportunity you perhaps were not?

Which Factor Has Played the Greatest Role in Affording you a Claim of Entitlement?

© 2016 Jeffrey


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