“What separates privilege from entitlement is gratitude.” The sage words of Brene Brown echo in my head during this week. The second week of November. A month that on cue has many of us wound up with Black Friday deals and holiday shopping.
If you’re reading this, you’ve likely had your share of privilege: a warm home (maybe more than one), close friends and family, plenty of food, not to mention the privilege of living in a free society with almost limitless opportunities for work, pleasure and intellectual/spiritual growth. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve inwardly (and probs outwardly) complained about delayed mail packages, my teeny condo, or some music I wasn’t particularly into. Instead of being grateful for the effort that someone put into shipping that out, the sheer luck to have a home, or the talent behind the music; I act as though I unconditionally deserve their efforts. And the more entitled I feel, the more my gratitude shrinks in proportion.
Gratitude is a “chosen attitude,” writes Author and UC Davis researcher, Dr. Robert Emmons. It’s the inverse of entitlement. And the difference between entitlement and privilege is recognition. The word “privilege” often invokes shame and that is not our intention here. It is simply for each of us to more fully recognize what might be available to us that is not available to everyone and out of that recognition and gratitude, to find ways in which we might use our privileges to benefit others and help improve our world.
This week we invite you to recognize your privileges. Notice how simply setting this intention impacts you. As you go through your day, consider the many gifts in your life which are not available to many others. These might include the ability to see, read, write, walk, or have access to running water, electricity, the internet, transportation, a safe space to call home. Notice the opportunities that these gifts allow you.
Practising gratitude isn’t about fixating on perfection. It gives us the opportunity to see inherent goodness. Seeing the goodness in each other and our lives helps us cope with the injustices that we see too. Seeing the injustices helps us create new systems that create opportunities for healing. Communities that are healing lead to individuals that are healing. Where there is healing, there’s less judgment, less hatred, less division, less systemic oppression. Where there is healing, there’s more opportunity and space to be truly grateful. And isn’t that the goal of a gratitude practice in the first place?