Be grateful, not entitled.

Entitlement. Feeling worthy. I think of both ideas often. Of course we all (admit it, you do) judge others when we look at choices they make and think “well, they sure act entitled.” Maybe they are and should feel that way. We most likely judge because we think maybe we are not worthy of what they received. “Why did they get so lucky? How did I not?” Assumptions are made by many that someone is or is not deserving of getting things, especially if they think they did not have to work for them.

Just like my dad used to always tell me: “Money does not grow on trees.” He was right, and I think the same about entitlement. Most things in life are not easy. Most things require work. Often we see people take the easy way out, and then take credit for it. You know it has happened to you. A colleague I worked with a few years ago mentioned a project he worked on recently with another individual — she did nothing to help him on the project and took all the credit. What made her do that? Did she feel entitled to do so?

Seth Godin recently posted a blog on entitlement and worthiness that resonated with me. I love this idea:

“When you receive something you feel entitled to, something expected, that you believe you’ve earned, it’s not worth much. And when you don’t receive it, you’re furious. After all, it’s yours. Already yours. And you didn’t get it. Whether you’re wearing a hobo costume or showing up as a surgeon after years of medical school, entitlement guarantees that you won’t get what you need.”

He has a good point. We need to do work that we care about and feel worthy regardless of whether we get what we expect and regardless of whether others get what we think is everything without having to work for it. And…you know what? Sometimes life is not fair.

I want to teach my son that you have to work for things in life. When they are given to you, be grateful, but not entitled. Know when something is earned from your hard work and when something is handed to you. Do not take anything for granted.

I grew up poor and I appreciate it now.

I have a different perspective on life than some. For those of you that have met me in the last few years, you might have seen material possessions and made certain assumptions about my “financial” life. Chris and I are minimalists, and we select each and every purchase we make with care. We want to love each item, we want it to have a purpose, and it be something that inspires us (whether from its beauty, or how it fits together with everything else).

I did not always have the option to be so selective… or selective at all. Chris and I have worked very hard for each thing we have brought into our lives, whether it meant saving for something for years or just deciding to not have something until we could afford what we really wanted. I can remember when we first moved to Portland we did not have the money to buy furniture. Chris was looking for a job and the work I was doing was just paying our rent. We could have gone to Goodwill, or looked for something used on Craigslist, instead we purchased inflatable chairs (yes, you read that right). We used them until a family visiting us in the winter got them to close to our heat vent and bye-bye went the chairs. We finally decided to purchase a couch, but even then it was the one we felt was the most “us” and within the means we had at the time.

How did we become so frugal and so aware of our choices? I grew up poor. I watched my parents struggle to have enough cash to put food on the table. It was before credit cards (and even when they did exist my parents did not have the credit to have their own credit cards). What did you do to survive without credit cards? You had to be able to have enough liquid cash in the bank, or put things on layaway. My mom started Christmas shopping for the few items we did receive (which got smaller and smaller as we got older) in July. She would purchase the items and put them on layaway until they were paid off. The hard part? You cannot purchase food on a layaway plan. You cannot pay the electric or water bills via layaway.

Growing up poor taught me to focus on what matters and what is important and once that is handled you can then think about the perks and pleasures. Until then, we should not be splurging and spending when we do not have the means to handle the necessities. I often wonder what individuals would do these days with out access to credit cards. Imagine living for one year paying with what you have in the bank — no plastic. Everything is paid off each month, or paid up front with cash. What percentage of our country could do it?

Overall, being poor taught me to appreciate everything I have, to remember what it takes to keep it, and how easy it is to make bad choices and live way beyond our means. The funny thing is, even though we have been so selective and love everything we have, if it all disappeared today we’d be just fine without it. We’d just start over tomorrow. Together.

Do you have it all?

Recently I read this Daily Om titled: “Having It Easy.” It made me think — how often have I thought about people in my life that from the outside look to have it easy? This idea made me think:

“Some people’s lives seem to magically fall into place. We can see the blessings they have received, the ease with which they have attained their desires, their unwavering confidence, and their wealth. But, because we can never see the story of their lives as a whole, it is important that we refrain from passing judgment or becoming envious.”

I wonder at times, do I judge others? Do I wish to have what they have? Maybe my perception of their world is actually completely off. I ultimately am not walking in their shoes so I have no idea what it takes to live their life. I have no idea how easy or hard things are for them. They might have been through hell and back. Loss, health challenges, relationship issues, the list can go on. From the outside they might look like they have it all, but maybe what we really see is the confidence they exude based on all the curve balls they have caught.

I think about it in my own life. Chris and I have worked very hard for what we have and we still continue to work hard. Sometimes I wonder what others think (even if it does not really matter what they think). Everything is relative. I can look at a friend and be in awe of their confidence, and yet they might feel not the slightest bit confident. I can think that someone is wealthy by looking at the car they drive, their house, or other possessions, and yet maybe they cannot afford it. Appearances are interesting. They lead to assumptions, and often assumptions are wrong.

This was a reminder to me to not judge others and rather think about the bigger picture. We all have everything we need. We have blessings, confidence, and wealth. Rather than judge others look at their story, and be grateful for your own unique story too.