Gratitude overcomes the darkness of entitlement

At a department store this week, my six-year-old son threw himself a two-minute pity party when I wouldn’t buy him the latest $39 fad toy he’d seen advertised on Cartoon Network.

“But Dad,” he implored, “I really really really want it.”

“Put it on your Christmas list,” I advised, glancing in the cart and mentally noting how my MasterCard was already getting a hefty workout that night paying for two pairs of children’s shoes, a pair of size 2 boots and winter clothes.

“You never buy me anything,” he sulked. I just rolled my eyes thinking of the bins, boxes, shelves, nooks and closets all around our house that hold (on good days, barely) all his toys. As a single dad of two who does 98 percent of the cleaning, I’ve learned that keeping our place tidy takes more effort in toy management than dust management. It’s true!

In his insatiable appetite for new toys, my son displayed an attitude that seems epidemic in our culture – that the mountains of stuff he already owns mean nothing in the face of the new toys he wants. One can forgive such childish thoughts coming from, well, a six-year-old boy, but among grown-ups the entitlement mentality is pretty sad.

Child psychologist Susan DeMersseman writes in The Christian Science Monitor about how she helps parents instill gratitude in children. “The most important is simply being an example of appreciation for the things in our own lives,” she writes. “It can rub off. The source of gratitude can be anything – the sight of glowing cumulus clouds, our warm home, or a nice meal.”

It sounds like a good technique to help us grown-ups, too. When we take stock of what we have, we allow our gratitude to vanquish our childish sense of entitlement the way a candle conquers the darkness.

Copyright (c) 2004, the Rev. Rob Blezard. All rights reserved.

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© Copyright 2004, the Rev. Rob Blezard. Reprinted by permission.
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