This article has been read and shared over a million times. Most readers have gleaned its essential message and agreed with it. Less often, I’ve received criticism of the article and even of me personally. This has never bothered me as I expect and respect differing opinions and views.
I wrote this article nearly a decade ago. The world, as I perceived it, was dramatically different. My views have evolved as has my focus. The original article was targeted at superficial, petulant, and narcissistic young Americans who take more from life and others than they give and audaciously lament that they are entitled to more. I have no desire to write for or about them anymore.
These days I am focused on the multitudes of people here and around the world who are entitled to and deprived of decency, equality, and personal safety.
Today, I would rewrite the last paragraph to read:
Life doesn’t owe you anything. Count your blessings. It doesn’t owe you perfect or even good parents, but you deserved them. Life doesn’t owe you health, happiness, abundance, success, comfort, or immunity from pain and problems, but you’re worthy of them. It doesn’t owe you a job, a house, a bed, or a single meal, but those who can help bear a responsibility to do so. No one owes you kindness, love, recognition, empathy, apologies, or understanding, but I wish they’d give them to you. Your family owes you nothing, and I hope they fill you with love. Your government owes you decency, equality, and safety, and we must pull together to bring this to reality for all people.
The Original Article
We live in a culture that barrages us with images of a life that all smart, attractive, successful, or otherwise good people are entitled to live. It’s a life of wealth, great sex, physical beauty, perfect careers, adoring relationships, great health, abundant comfort and lots of blissful photos online to prove it. Because of this entitlement runs rampant.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with having any or all of these things, and I’ve devoted a great deal of my life to creating them for myself and helping others do the same. The problem isn’t in the things, it’s in our sense that life owes them to us and that there’s something wrong if we don’t have them all and just the way we want.
Life doesn’t owe anyone anything. Most adults, and the overwhelming majority of today’s children and teens, feel entitled to having everything they’re taught to want. As a result, when they have a bad experience, lose a person or possession they value, fail to get the award, gift, or position, or even just have to do something less than fun, they feel slighted—victimized by life. They compare themselves to others who haven’t had, or aren’t having, the same negative experiences (ignorant of the possibility that other’s experiences might be worse) and blame life for being so unfair with them. Because of this anger and a poor-me pity-party ensues, and the structure for a miserable existence is reinforced. It repeats without end. As a result the victim persona is strengthened and validated.
Life doesn’t owe you anything. It doesn’t owe you perfect or even good parents. Life doesn’t owe you health, happiness, abundance, success, comfort, or immunity from pain and problems. It doesn’t owe you a job, a house, a bed, or a single meal. No one owes you kindness, love, recognition, empathy, apologies, or understanding. You aren’t entitled to a single thing. Your family owes you nothing. Your government owes you nothing. No one owes you anything at all.
Ouch, right? I know, it stings.
I’ve had people blow up at me for saying less (they shouldn’t have asked me).
In all truth lies a treasure. The gift in acknowledging and accepting that life owes you nothing is that you realize that every single thing you have is a blessing. Life owes you nothing, and yet look at all you’ve been given. Blessings rain upon you at every moment.
The bed you sleep in, the shoes you walk in, the spoon you eat from, the people/pets who adore you, the money you receive, the beauty you glimpse, the sweetness that sways your heart—all blessings.
Your life is overflowing with treasures. There is not enough time in a day to count them all, but count at least 10 of them each day. Recognize the truth about your existence. Above all your cup is not 1/2 empty, it’s overflowing and you weren’t entitled to have anything inside of it.
Teaching this to my children is one of my proudest acts as a mother. I know that this correction of perception will serve and propel them forward throughout their lives.
It will do this for you, too.
So, do you still like me?
It’s a blessing upon me, if you do.