There is confusion around the word “entitlement.” Most frequently it is used in reference to government assistance programs. But occasionally it crosses a line and presumes itself interchangeable with another word—“right” as used in our nation’s founding documents. Entitlement is statutory eligibility for a benefit under some title of law. In contrast, one has rights by virtue of one’s humanity, considered God-given by our forefathers and not to be infringed, but protected by our government.

When government commitments outstrip government means, there is some treacherous ground to be negotiated. Sometimes a choice is made between provision of entitlements and preservation of rights. Endeavor to provide for the common good (social welfare) may come at the expense of rights and civil liberties—a thorny issue our nation now grapples with in several regards. Reality (consequences) will eventually resolve what we cannot come to terms with ideologically.

Meanwhile the sense of entitlement that pervades our world view eradicates grace and does us subtle harm. It separates us and erodes our experience of appreciation. Neither government nor God need our gratitude, but to be fully human and in right relationship, we need to feel grateful for one another. Greater discernment about what is ours by right and what is ours by provision of others would improve dialog and promote happiness.

“Feeling grateful to or appreciative of someone or something in your life actually attracts more of the things that you appreciate and value into your life.”

— Christiane Northrup, M.d.