02/24/2013 06:45 pm ET Updated Apr 26, 2013

What Do We "Deserve"?

Again this morning I heard another commercial which claimed that I deserved something. It was a tax preparation company claiming that their product would help me get back all the money I deserved. This was not the first time somebody wanted to sell me something because "I deserved" it. I have heard vacations of a life time being pushed towards me because "I deserve it." I have been offered automobiles of outstanding excellence because "I deserve it." Some may remember the music, "you deserve a break today, so get up and get away."

Where did we get this impressive notion that we deserve anything? Teachers tell me that there students think that because they showed up and took the test, they deserve a good grade. It appears that many colleges and universities, especially the more selective ones, have a problem with students and parents who think they deserve great grades. If we are paying $40,000 a year tuition, then our child deserves to get all As seems to be the argument.

When did we start thinking that our mere existence on this earth entitled us to all of these benefits? What did we do to deserve these blessings? It seems like this attitude is showing up everywhere. The passengers on the crippled cruise ship are now suing the owners because "nobody deserves to have to be in those conditions." But what makes them special? Why do they deserve not to be in those conditions and people in Katrina were in those conditions, people in the Northeast are in those conditions after Sandy, and a billion people around the world live in those kind of conditions every day. Granted the passengers paid money for the trip, and expected something different and better, but the people in New Orleans and the Northeast had paid for their homes and their communities and expected something better of life. Stuff happens. How come the passengers "deserved" not to be subjected to life's unpleasant surprises?

Don't you have to do something to be able to claim that you deserve something? Isn't a pay check only given if you work? The people working hard at terrible jobs for minimum wages do have a right to argue they deserve a higher wage. They have earned it, but it is amazing how much some people are paid who do not deserve even minimum wages. They have harmed their companies and still get paid amazing salaries.

The idea that we are entitled, that we deserve what we get, that we deserve even more than what we have already has a horrible impact on our ability to be grateful and thankful for what we have been given. There is no way anyone in the developed world can claim to deserve the life he has and that those in the developing world deserve the kind of life they have. All we can do is say a thank you, to be humbled by the immense blessings we have been given, that we did not earn, and to enjoy what we have without the constant unpleasantness of thinking that we have been cheated or denied something we were supposed to be given. Just because we are alive does not mean we deserve anything. Lots of people in this country have been blessed by gifts, by opportunities, by help from others, by luck, by circumstances, and by timing. There is little place for this "deserve" attitude, and a much large place for "thank you, thank you thank you."