Lately, I have heard a lot of talk around people saying they feel guilty for their “privilege.” By privilege, they mean the life advantages they did not earn but that came as a result of skin color or birthplace or age or gender or sexuality.
People eat good meals and then say, “I’m just feeling bad because I know not everyone can have this.” People plan vacations and then say, “Gosh, maybe I shouldn’t even go on vacation since not everyone else can.”
It is surely good to be aware of the privilege and unearned advantages we have in the world.
But the point of examining our privilege is not to hide it or make ourselves miserable by denying it or to give lip service to feeling guilty about it. None of that helps–not the world and not our own feelings of guilt. In fact, forcing our privilege underground may instead help protect the system that creates unfair privilege in the first place.
The real point of becoming aware of our privilege is to use the awareness to see and change the unfair systems that created it in the first place. If we really understand our privilege, then we will want to use and share the power it gives us to undo those systems.
If you use your privilege in that way–to help change that systems–then your privilege is not just your privilege. You will have transformed it into our privilege. That is called making your good fortune the world’s good fortune (which, by the way, is your even better good fortune).
And when you do that, you will soon find you don’t feel guilty anymore.
PS Part of my work involves helping people figure out how to use their position in the world to help change it for the better. If you are struggling to figure out how you can use your privilege in the way I talk about here, please feel free to contact me.