Book Reflections: “The Entitlement Cure” (ch.1)

The Entitlement Cure: Finding Success in Doing Hard Things the Right Way
by John Townsend

entitlement cure

entitlement cure

Chapter 1: The Disease has a cure

The Entitlement Cure, by Dr. John Townsend, aims at tackling a pervasive issue in our culture that affects families, companies, and communities.  He begins by sharing two stories:  a 25-year old who lives at home, plays video games all day with his friends, quit school, and got let go from every minimum wage job he worked at.  He feels like he has it made at home and why should he leave!  If his parents stop nagging him, then all would be perfect.  Besides, he feels like they owe him because he’s their son.  The parents are hardworking and responsible.  Yet they feel helpless and angry over the situation.

The second story is of a sales manager who is energetic and extroverted.  She gets along with everyone.  But she is not performing and meeting her numbers.  At first, she tries blaming management for not having enough staff or setting clear expectations.  But that’s not the case.  Her relational ability is affirmed but the problem is that she thinks that’s enough.  She thinks it’s enough to be nice and caring without meeting number.  In fact, she feels under-appreciated for how nice she is and feels like she deserves more appreciation for how nice she is.  

Some Definitions Townsend Offers:  Entitlement is…

  • individuals choosing to do life the way they want to without engaging in hard or difficult situations
  • believing that one is exempt from any responsibility; deserving and being owed appreciation with special treatment because, after all, they’re special; they feel like they’re beyond the rules of life; easily blaming others for their own lack of success.
  • the person who has the ability to take care of themselves but refuses to because they feel owed; they expect others to care for them.

Entitlement Examples

  • the person whose poor job performance is poor but feels that the company owes her a great paycheck without doing the hard work
  • the young man living at home, not contributing to the household, playing video games all day long
  • the employee who blames everyone else for their lack of performance when, in fact, management has given them all the tools they need
  • the spouse who blames their partner for his lack of happiness, although she is working hard at the marriage
  • the manager who expects results from his team without investing time and energy developing them

Entitlement Characteristics

  • an attitude of being special or of exceptional value above others
  • an attitude of feeling owed or deserving without any true merit
  • a refusal to accept responsibility
  • a denial of their impact on others – they don’t believe their (in)actions affect their employer, family, or spouse

“People’s life experience may influence them toward entitlement.  But they don’t create entitlement.”  p.22

“At some point in life, people choose entitlement.  They direct themselves toward an entitled viewpoint…because it’s the easy way.” p.22

Most people who have “entitlers” in their lives experience the following three emotions (p.24):

  1. alienation:  the entitled person’s attitude and behavior push everyone away.  As a result, a parent will feel alienated and disconnected from the entitled son/daughter.
  2. Anger:  people feel angry because of the way the entitled person behaves.  There is a lack of regard for others by the entitler.  
  3. helplessness:  a parent might speak to their son/daughter about responsibility only to hit a dead end.  The parent begins to feel helpless, like there’s nothing that they can do.

Pocket Entitlement:  All of us struggle with some form of entitlement.  It’s part of the human condition.  We must look at our own deficiencies and inner struggles for being owed or deserving.

The Solution to Entitlement

  • Townsend calls it the “Hard Way:  The habit of doing what is best, rather than what is comfortable, to achieve a worthwhile outcome” (p.26)
  • “This habit focuses on doing whatever is best to reach the good goal, even if it is difficult, uncomfortable, takes longer, and requires more energy.” p.26
  • Hard work pays off
  • “God originated the Hard Way, and he lives it.  All through the Bible, he does the best thing, even if it is a difficult thing.  He never avoids it.  The best example of this is Jesus, who suffered and died for no other reason than his love for a world that didn’t want him (see Is. 50:7)…Ultimately, the Hard Way is simply God’s Way.  It is how he runs the world, expresses his own values, and makes choices that affect us.”  p.27

Personal Reflections

  • How did our culture create such a deep-rooted entitlement attitude/behavior?  Any factors that contributed to this?
  • Theologically, what does this say about submitting to the Lordship of Christ?  Has the church too contributed to a lack of hard “spiritual work ethic” so that everything is by “grace”?  
  • How can companies implement a “hard work” ethic culture and develop this virtue traits?

The hope is that we become people who take responsibility for our own lives and model it through hard work and commitment.  I simply can’t get away from what one executive told me one day:  “Everyone must grapple with the theme of submission”.  I think our culture doesn’t like to submit to anyone or anything.  And yet it is what Jesus modeled as He submits to the Father (and the cross).

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