GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (Christian Examiner) – Author and psychologist John Townsend met with the parents of a 25-year-old son who was still living at home without a job. He quickly deduced that the young man, who did not contribute to household chores and resented his parents' expectations and ambitions for him, was suffering the cultural disease of entitlement.
The Entitlement Cure, released Oct. 6, helps people who care about relationships understand the entitlement in themselves, family, friends, and coworkers and equips them with principles to combat it.
Townsend, founder of the Townsend Institute of Leadership and Counseling and the Townsend Leadership Program, defines entitlement as "the belief that I am exempt from responsibility and I am owed special treatment."
Townsend writes that entitlement is not bound by age, gender, race, class, or religion and is different from the "pocket entitlement" that everyone feels from time to time about specific things.
The type of entitlement that he calls a disease is more serious and affects the worldview and relationships of those who are in its thrall. "Entitlement is: The man who thinks he is above all the rules. The woman who feels mistreated and needs others to make it up to her," Townsend warns.
"In short, entitlement has become a serious problem in our society, and it's not getting better. It is impossible to calculate its cost in lack of company productivity, family success, relational love, emotional health, and spiritual vibrancy. Our world suffers greatly from a culture that supports entitlement."
THE HARD WAY
While giving workplace counseling to a manager of an unproductive team, Townsend encountered entitlement in the leader who thought she should not have to do anything more than using the relational skills that were her strength. She thought she deserved recognition from the company simply because she was a good person.
The author of 27 books, Townsend offers a simple but challenging cure for entitlement that people who have become aware they are entitled or people who have a relationship with an entitled person can implement.
He calls it the Hard Way.
"The Hard Way is the entitlement cure," Townsend writes. "It is a path of behaviors and attitudes that undo the negative effects of entitlement, whether in ourselves or in others."
The Hard Way involves accepting responsibility and acting with humility.
Townsend counsels his readers that making behavioral changes can cure entitlement in anyone. "Here's my definition of the Hard Way: The habit of doing what is best, rather than what is comfortable, to achieve a worthwhile outcome."
The leadership expert blends psychological research, biblical research, and his extensive counseling experience in teaching his readers how to respond appropriately to entitled behavior.
He says the Hard Way is founded in biblical principles. It is "a highly scriptural concept," he writes, citing Jesus' words about the narrow gate in Matthew 7:13-14.
RESPONDING TO ENTITLEMENT
People dealing with entitled loved ones can feel angry, frustrated, or hopeless. Townsend particularly addresses the hurt and concern of his readers who might be struggling with maintaining a healthy relationship with an entitled person.
He urges them to let go of their irritation or anger.
"Don't let this attitude get the best of you." he says. "Instead, 'Do not fret because of those who are evil or be envious of those who do wrong' (Psalm 37:1). The principles in this book will help you feel more empowered, more hopeful, and even more patient."
One way to help entitled people is to give appropriate praise when they make good choices. Contrary to expectations, those with the entitlement disease may not have a healthy opinion of themselves, so positive reinforcement when they choose the Hard Way can be meaningful and appreciated.
"Don't forget compassion," Townsend reminds those affected by others' entitlement. "Have you failed to offer compassion to the entitled individuals in your life and sphere of influence? If so, ask God to help you maintain wise and reasonable limits but at the same time remember that their attitude is not wholly of their own choice."
The Entitlement Cure reminds Christians in a culture that rewards the easy way that relationships are worth the Hard Way.
The first two chapters of the book are available free on the Zondervan website.