The Cure for the Entitlement Disease: The Hard Way Principles
(Bald eagle in a tree near our house)
Psychologist John Townsend's The Entitlement Cure is a helpful read. It's guiding me to look closely at areas of "pocket entitlement" that I have. It's giving insights to help others who have pocket entitlement, and even global entitlement. Here are some things about the entitlement disease. "Entitlement directs us to judge God for how the world works, for the bad things that happen to us that we don’t understand, and for things that didn’t happen that we desired. Entitlement says, “My way of looking at life is beyond his,” because entitlement creates a deep sense of being special and above it all." (50) "Entitlement goes deeper than a person thinking, It’s okay if I want to be lazy because someone else will bear my burdens, or I’m so special that the rules don’t apply to me. In fact, entitlement goes so deep that it rejects the very foundations on which God constructed the universe. At its heart, entitlement is a rejection of reality itself." (51) "Ever since Eden, we humans want to be like God, with all his privileges and power, and — the very definition of entitlement — we feel it is our right. Entitlement infects our brains with the notion, I have a right to more and better; in fact, I am owed that." (52) All this is unreality. Townsend says that God's principles lie at the core of reality. The more you experience and follow them, the better life becomes for you and those in your life. Townsend calls this "the hard way." The "Hard Way" Principles are: 1. Humility and Dependence - We Are Completely Dependent on God. "Humility is simply accepting the reality of who God is and who you are. When you see the reality of his power, his love, and his care, you more easily see yourself as who you are: a loved creature, a special creature, an important creature, but a creature nonetheless. Dependence means you look to him for your sustenance, for every breath you take." (54) Entitlement, however "tells you to be your own boss and determine your own destiny. Entitlement teaches you to say, "You're not the boss of me!" It implies that you can be and do anything you want, demand of the others around you anything you want, and that it’s lame to depend on anyone." (55) 2. Connectedness - We Are Designed to Live in Connectedness with Each Other. "We live in a relational world and a relational culture, summarized by Jesus’ teaching: “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you” (John 15: 12). Love comes from him, and we are to love not only him but each other." (56) The entitlement mentality subverts healthy relationships and community in two ways. First, entitlement objectifies. "When one person treats another as a need-meeting object or as a dispenser of some desired commodity, that is objectification. People objectify each other sexually. A good listener may be sought out for her ability, but who remembers to ask how she’s doing?" (56) "The self-absorbed attitude of entitlement makes it difficult to see people as having needs, feelings, and lives of their own. Forget “walk a mile in my shoes” — entitled individuals can only envision the lives of others as an extension of their own. They can’t enter fully into the experience of the other individual." (58) Second, entitlement creates unhealthy self-sufficiency. This is the idea that I don't need others to sustain and support me. "Entitlement is anti-need; it will cut you off from the supplies that your life requires to carry on." (59) "If connectedness is the fuel of life, then entitlement results in an empty tank for the entitled person. And that causes breakdowns in relationships, love, career, self-care, and spirituality." (59) 3. Ownership - We Have to Take Responsibility for Our Own Choices. Entitlement builds a huge obstacle to healthy ownership, in two ways: low ownership and externalization. "Low ownership: Individuals who don’t take ownership of their lives sometimes live as if their actions have no consequences. They tend not to see beyond the present; their concern is for what they need and desire right now. They’re surprised when they lose jobs or relationships. Most of us are aware of the basic principle that “If you sow X, then X is what you will reap,” but not the entitled person." (60) "Externalization: People with an attitude of entitlement often project the responsibility of their choices on the outside, not the inside. The fault lies with other people, circumstances, or events. They blame others for every problem. Their entitlement prohibits them from taking the beam out of their eye and asking the all-important question: How did I contribute to this latest problem? Instead, they default to answers outside their skin. The result? They tend to be powerless and unhappy. They tend to see life through the eyes of a victim. And their suffering is unproductive — it doesn’t get them anywhere." (61) "Blame," writes Townsend, "is a first cousin to entitlement." Blame is a life-killer. 4. Accepting the Negative - Your Flaws Can't Be Forgiven and Healed Until You Admit Them. "God made a way through Christ so that we could live with the negative as it truly is, without denying it or minimizing it. In a relationship with Christ, we feel permission to be who we truly are, warts and all. We don’t have to hide, pretend, or put our best face forward. We are known and loved just as we are by the one who matters most. This enables us to love others the same way. The result of acknowledging and accepting the negative is that the negative then can be transformed. When you are okay knowing your failings, you can face them, bring them to God and to the people with whom you feel safe being vulnerable, and heal whatever is driving those feelings. This is the key to great growth. It’s a paradox, but the ones who run from the negative will suffer from it, while the ones who accept the negative will find the power to change it." (63) Entitlement drives you away from admitting your flaws. The entitled attitude has three directions that destroy the "It Is Well With My Soul" life. They are:
Denial. "The person in denial simply turns her back on reality. She refuses to admit her flaws to herself or anyone else, which eliminates any possibility of deep and satisfying relationships."
Perfectionism. "The person caught in perfectionism beats himself up for failures, minor or major. His standard for performance is perfection, and he offers himself little grace when he stumbles. He constantly scrutinizes and condemns himself, and never makes it to a point of self-acceptance."
Narcissism. "The narcissistic person adopts a grandiose view of himself that hides his flaws, which usually lie buried under deep shame and envy. He is so afraid to see himself as he really is that he reacts in the opposite direction, toward the “I’m special” stance, in which he becomes arrogant and selfish and has difficulty feeling empathy for others."
5. Finding Our Role - To Live Long and Contentedly Find Your Purpose in Life and Fulfill It.
"Finding your role means that you are giving back to the world over time in a sustained and steady way, and this attitude actually contributes to your living longer. Research indicates that the number one factor in longevity is not social relationships or happiness, but conscientiousness, described as persistence, dependability, and organization." (66)
Entitlement block this in two ways.
Entitlement limits the person's goals. "One of the most limiting ideas of entitlement thinking is that the end goal of life is happiness: “I just want to be happy, that’s all.” Entitlement says that the highest good is to be a happy person — but in fact, that is one of the worst endgame goals we can have. People who have happiness as their goal get locked into the pain/ pleasure motivation cycle. They never do what causes them pain, but always do what brings them pleasure. This puts us on the same thinking level as a child..." (66)
Entitlement limits the individual's growth. Entitlement freezes development. "It keeps us from growing, learning, challenging ourselves, or trying new things. It whispers to us, “That sounds really hard and it doesn’t look like it’s worth it.” When we listen to this voice, something inside us goes to sleep. We might become couch potatoes, video addicts, chronic partiers, or simply get in a rut and routine that becomes boring and deadening."