Entitlement is the belief that I am exempt from responsibility and I am owed special treatment. 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.
I (Dr. Townsend) need you to understand the concept of entitlement thoroughly, so that you can recognize it and help others get past it. It is not always easy to understand. Entitlement is not the person who has needs or struggles that she cannot deal with on her own. She is in need. Chronically ill individuals and disabled veterans often are in great need of help, and we need to help them. Entitlement is the person who is capable of taking care of himself and still expects others to do that for him, because he feels he is owed that. This includes the able-bodied adult child who continues to live with his parents, refusing to work, to contribute to the home’s upkeep, or even to clean up after himself. It can also include the worker who takes advantage of disability benefits after she has recovered.
There is a solution to entitlement, which I call the Hard Way. The Hard Way is the entitlement cure. It is a path of behaviors and attitudes that undo the negative effects of entitlement, whether in ourselves or in others.
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.
When you deem something worthwhile, be it a career or financial dream, a great family or marriage or some self-care goal, you have two ways to go about it. Entitlement directs you to give the minimum, find the shortcut, and think only of yourself. The Hard Way takes the opposite tack. 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.
Does that sound hard? Yes, it does, because yes, it is. It’s hard to wake up early in the morning and work out. It’s hard to get to work on time. It’s hard to spend hours a day inputting data when you are a creative person. It’s hard to think creatively when you are more linear. It’s hard to have difficult conversations, to face down tough challenges, and to do the same actions, over and over again, that are required to achieve success. As the saying goes, it’s called work for a reason. But it pays off, just as good sowing leads to good reaping.
Are you hearing biblical echoes in this language? That’s because this is a highly scriptural concept: “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it” (Matthew 7:13 – 14).
If you have a difficult relationship with an entitled person or group, or even if you have discovered entitlement in yourself, understand this: It doesn’t have to stay this way. The Hard Way principles work. I have used them in many, many situations and relationships. The steps are both practical and effective. If your entitled person has little interest in changing, then you of course can’t force them to change — but you will find help here to enable you to deal with the situation.
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: “Because the Sovereign Lord helps me, I will not be disgraced. Therefore have I set my face like f lint, and I know I will not be put to shame” (Isaiah 50:7). Setting his face like flint, Jesus faced a way harder than any of the rest of us have ever had to face and created a path for us all to be redeemed and to live.
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. You might even call it the righteous path, for it is the right and good way to live: “Thus you will walk in the ways of the good and keep to the paths of the righteous” (Proverbs 2:20). God’s ways will never fail you, even when they make you uncomfortable for a while.
Watch as Dr. John Townsend explains the “I deserve” mindset and how to counter it.