The Cure for the Disease of Entitlement

The Entitlement CureEntitlement 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.


Taken from The Entitlement Cure by Dr. John Townsend. Learn more about this groundbreaking book.

Watch as Dr. John Townsend explains the “I deserve” mindset and how to counter it.

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  1. Pamela Leduc says

    I am using my knowledge from the book Boundaries to deal with an errant Nephew, and a sister who enables it. They both need Jesus, though my sister claims to have Him . Firm guidelines. Tough love is needed. I had to set healthy boundaries for myself or I would be very resentful. It does not go over well. I have lowered my standards regarding mess around here. So far for the most part, he respects my boundaries, but it is a never ending battle. I am alone in trying to change things. And very weary. Smile. Praise the Lord He gives me strength. I don’t know much about computers and do not know how to download. It’s a shared computer anyway. Wish I had my boundaries book. Lost it in a move. Question, would the entitled person get anything out of either Entitlement or Entitlement Cure Book? Or is it more for me who is trying to remove this dysfunction that has passed down through our families generations. Have no money, but maybe could get it at a library? Or would it be like “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make them drink.”? God has me here for a reason. I keep praying. Thanks for letting me share. God Bless us everyone.

    • Mark says

      I’ve dealt with entitled people and entitlement in myself. Giving an entitled person the book or trying to teach them the principles is useless. DO WHAT YOU HAVE BEEN DOING. SETTING AND KEEPING BOUNDARIES IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING TO DO WITH AN ENTITLED PERSON. And they are not entitled to your emotions, either. Sometimes you have to distance yourself from them-yes, it hurts you to do it because the kindhearted hate to see others suffer. BUT when we constantly help people avoid suffering they need to experience to grow, WE become enablers and put our well being and relationship to the Lord in jeopardy. By using boundaries or detachment, they then have to suffer the consequences of their entitled mindset. THEY STILL MAY NOT LEARN FROM IT BECAUSE THEY ARE GOOD AT FINDING OTHERS TO FEEL SORRY FOR THEM AND THEY REPEAT THE CYCLE. But YOU did the right thing by giving them the opportunity to learn, to take the Hard Way. Blessings and peace to you.

  2. Debbie says

    When you say ‘feels mistreated and needs someone to make it up to them”, does that include when someone has genuinely caused you injury (physical, emotional, financial, etc.) or problems? Does that mean you think the mistreated person should not expect to be treated respectfully, or receive an apology when it would help smooth over a situation? I tend to allow people to treat me poorly at times, leaving the situation or ignoring the problem, because I don’t seem to believe I’m worth being treated respectfully, so this statement sounds like it’s encouraging that low self-esteem behavior of just accepting mistreatment without speaking up for yourself. Is that truly what you’re saying?

    • Naomi says

      No. It does not every mean that the injury or hurt caused a person was justified. But resentment and demanding that that person make up for the injury, breeds bitterness and resentment. It is detrimental to the injured person to maintain this attitude, and healing does not truly happen. Another can make retribution for their wrongdoing, but only God can heal completely. It is a concept that I had to learn personally. It is very important to forgive and let God sort out judgement. It is not our place. God in His grace will care for you, and deal with them as He sees fit. And He sees alot more than we do. I also learned that in doing this, God will truly take away the pain in your heart, something that still astounds me, and is very possible. Sorry for jumping in, but hope this helps.

  3. DENNIS GREEN says

    This a great piece. It is the absolute truth. I have learnt a great lesson from this, and sure to attend to issues around me differently henceforth.

  4. Shelomech says

    I am a daughter of a woman with what the world call Narcisstic Personality Disorder, a Pastor called it a Jezebel Spirit. Basically the Person belittles everyone else around them and plays the victim and always gets what they want at everyone else’s costs. Would this book help me? How can I, should I, help my mother?

  5. Jenn says

    I cannot wait to read this book! The preview chapters were amazing!!
    My 8 year old stepson has been told by his mom and her parents that he IS more special than anyone else and deserving of anything he wishes for. They are grooming an entitled monster and I am working to cure him.
    My ex-husband was an entitled person with BPD and God freed me from that situation.
    I can see that this entitlement sin is widespread and keeps us from turning our eyes to Jesus!

  6. Mary Davenport says

    My husband took a picture of my newly pedicured toe with design on it. Without my permission. It made me feel violated, and I know that a lot of people have seen marriage has been troubled for the last seven years due to his attitude of entitlement. I have been damaged, hurt emotionally, and taken advantage of financially. I want to divorce this man. I have lost all trust and a lot of respect for him. Ive only stayed with him because I have attmpted to keep my vows. He is a manipulator a con artist and a liar. He has lost so many jibs I’ve lost count, which has caused us to lose three or four homes. We’ve slept on other people’s floors, but God blessed me to get my degree through all of this. He loves to offer me money, but when ive accepted it, there’s always a string attached. Ive done my research…I’m dealing with Jezebel, narcissism, a sociopath, and a person with borderline personality disorder. This has been more than any person should have to deal with. He has pushed to the limit mentally, by creating unnecessary duress, stress, embarrassment and heartache…pls help I am a Christian leader in my church and this is nothing but evil that has come into my life…

    • Jenn says

      The website was very helpful to me when I was learning about my ex-husband’s illness and gaining wisdom and strength to make my exit.
      Praying for you, Sister.

  7. Sandra says

    Does book contain info for spouse who is a shining example of entitlement with sexual issues and of courses a liar for ever . Says that if I would change things would be better. Do these people lie to and about God? What other helps are available? Thanks!

  8. Hurt & Angry says

    I see these tendencies in myself, having grown up in a severely dysfunctional family but my spouse is narcissist, immature & emotionally abusive. It has taken me 19+ years to recognize/identify these truths. I did what the ‘church’ said (submit, support the family & him) at the cost of my own wellbeing, not to mention career. Yes, I feel I’m owed because I have submitted to a place where I don’t even exist anymore. Going from there to setting boundaries with a spouse who has never taken responsibility for his own actions is like setting fire to my own house. I surrendered all, the church shunned me, used him and then threw him in the trash. I know he will never take responsibility for the damage he has done. Then, for months he was involved with another woman publicly and I just watched/waited for the storm till she lost her job over it, hurt many elderly innocent people, embarrassed his parents, children, me and when his Dad nailed him on it, he had a stroke. Now it’s all about his health, I need to get over it! Yes, I’ve learned to take responsibility for myself, the hard way.

  9. April says

    Could I get more clarification on, “The woman who feels mistreated and needs others to make it up to her.” being entitlement? It seems reasonable for someone who has been mistreated (for example their trust was betrayed) to expect the offending party to show fruit of repentance which would help to make it up to her that would in turn help to bring reconciliation and healing to the relationship.

    • susan says

      April, I just read your post, today, after finding and reading the article. I notice you did not get a response. I’m not offering one but tagging on to your request hoping someone will notice and respond.

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