I was given this book a couple of months ago and asked to write a book review on it. I have taken my time, frankly, because I have been getting so much out of the book that I didn't want to rush the process.
Dr. John Townsend, bestselling author of Boundaries, has done a great job of helping us all to understand how to help ourselves and others who battle against the curse of entitlement. We live in an age of entitlement: "the belief that I am exempt from responsibility and I am owed special treatment." We see it everywhere, from employees who don't feel the need to work, to self-centered children, to narcissists to prima donnas in leadership - and in ourselves.
There are some key takeaways this book has provided that have equipped me to tackle some challenges I've been avoiding. Let me lay out a few of them:
1. The Hard Way cures entitlement.
The Hard Way is "the habit of doing what is best, rather than what is comfortable, to achieve a worthwhile outcome." I think we all know this intuitively, but having a definition helps. And the key is in understanding that the Hard Way is also the right way. Short cuts will only keep us from learning lessons we need to master.
2. Entitlement hurts ourselves and others.
We often think that our behaviors and bad habits are our business and ours alone. However, we live in community, our families, our workplaces; even our communities are affected by our choices and the way in which we live our lives. If we choose to engage in self-destructive behavior, it affects everyone who cares about us. If we choose to excuse entitlement in others, we simply pass along the responsibility which someone else must meet. Bad situations don't get better on their own, much as we wish they would.
3. Entitlement is a rejection of reality.
God created the world with principles within which everything operates. Entitlement is living as if those principles didn't exist. We can wish all that we want to that this world was fair and everyone should have the same opportunity, talent, resources, etc... but wishing does not make it so. We are to do the best we can with what we have - this is success. Townsend outlines 5 life principles which are unavoidable:
- Humility and Dependence - We are Completely Dependent on God
- Connectedness - We are Designed to Live in Connectedness with Each Other
- Ownership - We have to Take Responsibility for Our Own Choices
- Accepting the Negative - Your Flaws Can't Be Forgiven and Healed until You Admit Them
- Finding Our Role - To Live Long and Contentedly, Find Your Purpose in Life and Fulfill It
If we, as individuals, want to change, we must create the environment where change is possible. Often that means bringing people around us who truly care about us and want to see us grow. In helping others who need to change, often we must first stop doing whatever it is that enables them, and help them to see the consequences of staying the same and the benefits of change. "Relationships which promote growth require the presence of grace and truth in each person."
5. Anything worth doing requires discipline.
Positive change requires an understanding that discipline is a good thing. We need to develop internal structure (the combination of our capacities to focus, persevere, and delay gratification toward a goal) as well as external structure (a framework of reminders and short-term goals that breaks time down into bite-sized elements). As someone said, we first form our habits - then our habits form us.
6. Positive change often starts with saying "I was wrong."
It's certainly not a psychological breakthrough to say that the first step in change is admitting that we need to change, but it's true nonetheless. many things will keep us from this admission, but it is truly necessary to move forward, and is in fact a discipline which needs to be embraced. "Nothing substantive happens in our lives until we humble ourselves enough to say the words 'I was wrong.'"
I highly recommend this book. As I wrote earlier, I will be embracing some needed changes over the next little while, thanks to Dr. Townsend. I trust that you will find it as helpful as I have. This book deserves to be read widely.
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