Beneficiary Reversal

Woman calling for assistance with flat tire on car in the city
Lazy eyes listen


By Dr. Perry Isa Brimah @DrPerryBrimah and Dr. Rotimi Adigun

In social interactions, “beneficiary reversal” is a term that describes a quite common phenomena where the recipient of voluntary favor becomes so comfortable, they progress to being expectant of the favor and then to feeling deserving and finally the reversal occurs when the recipient assumes a posture of being the benefactor actually giving the favor.

In beneficiary reversal, the beneficiary starts to expect the favor to such extents they reproach the benefactor for any delay, change of schedule, diminishment or other withdrawal of the favor.

Beneficiary reversal unfortunately accompanies and is often given in reward to selfless assistance.

As an example: a man gives a ride to a friend every day. As time progresses, the friend may assume the beneficiary reversal status and if his benefactor is late, he begins to bark at him and reproach him.

In beneficiary reversal, the recipient has an irrational sense of entitlement. He or she begins to feel that the continuous generous provision of service must be due to some hidden benefit. In the example above, the friend starts to think that the man giving the ride must seriously enjoy his company, and that picking him up must be to his benefit.

He consciously or subconsciously feels the provider of assistance must be getting some form of satisfaction from providing the voluntary assistance. In fact, in beneficiary reversal the recipient may even feel he is being cheated and that the gratification the benefactor gets outweighs the service or assistance he provides. This contributes to the beneficiary becoming more irritable and expressive of anger when the assistance is in any way hindered.

Other than by termination of assistance, there are few other recourses to correcting beneficiary reversal ingratitude. Unfortunately, so long as the benefactor continues providing the service, the beneficiary reverser can rarely be convinced by statements explaining that the assistance is nothing other than an act of kindness, and that the only possible reward is transcendent. The reverser continues to perceive themselves as the actual benefactor in spite of clear explanation. ­­­