DESERVE: the Rant



This is the word that inspired my very first rant. The concept is not only hollow, IT HURTS PEOPLE.

How, you ask?

Oh, let me tell you all about it.

Deserve is the cornerstone of entitlement. It's a mindset that has no place in the natural world. None of us "deserve" to live. WE JUST HAPPEN TO BE HERE. It is amazing and improbable and utterly boondoggling that we exist. And the minute we start thinking we "deserve" something from the world, WE FORGET that we are supremely unlikely beings who exist alongside a host of OTHER supremely unlikely beings who are entitled to exactly as much from the world as we are. 

Which is to say, nothing.

Think you deserve respect? NOPE. You might HAVE respect. You might get it because of your position in society, or because you're a man, or because you're wealthy, or because that's the way some parts of our world work. But that's not about YOU; it's about the system that other people ACTIVELY set up for each other. You have respect because other people GIVE it to you. 

Think you deserve to own a bunch of stuff and have a super comfortable life? DOUBLE OR TRIPLE NOPE. Maybe you BOUGHT a bunch of stuff. And now you own it. And you take care of it. That's cool, I guess, although I think owning stuff is generally a lot more work and less reward than people make it out to be. But the system we're living in allows for it, sure. Just remember, that stuff and that comfort is not OWED to you. Not by the world, not by any person in it. You don't deserve it, no matter how hard you worked. (And that means, by the way, that you might have to remember that people with a lot less than you might have worked just as hard or harder than you. But they don't deserve what you have. Neither, as it turns out, do you.)

Think some else deserves good fortune? Here's where things get reeeeally thorny. Maybe this person is really kind, and they've had a hard time recently. Do they deserve something good? A THOUSAND TIMES NOPE! I don't care if they're as saintly as all the saints who ever sainted. NOBODY DESERVES ANYTHING THAT HAPPENS TO THEM IN THE ENTIRE WORLD.


And now we get to the real meat of it. See, there's an idea behind the word "deserve." Maybe that concept is God, maybe it's the idea that the Universe has a will OUTSIDE OF US PEOPLE, but whatever that idea is, the word deserve MAKES IT INVISIBLE.

Here's what we really say when we use the word deserve: "I think some force in the world should give you good things." What we're definitely NOT saying is I, MYSELF, want you to have good things SO MUCH THAT I AM WILLING TO ACTUALLY MAKE THOSE GOOD THINGS HAPPEN BY GIVING THEM TO YOU. 

This concept of deserving. It hurts people who have actually done the really good things that you noticed. Because it puts the onus for DELIVERING those good things not on you, the person seeing and recognizing the "deserving" actions. No, instead the word DESERVE assigns a vague sense of responsibility to the world instead! You're saying, "Somewhere, somehow, it would be nice if a good thing happened to you."

What a weak little way of saying you think somebody's neat or has done some good stuff, but... well, even though you think they're neat, they're not sooo neat that you actually want to help them out. What a tricky little language trick that practically forces the speaker to do nothing but speak, and feel satisfied, like they've accomplished something when what they've actually done is fail to accomplish anything.

What a waste of breath the word deserve is.

Here's the fix. It's INCREDIBLY simple.

The next time you catch yourself saying to someone "You deserve," change the script. Instead, say "I'm so impressed that I, PERSONALLY, AM GOING TO MAKE SOMETHING GOOD HAPPEN FOR YOU RIGHT NOW. HOW CAN I HELP YOU?"

(And if you aren't willing to do that? That's fine. But don't simper and trick yourself into thinking you've done anything useful by saying the world "deserve".)

For the sake of all that's holy in our world, never, NEVER hide behind the limp little excuse that is word DESERVE. Eradicate it from your words.

You can do better than that ugly little concept. We all can. We surely don't deserve to do better -- but we're absolutely capable of it, and I think the world and all of us in it will be better off if we take a little more responsibility for making good things happen to each other. 

Being the force that replaces the word deserve is pretty empowering, when you get right down to it. And fun. And it puts you in a great mental place to spontaneously offer and accept help, whether or not you need it. Try it out sometime, and tell me how it goes.