One of my absolute least favorite words is “deserve.” I know, it’s not a word that people frequently think of as being negative, but to me it is, and very much so. With very few exceptions, I usually cringe when I hear people say they “deserve” something.
Let me back up a bit. I believe that everything we are given in this life is a gift, either from God or from our fellow human beings. We can’t really earn anything because we aren’t guaranteed anything. If someone gives us something it is because they want to, not because they are required to do so. When someone says that they deserve something, they are ignoring that whatever they are being given is a gift, and is something to cherish.
Imagine two scenarios… If someone believes that they deserve something and they do receive it, it often results in them not being grateful for it. They believe that they have been given something of their own merit, ignoring the fact that someone has been gracious with them. We don’t look at things as gifts, but as an exchange for something we have done.
On the other hand, if someone believes that they deserve something and they don’t receive it, it leads to resentment and hate. They feel slighted that they haven’t received something they believe they should have. This not only shows a lack of gratitude, but in fact the opposite, creating negative feelings towards another.
In either case, we lose. We’re either ungrateful, or resentful. There are no good outcomes here.
To say that we deserve something also shows a lack of humility. If I were to say that I deserve more money for my job, what I am really saying is that my needs and wants are more important than those of my employer, or its other employees. I am in effect saying that I am better than everyone else there because my needs are more important than theirs. A truly humble person is grateful for everything they are given, and they don't have expectations of anything.
Feelings of deserving create a never ending cycle. If we believe we deserve something and we continue to receive it, it either escalates to belief in deserving more, or a stronger expectation the next time, and thus stronger disappointment and resentment if we don’t get what we believe is due.
The cycle can be broken, though. Once we stop believing that we deserve something we start to become grateful for anything that we do receive. We recognize and appreciate anything done for us, or anything given to us. On the flip side of the coin, if we don’t receive something, our feelings aren’t hurt, and we don’t have resentment because we aren’t expecting it. It’s a win-win situation.
If we learn to change our attitude so that we begin to look at everything we receive as a gift our lives are happier, and we treat others better. Others can see that we are grateful and are more willing to share with us. We are also then more gracious with others as well. Everybody wins.