Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Do you deserve this?

I've lately had several conversations with clients who had issues around deserving:
  • One, a compulsive eater, recognized that when she looks at a dessert tray, she says to herself, "I deserve this". (What does deserving have to do with food in a society where you are not rationing?)
  • Another, having found an amazing deal on a vacation home -- so good, in fact, that he only has to rent it a couple of months a year for it to pay for itself -- wakes up in a cold sweat at night because he feels he doesn't deserve it.
  • A third, on the brink of being able to save her home from foreclosure, after literally years of work, is not sure she deserves even that.
Think of 'deserve' as 'de-serve'. According to Webster's Dictionary, the Latin prefix, 'de', signifies "separation, cessation,... or contraction" of serving. This became the French, "de', which has the connotation of 'away from', as in, away from service.  It does not serve you to think in these terms.

Deserving something implies that you are worthy of, or entitled to, it, which implies
  • you know what things are worth
  • life is fair
  • you know what's fair, or maybe
  • you decide what's fair. Who made you, and you alone, God?
Let's take each of these in turn:

You know what things are worth -  Yes, a can opener is a dollar at the dollar store. But how do you know whether your being is worth a vacation home?

Life is fair - Nothing could be further from the truth. Life is not fair, at least not from the standpoint of only one lifetime. If it were, wouldn't everyone have equal opportunities and gifts? Would murderers ever get off scott-free for their transgressions (think O.J. Simpson here, at the risk of offending people** )? We all know that's not true.

You know what's fair - Even if life were fair, given the complex web of life, how would you know what was fair? How would you know that the person who just screwed you over in a business deal didn't do it to raise money for an uninsured child who needed a kidney transplant? Did you deserve to be screwed over then? Does the child deserve the transplant?

You decide what's fair - Given that we are all in this together, in this complex web of life, how do you, and you alone, get to decide what is fair and then 'make it so'? Do you have the omniscience to decide that? If you have that omniscience, doesn't everyone else? Don't they have the right to decide what is fair -- for you?

Let go of the idea of deserving something, being worthy of something, and instead notice what you are choosing -- and be grateful when what you choose manifests.

** I actually think the not-guilty verdict was right, not because Simpson wasn't guilty, but because the LAPD did such a horrible job of making the case.

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