One of the things we hear thrown about quite often online is the concept that we “deserve” or are entitled to things. We’ve all seen comments about how so and so “deserves” to be happy or they deserve that great promotion. We also here a lot about how someone deserves a better partner in life (Usually said after a break up).
This idea has a few problems. First, this concept predisposes a cosmic universal morality which no one has found yet. For my religiously inclined readers, no I am not stating there is no god. What I am saying is that us mortals cannot even agree between ourselves that if there is a god (I’m keeping my personal views out of this discussion) what their morality is.
There are approximately 4200 religions in the world and they do not agree on a universal morality. Even on subjects that would seem to most people to be cut and dry are far from it upon further inspection. Take killing a person. One of the big commandments is “Thou shall not kill”, but God himself seems to think this morality doesn’t apply to himself and certainly allows for all kinds of exceptions to this rule. Even among Christians themselves morality depends on the individual’s interpretation.
So now we come to the crux of today’s thoughts. If morality isn’t universal, at least among us mortals, to hold an opinion that someone deserves anything in life based on our specific morality is meaningless and without validity.
Now a tie in to rational thought.
So basically what I’ve said so far amounts to this – “It’s your opinion, not fact”. Ok, so why is this something important to discuss? Because this self-belief is irrational and often hurts our efforts to live a happy and healthy life.
If my self-belief is that I am a good person and therefore I deserve good things to befall me, I am setting myself up to be disappointed and unhappy when I find out that the real world doesn’t operate that way. Great people have the same tragic things happen to them as the rest of us.
If my self-belief is that I am not a good person and therefore I deserve bad things to befall me then I am setting up my life to be a gigantic self fulfilling prophecy and for yourself to be a rather unhappy individual.
In both cases we’ve fallen into two traps. The first would be self-labeling and the second being a belief that “because A then B”. Meaning, because I am good, I get good, or because I am bad, I get bad. That belief, as we’ve shown above isn’t valid.
Again, for those believers of specific religions, what I am speaking of applies to life on earth. If you firmly believe that being a good and giving person guarantees you a great afterlife – awesome. However, that has nothing to do with our discussion here. Also, for those that know me, I constantly talk about being a giving and loving person and the value of it. That value is never related to giving to get in return. It is never attached to concepts of me deserving anything in return. In fact, the opposite. I expect nothing in return. I give and am loving for me, not as a quid quo pro.
Back on topic. When you have a self-belief system such as we have described it hurts your chances to be in happy and healthy relationships and to be a happy and healthy person. Here is how it happens.
“I was a good wife/husband. I did not deserve to be treated the way I was.” You being a good person and doing good things in reality did not gain you immunity from being treated poorly. However thinking like this does guarantee that you will feel “wronged” and lead to negative emotions about the event.
If you went into the marriage thinking – “I am going to be a great wife or husband because it gives us the best chance of succeeding as a couple” and ” I am only one half of this relationship and can only control myself” – you are not nearly as likely to have such damaging thoughts and feelings about your partners treating you poorly. Your thoughts might then go something like this; “Well I know that I am a giving and loving person. I do not want to be in a relationship where my partner is not on the same page so I need to think about leaving” or more simply ” Geeze my partner turned out to be a real asshole, I should get the hell out”. In neither of these are you expecting things because of what you put into it, but instead you are able to just react to the reality of the situation instead of filling yourself with negative self-talk.
” I always help all of my coworkers and do twice as much work as anyone else in my office. I deserved that promotion that Sheila got!” Again, expecting a certain result leads to you feeling wronged and likely will also lead to anger and resentment. What good is that doing you?
Instead, we could say this “I am going to go above and beyond at work because it gives me the best chance for advancement and because I feel great about myself when I know I am giving”. If you have these rational thoughts about your job you are unlikely to take someone else’s promotion nearly as hard. You will realize that what your bosses do is outside of your control while also understanding that the odds are with you that if you continue to put in the effort, while at the same time having a positive attitude, it is most likely that you will advance in a company. Most importantly, it also gives you a clear direction if your hard work doesn’t pay off. You would then look for a different employer that does see value in what you do.
Remember everyone, you deserve nothing in life and you are entitled to nothing. All we can do is be the best person we can be for ourselves, because it feels good to do so, and hope for the best outcome in life. Thinking of life any other way is a recipe for being unhappy with the realities of life.