I woke up early this morning with a thought I found very interesting. It took only a few minutes to get me out of bed when this article started to write itself in my head because that hasn’t happened for a long time and when it does, I know it’s important for me to get out of bed and start writing. This idea is something I’ve found myself wrestling with a lot over the last several months and I believe it’s a crucial sticking point for me, so this message is definitely for me and for my life. My hope is that it may also help someone else.
So what does this idea of “deserve” really mean? My awareness this morning is that it’s somehow tied to earning. If I’m willing to work hard, I deserve to be paid well. If I’m willing to behave in a respectful way, I deserve to be treated with respect. If I’m willing to treat you with love and care, I deserve the same in return. These are all fundamentally true according to my value system, AND there’s a rather large flaw in that thinking that involves the idea of control.
We live in a world where people are trying to control everything. There are rules and laws and expectations for every part of our lives, and maybe that’s not always a bad thing. Without some of those rules and laws and expectations, people would do whatever they like whenever they like and cause problems for the rest of us, right? But isn’t there a portion of the population that does whatever they like whenever they like and causes problems for the rest of us anyway?
The truth is that we have absolutely no control over almost anything. It will rain or snow and the winds will blow whenever and however nature dictates regardless of how I feel about it or whether I decide to make a rule about it. How silly would it be for me to decide that on Tuesday afternoon at 2 pm, it will be sunny and warm with a soft breeze blowing, especially if I live in Canada and it’s the middle of December? Can you imagine?
Control is really just an illusion. Here’s the thing, I am in control over only one thing in this world. ME. I can decide how to behave and how to treat people and how I react to whatever circumstances come to me. I CANNOT control how other people behave, how others treat me or anyone else, or how they react to their circumstances. And that is really as it should be, don’t you think? If we buy into the belief that each of us is here for a reason, that each of us has our own journey in our time on this planet, how essential to that journey are our experiences and the mistakes we make along the way?
My personal belief is that our mistakes are our greatest teacher and that it’s important to pay attention and learn whatever we can so we can learn to do life better. If I’ve harmed someone, especially someone who really matters to me, do I not learn more from witnessing the damage I’ve done and the feelings that brings up for me than I do from you telling me I shouldn’t cause them harm?
So how does that relate to this idea of deserving? We’ve established that I can control only one thing in this world, myself, but when I function from a space of “I deserve…” or “I don’t deserve…”, I can fool myself into believing that what I deserve is what really matters. There’s a sense of right and wrong and blame and fault when someone treats us in a way we feel we don’t deserve. And while all of those things may be true, what could change for us if we learned to ask ourselves, what does it change?
My sister didn’t deserve to be killed by a truck while driving to work one morning, and what does that change? I deserved better than my husband walking out the door with no warning to pursue a relationship with another woman, and what does that change? My moral code says that no child on the planet deserves to be abused and that every single person deserves everything they need to live a happy, comfortable, and fulfilled life, and what does that change?
The truth I finally arrived at this morning is that it changes absolutely nothing. I deserve only what I allow and what I choose to bring into my world. There’s a quote that’s ringing in my head as I write this. “When someone shows you who they are, believe them.” I have no idea who said that, but there is tremendous wisdom in that statement.
When we feel we’ve been treated poorly, we can find ourselves wrestling with some very difficult things, and this morning I’m finding myself in a place with much more peace and ease after I received this message. Do I deserve the things that have happened? Probably not, and that changes absolutely nothing. The truth is that I have allowed people into my world even though they’ve shown me what they’re capable of and who they are and that means that I have some responsibility in the outcomes. It’s like expecting a snake not to bite or a scorpion not to sting. It’s like expecting that on Tuesday afternoon at 2 pm, it will be sunny and warm with a soft breeze blowing in Canada in the middle of December.
And here’s the thing. If I deserve better, then I owe it to myself to bring people who will do better into my world. If I deserve honesty, loyalty, and respect, it’s on me to find people who display those values and behave accordingly to bring into my world. It’s on me to be honest with myself and to protect myself from those who don’t and to be aware of who I give value and importance in my life. It’s on me to learn from my mistakes and learn to value myself enough that I require more from people than I may have done in the past and I sincerely hope that this lesson has finally sunk in.
Perhaps my learning is that truly valuing and honouring myself means that I require those I bring into my world to show that they deserve my presence in their lives and my love and attention. And what I’m painfully aware of in this moment, is that that is a choice I must make for myself. I can choose to fool myself and continue allowing people to share my world who I know (if I’m really honest with myself) will cause me harm, OR I can choose to require that they value and honour me in the same way I’m willing to show up in their world, and that is entirely up to me.
What do you choose?