I’m a writer because I believe words have meaning. We need to choose and use our words carefully. Words can hurt. Words can heal. And I’m a little grumpy today because I’m tired of all the pithy sayings we throw around carelessly and casually. We say these things without thinking–something akin to answering “Good” when people ask “How are you?” as a greeting. But see, when we hear these pithy sayings, they become ingrained in our psyche and we accept them as truths, oftentimes without even realizing it.
Take for example, a recent blog post about dating not going well. A well-meaning friend commented, “It will happen when you stop trying.” That comment irks me. Because I hear that a lot. And it’s simply not true. In fact, when I stop trying, nothing happens. I stopped looking at online dating site profiles, I stopped responding to messages for a while. And guess what? Nothing happened. I started looking at online dating profiles and interacted with people, and guess what? Two dates that week.
So please stop telling me to stop trying. I understand they mean I ought to not be desperate. But see, I’m not. I can get dates. I can have a relationship. I am in fact so NOT desperate that I don’t want to have a relationship with any of the men I’ve met so far. And let’s be honest. If I wasn’t trying at all, I would be chastised for not putting myself out there. So let’s look at the words we use and just accept that it may or may not happen.
But the other pithy phrase that really pisses me off is “You get what you deserve.” Well, actually, no. You don’t. The young boy does not deserve to be beaten by his step-father. The mother does not deserve to lose her 11-year-old son to cancer. The college student does not deserve to die in a drunk driving accident. The family of four does not deserve to be homeless.
I think the message that we get what we deserve started out with good intentions. I think it started off trying to teach a good work ethic, that working hard and not giving up is worthy. There is a loose correlation between input and output. You put in 110% expecting to be rewarded with kudos, a bonus, a promotion, a book deal.
But see, it’s not a direct correlation. We have all worked our asses off for something, only to be disappointed. We have all discovered life is not fair.
The danger in believing that we get what we deserve is that when we fall upon hard times, or when we’re going through a really rough spot, we are taught to believe we deserve bad things happening to us. So we feel guilt and shame and it’s easy to get stuck in this dark place. When a marriage does not work out, it’s easy to internalize that you are a bad person. When your boyfriend hits you, you believe it was your fault for angering him.
The inverse to this dangerous belief is that if we get what we deserve, we must also earn our worth. This faulty belief is equally as dangerous, if not more so. We internalize the belief that we must be Enough–perfect enough, smart enough, pretty enough, Pinteresty enough, witty enough. But see, we don’t earn our worth, our Enough. We ARE enough.
We don’t get what we deserve. We all deserve unconditional love and grace and mercy and support and loving kindness and compassion. We do however get what we get. And we can either get upset at it, or accept this is how life is. There is no rhyme or reason. It just is. And sometimes it just plain sucks. Sometimes you sing from the treetops. Sometimes you cry in the fetal position under the desk. These things occur, independent of our inherent worth.
I do believe positive outlooks, positive energy, positive interactions in this world leads to generally good things happening, and the inverse of negative world views and negative behaviors tend to result in not such great outcomes. But how we interact with the world and our expectations are very different than worth, than deserving things. Our worth is not measured by life circumstances.