If life was just, or even fair; if karma was instant, no one would want what they truly deserve.

Do You Really Want What You Deserve?

picture of coffee cup, pen, and napkin on which is written I deserve better
“I deserve better” is a positive affirmation in one context, and a fallacy in another

# 36 on my, 99 Life Tips – A List is: No one would want what he truly deserves in life.

If life was just, or even fair; if karma was instant, no one would want what they truly deserve. This ”tip” is more an assertion to be absorbed and assimilated than something to be practiced. I include it because it falls into the broad category of ”wrong thinking” which is the culprit in 90% of life’s woes. This statement is related to another of my ”assertive” tips, #73, which says Happiness = Reality – Expectations, a topic I’ve written about in another post.

How To Decide What We Deserve?

To deserve means to be worthy of, or to merit, either a reward, or a punishment. The definition implies a standard, or a benchmark. It implies rules. It involves a ruler, and a judge. The idea of deserving something requires a comparative analysis. Your character and actions are measured against some objective criteria. Are you compared to your neighbor, your co-worker, your child, your spouse, Jesus? Or perhaps just against written law. 

Clearly, these are relative comparisons, unique to each individual. I may behave better than Charles Manson, or even better than my overbearingly meddlesome neighbor on NextDoor, but not as well as Mother Teresa, so…what do I deserve?

Real Crime Deserves Real Punishment

Undoubtedly, there are crimes demanding justice, and deserving of punishment. Swift punishment, equitably applied, is a sine qua non of a healthy, functioning society. I am not ignoring the existence of crime, or the necessity of law enforcement and a functional criminal justice system. Some crimes deserve extreme sanction. I am not discounting these truths.

Moral vs. Transactional Context

Rather, we are examining the common day-to-day attitudes and beliefs we feel about what we deserve. Because, most people think they deserve better than they get. Or if something good happens, they’re convinced they ”deserved” it. They believe they are entitled to good things on some moral basis. It is this notion I’m addressing.

On the other hand, in a transactional context such as a salary negotiation, in general, you should refuse to accept less than you deserve. Accepting less than what is merited in the workplace diminishes not only your paycheck, but devalues you as a person. It causes a cascading loss of morale that undermines personal confidence and self-esteem. When possible, it is better to walk away from an underpaying job, than suffer the financial and psychological harm that results from staying in it. This will be the subject of another post.

Please consider the differing contexts as you evaluate and incorporate my comments.

Potential Merit On A 10-Point Scale

But, let us suppose our character and actions could be pegged on a 10-point scale with each of us starting with 10 as a maximum possible score. Let us call this our ”Potential Merit”. That is not difficult to conceive. We do each possess an upper limit, representing the possibility of faultless moral character and behavior, even though my hypothetical “potential merit” scoring matrix doesn’t really exist.

Your level of Potential Merit may provide greater opportunities for good deeds than mine, since that will differ according to our respective circumstances, but it cannot surpass mine on a raw 10-point scale; with 10 being the highest possible score. At maximum potential, everyone starts at 10. This score represents faultless moral behavior.

Let’s also suppose the existence of some spiritual or cosmic ”assessors” grading you at every moment. They are making comparisons of your actual performance against your potential performance to determine what you merit, that is, what you deserve. There is no grading curve. Every fault, every wrong word and deed hammers your score with de-merits. The only way to merit (deserve) good results is to consistently grade out at 10, and never dip below your potential. Yet, even grading out at 10 would be no guarantee of only good results given the vagaries of life. Do you still want what you deserve? I don’t.

This is why, at every moment, I will opt for mercy over justice, and grace over wages. I know what I deserve in life, and God help me, I do not want it. I am living the most amazing life, on borrowed time, that I absolutely and completely do not deserve. My hunch is that you are too.

Mercy, Forgiveness, and Gratitude

Mercy and forgiveness do not exist in a vacuum. They are meaningless unless there is an impending judgement and sentencing. The only suitable candidates for mercy are those earmarked for punishment. Mercy is not something one deserves, or can earn. Justice is what we deserve. 

Knowing this provides innumerable opportunities for gratitude. Every good thing you experience in life is made sweeter when accompanied with the recognition that you truly don’t deserve it. The experience of good things becomes the receiving of gifts for which to be profoundly thankful. And hopefully, this realization will prompt you to show mercy when it’s your time to sit on the judgement seat, considering you don’t want what you truly deserve in life, either.

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