Sunday, April 15, 2012
There are still harmless uses of this word, to be sure. But it seems its benign usage is now reserved for things like advertisements or a relatively restrained expression of joy at the success of others. (The latter, of course, being all too uncommon.) This term was never meant to carry the significance to which many attach to it. Instead, its utterance tells us more about its speaker than they may ever realize.
It often is spoken in attitudes and actions, not with voice and breath. Whatever the case, its verbalization reveals an acutely inward-looking mindset. "Well you don't know what I've been through!" often comes the follow. Unpleasant circumstances are almost always the catalyst for its speaking, even those uncomfortable situations created by one's own systemic lack of sound judgment and self-control. This term is well-worn in the vocabulary of the petulant.
The word in question is "deserve."
I've seen at least its attitudinal manifestation in people in virtually every corner of life. Professionally, people demand benefits and perks that far outweigh their contribution to the organization. Socially, many declare as "rights" that which is unnecessary or altogether obscene. Relationally, people become so fixated on self-gratification that prudence and propriety become hurdles to vanquish, not ideals to cherish. "Enough is enough. I deserve this."
Each of these areas is a volume unto itself, but it's worth mentioning the ever-presence of this mindset in 2012. As a society, we seem to be doing more and more for "me." We're under the delusion that the universe owes us something - sometimes because we feel like we've put in our dues, but not always.
What's most alarming is the mental back flips we'll undertake to rationalize our own desires and behavior. We'll rationalize our current error by claiming it's altogether different than our past errors, and expect others to rejoice in our newfound self-actualization. (No, really. I've witnessed it.) We'll keep decades-long lists of ways our company or our significant other has wronged us, but fail to accurately assess our own role in the situation. All the while, we readily cite some unwritten law that states what we want is exactly what should come to us, for no other apparent reason than we were born.
It becomes especially disheartening when I see people of faith live as though God has imparted to them a new revelation that mysteriously conforms Scripture to their own tendencies and desires. "I've prayed on it, and God says I deserve a life more abundant," they'll cop. And again, this attitude pervades every area of life on this earth - career, lifestyle, even the holy union of marriage. Their scalpel-job on sound doctrine is difficult to bear.
Here's the big secret no one seems to want to hear: God, your employer, your social circle - none of them are obligated to fulfill items on the list of things you think you "deserve." That you have the blessings you do is evidence that you've beaten the odds. Many who read this will do so from the comfort of their living room, with aids to help them see, at their own computer, under a roof that keeps them warm and dry, wearing clothes they selected by choice, in relative safety and good health with loved ones just a cell phone call away.
What do we "deserve," indeed?
If we can change our attitude, perhaps a change in vocabulary will follow - and I won't have to hear this term that is becoming such a paltry mask to hide a deeper misunderstanding of the world and one's place in it.
You feel me?