Why I Don’t Like the Word “Deserve”

I have a problem with the word “deserve”. No, it hasn’t done anything to deserve my dislike. (see what I did there?) But there is a layer of entitlement that shrouds it. At least in my eyes.

For example, when a coworker recently told me that I deserved my upcoming five day getaway in the mountains, it gave me pause. Sure, you can say I deserve it. (I do.) But I’d much rather say I’ve earned it. (I have.) Do you see the difference? They are so very close… and yet, not.

It hits me even harder when talking about relationships. “You deserve a good man!” one girlfriend will say to another. And sure. I see what she’s saying. But that slight bent towards entitlement once again strikes the wrong chord with me.

And there’s also the hint of exclusion. If you don’t see it, just turn the phrase around. How many times have you overheard in conversation, “He doesn’t deserve her.” and visa versa. Who are we to say? Who are we to cast judgement? Do we know what goes on in the depths of others’ hearts or what happens behind closed doors? No.

A few days ago when a close friend was talking to me about her dating woes she expounded on what she wants in a relationship and closed with, “and you know what? I deserve it.” My face can reveal what I’m thinking when my guard is down and it must have been because she immediately said, “What? You don’t agree?”

I shook my head. “No honey,” I explained, “It’s not that I don’t agree. I just don’t like your word choice. And it’s my own personal hang up. I absolutely think you should be happy. And I’m so glad you’ve got a clear idea of what you want. I just don’t like the word deserve.”

She cocked her head cocker spaniel style waiting for me to explain.

“I just think there are better words. Ones that have more meaning… more power to them,” I floundered. It wasn’t as simple as I expected to show why I cringed.

“Look at it this way,” I said, “Do I have your trust as your close friend because I deserve it? Or because I earned it?”

Understanding began to wash over her face.

“And don’t for a second think that I don’t believe you should get exactly what your heart desires,” I continued, “You have one of the kindest hearts I know. And that is priceless. Don’t ever doubt your worth.”

So when you sweet readers comment and tell me you think I deserve X and Y and Z, you may have noticed I dance around what you’ve said, thanking you, but not agreeing. There is a glitch in my brain that keeps me from being able to say, “I deserve X and Y and Z.” However, that does not mean that I don’t believe I’m worth it.

17 thoughts on “Why I Don’t Like the Word “Deserve”

  1. You surprise me here, and please me very much. You’re right, and it is a point that I have always missed. Thanks, I’ll keep it in mind. :-)

  2. This was fabulous, Marian. You just put into words what I think about a lot. It was actually a friend who told me their dislike for the word “deserve” that got my mind rolling, too. Like you, when I hear it…or even start to write it….I’ll catch myself and reflect on all that you so eloquently laid out. Bravo!

    • Thank you. It’s something that has bothered me for a while. And I felt I owed my wonderfully supportive readers an explanation on why I will tip toe around comments that use it. :)

      • Really? Wow…you just made my day!!
        Especially since I thought the same of you when I first saw you featured on Hook’s site.
        So great connecting with you this morning. I love reading your site–so many layers and facets to you. Don’t know why I waited this long to comment :-)

  3. I don’t believe I have ever thought in those terms. There is a negative connotation to the word as well. I have often heard it, “You didn’t deserve what happened to you”. Well, no I didn’t but it did and I live with it, what is your point.

    When thought of in those terms, I absolutely see your point.

  4. Marian I love how are overpoweringly sexual and sensitive at the same time .and maybe in respects we cannot be one without the other . For one cannot brim with overt sexuality without being vulnerable . We need to to be willing to lay bare not just our body but also our stark beautiful fractured soul in all it’s twisted selfless glory ; with a almost quixotic hope that we shall be desired and worshipped and loved in exchange with an almost raging reciprocal unadulterated passion .
    Love and hugs

  5. Veronica and I have similar feelings about word choices when it comes to describing our open relationship. We see an important distinction between having ‘permission’ to play with others and having the ‘freedom’ to do so. The former implies that she has control over who I may see and that implied control doesn’t jibe with how our relationship works.

Talk to me. Please.

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