Monday, November 28, 2011

What Do You Deserve?

What do we deserve, as human beings? Do we deserve food, water, and shelter? Friendship? Sexual contact? Happiness? Love? Nothing at all?

It's a surprisingly hard question for Christians sometimes. There are two hugely conflicting messages, each with their own pitfalls, that are fighting over the Christian population right now. In this case, I'm referring to the word "deserve" in a sort of "should" sense, as in, "by deserving this thing, it means that you have every right to have it, and you have been dealt bad cards by not having it." (The other use would be, "If you have this, you were meant to have it." This is a different sense of the word that I'm not using right now.)

Point of view 1: you deserve nothing.

This is a popular point of view among evangelicals, the idea that you deserve nothing in life. You are backstabbing scum; you can't manage to pull it together enough to obey God; that's okay, though, because God has extended a hand and rescued you even though you are essentially incapable of rescuing yourself, ever. If bad things happen to you, this is theoretically the way it should be; any crumbs of goodness should be considered a privilege, not a right. Your life is supposed to be difficult and lowly up until death, wherein you finally get all the things you ever really needed in the afterlife. You don't deserve friends; you should be glad and thankful that you have them. You don't deserve love; thank God you do have it. All of humanity is a miserable excuse for a sentient race; we should be glad we weren't incinerated. Yep.

Advantages -- you certainly have a humble view of yourself, and in the end you don't run into entitlement issues and feelings that you deserve all the things in the world without working for them. You weather bad events because you expect them, and because you have already come to terms with them being inevitable and inescapable.

Disadvantages -- you become complacent with feeling crappy and not having your needs met, because you don't deserve that, anyway. You start feeling like that is an okay situation.

Point of view 2: you deserve everything good. Just for being a sample of Homo sapiens, you deserve the entire Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, right up to all the self-fulfillment stuff. You are entitled to all your basic needs -- you shouldn't have to scrape to acquire them. If things in your life aren't meeting your needs, dump them and get something or someone else. Your life is supposed to be joyful and smooth, tempered by a few helpful difficulties that eventually fall off in the end to a sort of wise nirvana. You have friends because you deserve it, because all people deserve friends. You're beautiful in your own way, and that's just great. You have love not because you are lucky, but because you deserve it.

Advantages -- You feel good most of the time, and you have a less stressful life on average because you go after the things that make you feel joyful. You are ambitious in that you run towards a better situation at all times.

Disadvantages -- When things go wrong, you get pissy that your rights and entitled things are being held back. You think that if something is bad in your life, it's the end of the world, and you jump at the chance to get rid of any kind of discomfort. You expect to be handed good things.

POV 1 is generally seen in the evangelical community and is a holdover from the days of corporal punishment and "well that sucks that you're offended, now get out of my face." POV2 is a more liberal point of view, backed by modern feel-good politics and the Self-Esteem Movement (i.e. the parenting style of the Millennials' families.) POV 1 is the hardass drill sergent to POV 2's fluffy guru type. They're extremes, and it seems most people believe a combination of the two (i.e. "bad people don't deserve good things, but everyone else does, so you can tell who is bad/lazy/whatever by their bad lives," is just one example.)

Still, it's a fight that rages on -- do you "claim what you deserve," or do you "eat the crumbs from the children's table"? Are you being a jerk by believing POV 1, or are you being too compromising and wishy-washy by believing POV 2? In the end, the battle is over one basic question: what do you deserve?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

These are extreme views. In general, I think people deserve the same starting opportunities, and must earn (or lose privilege of) them from there. What that starting point "should" be, I don't know -- but the better opportunities people start with, the better things turn out to be.