On “Deserving”

Who deserves what? According to who?

Jan Blount

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“You deserve love, Jan.”

My friend said that to me one day, as a kindness. We were having a lot of honest talks during that time, about the sorry state of my life. It was said as an act of kindness, and, I suppose, because he really believes it. I mean, he’s not the kind of person who just tries to say things that sound witty or profound. Or that he hasn’t thought about or lived through. I had somehow deeply internalized the notion that I was unlovable. So it was a very welcome, consoling thing to hear at the time he said it. I needed to believe it was true, so I tried to internalize the thought — that I deserve love. I tried to carry that thought around inside me to displace the thought that I was too fucked up to love.

But… was he right? Do I “deserve” to be loved? What does that even mean? Is it because of the life I’ve lived, or the good deeds I’ve done, or the love I’ve given, or because of something more superficial — my looks, my ethnicity, my demographics, my upbringing? Is it just because I’m a human being that lives and breathes on the earth? Or maybe because I’m his friend?

If it’s true for me, does that mean it’s true for everyone? Does everyone “deserve” love? We all know people who we probably think deserve nothing but scorn. Or jail time.

The whole idea of “deserving” is slippery to me. I’m a recovered (or recovering, depending on who you ask) alcoholic. There are dozens of little platitudes and sayings that you hear around the tables of 12-Step meetings. One of them is “I’m glad I didn’t get what I really deserve, because I’d be dead, crazy or in jail.” It’s a part of the mandatory narrative that everyone in AA is strongly encouraged to adopt: “I was not a good person when I drank, but I’m a good person now that I’m sober”. So it’s a good thing if we we don’t get the consequences of what our actions as drunks would’ve bought us.

Maybe that’s where my friend got that from. He’s a recover(ed/ing) alcoholic as well. Maybe he thinks that all people who get sober deserve love. I’m going to eventually have to just ask him.

What about all the other things that we consider desirable in this life? Who “deserves” to be successful? Is it the people who were born on third base…

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Jan Blount

Educated, but averse to sophistry. I write about what I know, what angers me and what moves me. I ponder about race, politics, and whether true love exists.