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Getting What We Deserve

Updated: Oct 20, 2022

A closer look at one word can make all the difference.

image by Suzy Hazelwood, courtesy of

I’ve been on easy street all my life, and I have never felt I deserved it.

But the other day, I examined the word “deserving.” I looked it up. (Side note: This is a fascinating practice. Look up words you think you know.)

Deserve: DE-SERVE. The prefix “de” often means “undo” or “do the opposite of.” As in, Deactivate, dethrone, etc. And “serve” means “to render habitual obeisance to, or to give aid, or to be a slave to.” So the word “deserve” could mean ‘to no longer be a slave to.’ And if I say, “I deserve this,” I could be saying I DE-SERVE it. I stop my habitual obeisance to it. I’m no longer a slave to it. This has a very different ring to it than “I have it coming to me,” or “You owe me.” To deserve something is to stop being a slave to it.

Think about what this could mean when you next use the word. Say, “I deserve this delicious dessert,” and see it through the lens of: I’m no longer a slave to this delicious dessert.” Doesn’t that open the window and let some fresh air blow through the word ‘deserve?’

But there’s another important consideration with this word: If I say, “I deserve all the good things that have happened to me,” let's be clear that I’m not bragging that I earned them. If I could earn good fortune (or ill), it would mean that life is transactional; and we all know way too many downtrodden good people (or bad people who never get caught) for that to be true.

So. “I deserve all the good things that have happened to me.” Let’s look at this through the 'de-serve' lens: “I’ve released my slavery to all the good things that have happened to me." Meaning, they aren’t connected to any of my actions. They don’t mean anything about me. I’m just happy they’re here. They feel good, and they’re impermanent. I de-serve them. I release my bondage to them.

It works for the flip side as well, when life is unpleasant. In the past, I've looked around at the wreckage of my life, thinking “Well, I got what I deserved.” That wreckage invariably has come from my screwed up way of thinking, and that is every bit as impermanent as my thinking about the good times was. I can de-serve all of that in the very same way.

Good times, bad times. We don’t let ourselves know how fleeting life is, because we’re too invested in what we believe about it. Not everything we think is true. Almost nothing we think is true.

So let’s stop being so subservient.

Let’s practice deserving our lives. Let’s de-serve who we think we are, and everything we think is happening.

Let’s embrace our lives with every inhale, and kiss it all goodbye with every exhale.

We are free. All of us.

We deserve it all.


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