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In Why This Way, making statements about deserving is prohibited in our rules of communication, because these statements are similar to "should"-statements. Saying "he deserves x" is like saying "he should be getting x."

As with should statements, although we have agreed to avoid making statements about deserving in meetings, we don't agree that these statements are always harmful. A statement like "people deserve to be treated with respect" may be harmless.

Problems with the idea of deserving

The idea of deserving can be problematic for many of the same reasons "should"-statements can be. Many of the uses of the words "deserve" or "deserving" conflict with our values in certain ways:

  • Saying people deserve to feel bad, or deserve to be punished, or to have bad things happen to them, goes against our beliefs about punishment and guilt and shame. We don't believe in inflicting unnecessary and unwanted pain on anyone, and we do not believe in acting with the intention of making a person feel guilt or shame.
  • If someone thinks or believes that they deserve something that they're not getting, it can cause frustration and contribute to a mindset that is not constructive for achieving positive results. These deserve statements can be related to depression or a sense of entitlement, and they can reflect a person focusing on what they don't have rather than what they do have. These beliefs can also be related to a person thinking that they need something that they may want but could be content without.
  • Saying that some people deserve things that other people don't deserve can get into the idea of comparing people's value or judging their moral status, which can become problematic and can conflict with our beliefs. Often when "deserve" is used in a comparative context, it implies that the people who deserve more, or better things, are the people who have done the most work, or lived up to the highest moral standard. The idea that people who have not lived up to the same standard deserve less, or worse lives, or less happiness, is related to the idea of punishing people for the purpose of causing pain.
  • People don't always agree on what people deserve. This is related to our reason for avoiding framing our beliefs in terms of universal rights and instead presenting our beliefs in terms of states of being that we agree to be healthy or unhealthy.

Sometimes people respond to the negative aspects of "deserving" by saying that people don't deserve anything. Making statements about people not deserving things can also have negative connotations.

  • Saying "I don't deserve to be treated with respect" can be interpreted "I deserve to be treated poorly." This can be a negative mentality about someone's self-worth.
  • If something good happens to someone, and the person says "I don't deserve this," it can be associated with the person feeling guilty for having a positive experience.