You don’t deserve to be happy

I feel like the language of deserving is fraught.

To deserve something implies that you have earned that thing, and that the thing that has been earned is still not yours.

It’s kind of like viewing the world as a series of IOUs, except there is no contract or agreement to document what is owed, and under what conditions.

When you deserve something, you feel like you are owed, but the one who owes (a person, an organization, the universe) is unaware of that fact.

The one who deserves is one who desires. Which means they don’t have the thing they want. They also don’t have any control over the thing they desire. By claiming to deserve a thing, there is a sense in which you are making a case, but that the ultimate decision about whether you receive the thing is not up to you. But when someone says they ‘deserve’ something, they are preparing a case that is never made. No judge ever receives their appeal.

Deserving is often just another word for resentment.

I hear a lot of people say they ‘deserve to be happy.’ But when we think carefully about the language of deserving, the idea of deserving happiness quickly stops making any sense.

Is happiness a thing that you can lack? Is it our responsibility to make a case to someone and pray that they agree with us?

No. Happiness is not a thing that one has. Happiness is a thing that one IS. You don’t deserve to be happy because there is no one to whom you can make an appeal. No one is holding out on you. As a state, whether you are happy or not is something that is entirely within your control.

To say you deserve to be happy is to say that the decision isn’t ultimately up to you. It puts you at the mercy of the universe.

To say that you deserve to be happy is simply to refuse responsibility for yourself. You don’t deserve to be happy, because it’s a choice — to be or not to be — that only you can make.