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Spirituality Essay:

I Deserve    ( November 2009 )

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I was telling a friend recently about some good fortune that might possibly be coming into my life. She responded, "Well, you deserve it."

I was surprised at my reaction: an instinctive, knee-jerk, frozen in my tracks kind of huh!? ... really? (I'm not so sure.).

I just love those reactions, those surprise moments, when you're caught unaware, and in that first nanosecond some instinctive response reveals a deep truth you weren't aware of (or which you'd effectively suppressed). And now here's this flash reaction, a surfacing of something within that says so much. Like an X-ray of your core soul.

For me, being told I deserved something good activated an old voice from childhood about my not being good, not being good enough, and therefore not deserving of good things. Years of work, a good life, lots of positive qualities and accomplishments haven't yet erased that message impregnated into my mind years ago, and lingering still at subterranean depths.

I've talked with others about this, discovering they too carry underlying doubts about their deserving good things. A surprising phenomenon so many of us seem to have. How limiting and life-draining that is (and the precursor to anxiety and depression) -- any form of belief system that sabotages being worthy of good things.

Do you fully deserve good things? Is there any hesitancy in your response?

Some of us clearly got a preponderance of negative messages (from troubled parents) in our formative years - making us feel bad and undeserving. But I, like most of us, got a mixture of praise and condemnation in early life. Yet the negatives of being bad and unworthy seem to have stuck more deeply than the positives. Why? I recall a study in which the average person, when asked to list their positive and negative qualities, came up with three times as many negatives. Why is this?

It seems to be a human trait that if someone tells us nine good things about ourselves and one bad thing, we'll fixate on the one bad thing. A psychologist I spoke with said we're hard-wired, unfortunately, to hear negatives more loudly than positives.programmed, as it were, as a means to learn and grow.

But this becomes ultimately a spiritual issue: we can't grow, love, accomplish, and live fully in this world if we don't think we deserve it.

Healing that toxic belief is critical, something to work on daily.

This is one facet of the much larger subject: healing negative messages given us years ago, etched deeply into our minds, and severely limiting our ability to live in our fullest potential. Large, complex, and important, we'll do a whole service on it next year.

But here are some highlight thoughts for getting to a place of feeling more naturally and fully deserving:

It may take a little work. But the benefits of a richer, more vibrant life will be immediate and powerful.

And don't we deserve that?

This is one in a series of essays on spirituality by Rick Childs, lay leader of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of the Mendocino Coast. You may want to:
Read more Spirituality Essays
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