What if by simply correcting two fatal assumptions you could have avoided more than half of the mistakes in your past? What if that’s all it would have taken to correct decisions regarding people who you have hurt or who hurt you as well as putting a stop to situations where you took the first step down a calamitous path?
You probably make one of these two subconscious statements every day based on assumptions that were somehow planted in your mind. When you do, they color nearly every decision you make, pulling you off track and creating chaos without you ever even realizing it. The first one is:
I deserve better, therefore you are not worth valuing.
I DESERVE BETTER
People go one of two ways depending on whether their sense of self is based on pride or shame. Pride is at the root of “I deserve better” thinking and it breeds anger and judgment. Here’s how it would sound if you said it out loud:
- I am angry because someone cut me off in traffic (because I deserve better! You must respect me but you didn’t therefore you are not worth valuing and I will demonstrate this right now by passively-aggressively complaining and cursing or by confronting you).
- I am pulling away from a relationship because the other person is not living up to my expectations (and I deserve better. I deserve someone who gives as much as / in the same ways as I do. The commitment I made to you is not worth valuing - which is actually the same as saying you are not worth valuing via the commitment).
- I am attacking someone verbally in person or on Facebook (because I deserve better than to have to be offended by people like you. I’m going to make you stop because I deserve better and you are not worth valuing).
It’s important to recognize that sometimes we do deserve better than we are getting, like the abused in an abusive relationship. Anyone in that situation does deserve better and should talk to a counselor and take steps to find safety immediately.
Even in lesser situations, it’s not that we never deserve better, it’s that the demandingness and entitlement we tend to carry around is rarely in proportion to the situation, and that’s where the lie comes in. In addition, the emotions that get stirred up in us when we tell the lie are also disproportionate to the situation.
Finally, those of us walking in the footsteps of Jesus should’ve stopped focusing on what we deserve long ago and replaced that garbage by asking what Jesus deserves. He deserves followers who react by building bridges to people, not by burning bridges and dishing out condemnation (even if it’s allegedly “for their own good”).
“Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.’” (Matthew 16:24-25)
When we allow ourselves to tell the “I deserve better” lie it immediately gives birth to anger and judgment inside us. Those emotions rarely end well.
“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” (James 1:19-20)
Anger and judgement also commonly affect our next interactions, cascading into innocent people who take collateral damage. The damage spreads even further when we are deceived into viewing unrelated people throughout the day/week/month through the lens of the initial incident and mistaking them as new adversaries. That kick-starts the process of anger and judgment all over again albeit with no reality-based provocation. It’s like we contracted an illness and then walked around spreading it to everyone.
YOUR FAVORITE LIE
Is “I deserve better” your favorite lie? Take a look at the last few times you lashed out at something (like your computer or phone) or someone or hurt them in any way (even if you just lashed out in your mind). See if “I deserve better, therefore you are not worth valuing” was at the root of it.
If it was then from now on every time you feel any sort of anger beginning to spark, say the lie out loud or in your head, then tell it to go find a place the sun don’t shine. Fire back at it by stating something you are thankful for. It might sound like this:
“The waitress has served every other table even though we were here first! She ignored me twice when I tried to get her attention! I can feel my enjoyment of my company diminishing and my anger beginning to flare up. I’m going to glare at the server and am not likely to tip. I may complain.
Hold on! I’m starting to tell the lie, but here’s the truth: I don’t necessarily deserve better and you are worth valuing! You may be a single mom who had to miss a parent teacher conference today because you can’t make the rent and had to work. Maybe you needed to be at that conference because your kid is on drugs and you don’t know what to do and need help from the teacher. Maybe your whole world is collapsing around you and if I had just complained to the manager you would have been fired because you have already had two complaints today.
I am going to build a bridge when you finally get here. I am making the decision to serve you, even if you won’t serve me. In addition, I’m going to admit I am lucky to even be able to eat this food as I don’t know how to grow, cultivate, or harvest it, and if people didn’t drive food to my city, I would starve. Thank you God, for giving so much to me. Help this lady feel how much you love her.”
Sound impossible? It’s not. But to succeed you will have to switch your go-to assumption from “I deserve better, therefore you are not worth valuing” and replace it with “I am thankful for what I have and I am going to use it to show you that you are valued.”
See you in a month with part 2 where we’ll look at the “I am not worth valuing, therefore others deserve better than me” lie and talk about where it comes from.
/ David Barton