What do we deserve? We often talk about people deserving what they get in life, which can be seen either positively or negatively. We believe that someone who behaves a certain way and follows certain rules deserves to be rewarded. We believe someone who hurts others and goes against those rules deserves to be punished. In either case there is a sense that we should receive something, positive or negative, based on what we do and how we behave.
Let’s take a couple of examples. Suppose Rhonda grows up in a difficult home situation, but due to some inner resolve, works hard in school, makes it to college, and starts her career. Most people would root for her, wanting to see her succeed. They feel she is deserving of monetary and other rewards. They want to see her get what she deserves.
Now let’s consider Sharon, growing up in a similar situation, but from an early age, she blames her life situation for the reason she is not successful. She does poorly in school, eventually gets into drugs and commits a robbery in order to get money for drugs. She gets caught and is sent to jail. Most people would see her life as a failure. They feel she is deserving of her punishment. They want to see her get what she deserves.
But who decides what each of us deserves in this life? In our examples above, there seemed to be some set of rules that when followed makes us deserving of reward, and when not followed makes us deserving of punishment. But where do these rules come from? For most of us growing up in this world, these rules come to us through our parents, our friends, our church, our legal system, the media, and anywhere else we listen to others to learn how to behave.
As we make these rules our own, we begin to believe that if we follow the rules, we deserve certain rewards in our lives. These rules and rewards will vary from person to person, since not everyone agrees on the same set of rules. We will also believe that if we consistently violate these rules, we are worthy of some kind of punishment, whether that punishment is externally applied or is expressed as internal feelings of guilt.
In reality, what often happens is that as we try to meet these rules and expectations, the rewards are never as much as we had hoped. And conversely the punishments we receive may seem to be more harsh than we deserve. It’s ultimately a game of frustration trying to get rewards from life and trying to avoid punishments.
The Course in Miracles View
In A Course in Miracles we discover a different way to see this whole process. In the Course, it all begins with the Oneness of the Mind of God. Somewhere, somehow within this Mind, the illusory idea of separation occurs. That idea is explored and played out in all its many forms and variations, until we reach the illusory world we now believe we inhabit – individual bodies living in a world of form.
This world is just an imaginary idea within our minds, and the part of our minds that maintains this illusion we call the ego. The ego’s task is to convince us the separation is real, and it uses whatever it can, including fear and guilt, and physical pleasure and pain. One of the ways it does this is to try to convince us there are rules we must follow to achieve happiness in our lives. Those rules might be religious in context or more secular.
For example, in the religious context, something like the Ten Commandments gives a basic set of rules we are told to follow. If we do, there is the promise of having both a happier life in this world and the possibility of reaching Heaven in the afterlife. If we violate these rules in some way, there are punishments awaiting us as well.
In a more secular example, someone might have a basic humanist philosophy, who believes that through altruistic actions we are more fulfilled and we are more likely to receive kindnesses from others. If this person fails to follow through with some actions, they may feel guilty at not living up to the image of the kind of person they want to be.
In both of these instances there is the sense that by following the rules we operate under, we are deserving of a reward. If we fail to follow these rules we deserve some kind of punishment. In any case, it’s the ego who is setting the rules for this life, and it is the ego that will ultimately trap us in those rules, finding failure no matter how hard we try.
The ego is whispering in our ears that we deserve more from life, and at the same time that we are not really worthy of more and should be punished in this life. This great confusion is the ego’s tool for making sure we continue to see the separation.
The Course also offers us a way out through forgiveness. In this particular case, we must forgive all the myriad outside influences that created the rules we operate by. This includes our parents, the church, the media, the government, even our friends who influence us. One by one if you identify the source of a rule in your mind, you can call on the Holy Spirit to forgive that entity and thereby release that rule from its influence over you.
In addition, you need to forgive yourself for believing you deserved these earthly rewards or for believing you deserve some punishment for your behavior. Once again call upon the Holy Spirit, the antidote to the ego, and release these feelings of expected reward and punishment. What you ultimately will be left with is a life without rules, a life of simple, pure Being.
What do you really deserve?
Our ego selves will continue to argue that we are deserving of rewards and punishments as we go through life in this world. Without these rewards and punishments, life, according to the ego, would not be worth living. Society would completely fall apart. The certainty of the decisions we make would disappear. Complete chaos would be the result.
But from the point of view of the Course, you don’t deserve any rewards in the illusionary world we live in. And you don’t deserve any punishment in this world either. You don’t deserve anything in this world. What you deserve is to be free of these illusions through forgiveness and connecting with the Holy Spirit. What you deserve is complete union with the Mind of God. What you deserve is Love and Peace and a return to your Natural Loving State within that Great Oneness.