by Tom Kelly, M.S.
There are certain words in our vocabulary that we simply do not use in certain settings. We know there are four letter words that would not function well at work or other formal situations. Aside from the occasional slip up, most of us are very good at watching our language. I would like to propose adding a new word to watch out for: Deserve.
The word deserve can get us into a lot of trouble. For example, I deserved to get that raise, or, I deserved to have gotten that gift! Now, it is very possible that we are right; it would have been fair to get something we earned or worked towards. However, the word deserve is tricky and often leads to our emotional upset. Have you ever said the word deserved and felt quite happy or satisfied? If you think about times in which you have used this word, I bet it has been a negative situation, and that you were not in receipt of what you felt you should be in receipt of.
So, what is so wrong with the word deserve? To start, it directly challenges the truth of a situation in favor of what we wanted the truth to be. When we say we deserved that raise, we are demanding that a pseudo-truth we preferred replace the actual truth. The word deserve focuses our attention on what we think should be. Now this may not be a problem to some, but to me, a focus on what should be ruins my mood. The more I focus on what ought to be, the less I am able to focus my energy on aspects of life that are going well.
When I find myself using the word deserve, am I going to consider it as having cursed. The word deserve creates just as much upset or disapproval to our emotional state as a four letter word would upset the conversation in a formal setting. If we can watch our language in front of others, we can watch our language for the sake of our well-being.