In this episode John and Gregg re-connect to discuss the idea of whether we “deserve” certain things. John takes this idea from the Bronnie Ware’s book, The Top Five Regrets of the Dying (upon which John has also podcasted).
John is intrigued by the notion of whether we “deserve” certain things and how we would know. John notes that the typical Christian answer to the question of “What do we deserve?” is often along the lines of, “We deserve nothing but God’s judgement and punishment because of sin” (i.e., hell). John also notes the American notion of “perusing happiness” how it often carries the air of something people think they “deserve.”
Gregg wonders: what word or words could we substitute for the word “deserve,” to help clarify its sense? John substitutes “needed.” Gregg offers two different options. First, “mandated” (in the sense that one is mandated or destined to have goodness and happiness). Second, “eligible” (in the sense of being eligible or allowed to have goodness and happiness). Gregg sees this whole notion as deeply related to the degree of control that one has (or thinks that one should have) over one’s life.
John wonders though: is Gregg avoiding the question (or is the question even valid)?
Gregg believes that John’s question is valid yet he adds that the question of “deserving something that one needs” (e.g., as the possibility of fulfilling ones needs) needs to be contrasted with the idea of human beings having a purpose (such as St. Augustine’s view that happiness is the focus of human life, not so much as something that I deserve but as that which is the purpose of being human).
So Gregg contrasts the “deserving” orientation with the “purposeful” orientation. With the first one is discarding or removing that which prevents one’s happiness. With the second one is pursuing happiness with a degree of responsibility and ownership. In other words, humans need happiness in order to be what they are meant to be, which Gregg admits is an “essentialist” argument (and thus some would take issue with it as such).
John would see that much of this boils down to the idea that human beings have intrinsic value, and how / how much we recognize this. Gregg wonders whether certain guiding orientations are—and whether love in particular is—the key to understanding this whole notion best. Specifically, the idea that doing the same thing over again and hoping for different results (as a definition for insanity) is remarkably close to the reality that, when we love someone, we continue to work with them / help them to improve beyond the point of what we would normally consider to be “reasonable” or “rationale.”
To this Gregg adds the notion of “hope” to that of “expectation.” Thus where people believe that they destined for happiness or that they are mandating happiness for themselves, is this really self-love (rather than simply wanting better things for oneself)? Gregg believes that self-sacrifice seems always involved in authentic self-love.
So self-love involves having a strong yet easy sense of one’s own intrinsic value. In other words, one would continually be aware that one’s purpose in life is to be happy—to be in fulfilling love relationships—and so be focused on how to realize such relationships in all areas of one’s life. In this way, Gregg sees happiness as both a “commodity” to acquire and as a “task” to perform.
Coming back to the original distinction, Gregg compares the two views as being a debt model (being “owed” happiness) and an asset model (desiring “to accrue” happiness). In the debt model one should ask: how did the debt occur? So the first perspective views others as the debtors whereas the second perspective views others as potential trading partners.
Finally, to the degree that both the “commodity” and “task” view (relative to the need for happiness) are correct, Gregg sees this as a hiding-in-plain-sight argument for the validity of Christianity, because it inherently recognizes, promotes, and provides the means for achieving both!
In other words, the goal of human beings is to pursue happiness through pursuing truth and love!