Dating, Relationships, & Sex, Theory & Essay

No, You Don’t “Deserve” Happiness Or Love Or…

Friend of The Champ, said with the type of lip-quivering pseudo-melodramatic affect usually reserved for Deltas too late for drink specials and Olivia Pope: “So, you don’t want me to be…happy?”

The Champ: “I didn’t say that.”

“You just said I don’t deserve happiness.”

“I know.”

“Ok…don’t try that Jedi Mind Trick shit with me. I’m smarter than you. My credit score proves it.”

“What are you not understanding?”

“I said I deserve to be happy. You said that I don’t deserve happiness. Now, you’re denying that you don’t want me to be happy. You’re not making any sense. Neither you nor your stupid car.”

“Me saying that you don’t deserve happiness has nothing to do with whether I want you to be happy. As your friend, I want you to be happy as shit. All I’m saying is that you don’t deserve it.”

“Why not? Why don’t I deserve to be f*cking happy? I go to church. I read. I recycle. Why not me?”

“That’s the thing. It’s not personal. No one deserves happiness. Not me. Not you. Not anyone.”


“If happiness happens, fine! Great! Throw a party, and eat a f*cking happiness cookie. But, no one actually deserves it.”

“You’re sounding real Catholic right now.”

“And you’re sounding real…American.”


“Forget that I just said that. Anyway, happiness isn’t something that we’re entitled to. The only thing we deserve is the opportunity to pursue happiness. But, happiness itself isn’t something that we’re supposed to get.”

“Here we go…”

“I know you think I’m playing another semantics game, but more than just the word “deserve” is the mindset behind it. Lemme put it this way. There are things that we definitely “deserve.” If you do a job for a set rate of pay, you deserve to get paid that amount. If you order food at a restaurant, you deserve to have that food delivered to you, and you also deserve for that food to be edible. But, you don’t deserve to like your job, and you don’t deserve to enjoy your food. Happiness, love, sex…all of those are extras. Since you’re American, you deserve liberty and freedom and french fries and shit. You are entitled to these things because they’re part of your American rights. But, there’s a reason the Bill of Rights or whatever the f*ck promises the pursuit of happiness instead of just plain ole happiness. Nothing you or anyone has ever done entitles them to be happy. Or in love. Or in a relationship. We think we deserve the extras—we think these things are supposed to happen to us—but while we can expect them or strive for them or even work for them, we don’t deserve them. ”

“I think you deserve to get shanked right now.”

—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)

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Damon Young

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB. He is also a columnist for and EBONY Magazine. And a founding editor for 1839. And he's working on a book of essays to be published by Ecco (HarperCollins). Damon is busy. He lives in Pittsburgh, and he really likes pancakes. Reach him at Or don't. Whatever.

  • Val

    If happiness is the goal, then you (she, whomever) are going to be miserable. Happiness is an extreme, like sadness. In the middle is contentment. That is the goal people should be aiming for, not happiness.

    *drops mic, goes to fridge for rum raisin ice cream.*

    • Charcoal Burnt Brother Lover

      Interesting thoughts. Let’s just say, I’m content with the fact that I’ll never be content. I’m in pursuit of happiness, if you will.

      *waving*!! :)

      • Val

        *waves back*

        Hiya, AM!

        I hope you are keeping warm. Seems most of the country is frostbitten these days.

    • AfterMath


      Maybe this is semantics, but I’d think I want more out of life than just being content. Like if my girl asks me if I’m happy with her and I say, “well I’m content”, that’s probably the end of the relationship, right?

      What I’ve learned is that a lot of this stuff depends on how we define “happyness”. I mean sometimes its based on material things like money or metrics like credit score or emotional things like feeling important or something like that. But during my tougher days in school, I grew to appreciate the ebbs and flow of life. So what may cause sadness, anger, frustrations to others began to just cause me joy because even if I didn’t pass an exam, or finish a paper or get the job I wanted, part of me just kept repeating that Tupac lyric “Keep Ya Head Up”.

      • Val

        ” but I’d think I want more out of life than just being content.”

        I think some people don’t really get what it means to be content. They think it’s just a state of learning to accept their lot in life. When being content is actually a wonderful state of being. Contentment is being satisfied with life in general. That seems to be a good thing to me. And what could be better than being content with a relationship? Being happy is temporary at best.

    • esa

      i used to live for the extremes because they felt so pure, so raw, so intense, so visceral. i used to believe that it was only in the extremes that i could know myself and understand who i was in relation to the world because.. hmm. i think i was wired wrong.
      i remember a year ago i wrote something on happiness and someone came along and said just what you said about contentment and i felt my balloon burst. i just wanted/needed something bright and shiny to believe in.
      i dont know when it happened but at some point over the past few months i realized i would prefer contentment to the spikes and valleys of the raw emotional life. it is easier for me to seek peace in what is, rather than focus on what should be. that shift in perspective i attribute to being content with living in truth, rather than shrouded in the veil of delusion like Salome.

      • Val

        I agree, Esa, extremes can be addictive. Plus, we live in a society that promotes extremes. So it’s difficult to learn to be content. And, most people don’t really understand the beauty of contentment.

    • Rewind


      Happiness is just an emotion, it’s not a state of life.

      Now share that ice cream

      • Val

        “Happiness is just an emotion, it’s not a state of life.”

        I agree. And, no! :-)

    • #Food4Thought (GypsyCurl)

      People don’t really analyze what they say or common phrases such as “deserving happiness.”
      My biggest pet peeve and phrase is “I’m so proud of you.” To me, saying that you are “proud” of me (or anyone) implies that you’ve had a hand in my (their) success. Someone’s well-doing is not your moment to be proud. I think the more appropriate response to someone is “I admire your accomplishment” or “Your accomplishment makes me happy.”

    • Asiyah

      That’s my goal, Val: contentment.

      • Val

        That’s my goal too!

        • Yoles

          me 3

          • Sweetsass

            Believe it or not… contentment is not that hard. Just as long as you get out of your own way. It’s really within reach. Step 1: Stop giving a damn about what frets you. Step 2: Refer to step 1.

            • Val

              Okay, I’m going to try your formula.

              • Sweetsass

                And by not giving a damn, I don’t mean quitting necessarily…. for example:

                If your job frets you. Hate boss or coworkers… you don’t have to quit your job or stop working…. but to acheive contentment you have to stop yourself from *feeling* anger or irritation by redirecting your mind’s gaze to what is positive and leaving the ‘work’ column in your mind a void. Something you reactively do everyday to get you to the things you really enjoy.

                • Val

                  Got it, thanks. I’ll let you know how I do.

                  • Sweetsass

                    I think of it as having an itch.

                    You can revel in the itch.

                    Or you can scratch and keep it moving.

    • Sweetsass

      I’m content as hell.

      • Sweetsass

        I hate chores… but I love a clean livingspace. So while I do my chores… I wash myself mentally in the joy I will feel upon looking at an empty sink or ironed clothes.

        • Val

          That’s a great example.

    • Andrew

      happiness isn’t a goal or state but a way of life. you choose and determine your outlook.

  • The Human Spider

    I concur with the second to last paragraph, and I hope (for intent and purpose) that you did NOT get shanked.

  • Courtney

    As a Christian and one of God’s children, I know that I will have happiness even if I do not deserve it. God provides me with so much. More than I could ever repay. Yet, He loves me so much that He gave His only Son so that I could live in eternity with Him.

    Does being a Christian mean I’m happy all of the time? No. But it does mean that happiness can always be found in Christ.

    • Iceprincess2

      +5 Just finished watching a Joel osteen rerun, so I’m extra feeling this comment right now lmao

    • WIP

      My first thought on this was religion. My take away has always been that we really don’t “deserve” anything. We owe our praise.

  • I Am Your People

    Aside: a happy 4th birthday to Panamontana! She’ll be driving before you know it, Peej

    • Asiyah

      lol +1

  • Angel Baby

    I always said being happy was a goal. Then my uncle corrected me & said happiness was the journey. So there… Lol you’re not happy every min if every day, but you are sometimes. That’s what counts! #makeitnasty (dunno why that came to my head) lol just dance!

    • I Am Your People

      I agree with “happiness is the journey.” The funny thing is, people say “if I had __________, I’d be happy.” They get it, then the decide they aren’t happy with that, and need more.

      • Charcoal Burnt Brother Lover

        ding ding!!

      • esa

        ~ “if I had __________, I’d be happy.”
        i like this. the void. to be happy with the void. to never fill in that blank. to leave it open as possibility and be at peace with the unknown and all the discomfort that brings.

        • Rewind

          Took a long time for me to realize that too. Being human means by natural law, nothing will satisfy me if I’m given enough time to let value depreciate. So it is up to me to give meaning to anything I consider sacred.

          • Cali

            that’s a good nugget to hold onto, thanks for saying it :)

      • Yonnie

        This is one of my favorite TED talks that talks precisely about that. We always make happiness the destination (a goal) and then when we reach that destination, we change the goal to something else. I should listen to this like once a week. It is 12 minutes long but its worth it. Plus he’s funny so it goes by fast.

    • chameleonic

      happiness is the journey. that feels good. someone once told me love was like taking a train to nowhere and it not mattering cuz youll be together. i may or may not have thought about it for weeks on end but i will say, ‘happiness is the journey’ = pretty easy to accept. now if someone would just clarify its me and him on a journey….

    • Rewind

      Mmmmhmm…happiness is a journey….more like a chase scene in an action movie.

  • Zar000

    I agree. Its not an entitlement… its something you seek once the basics are covered -food/shelter/safety etc.

  • nillalatte

    Are you listening to my phone calls again, Champ? Damn. Discussed this about a week ago with my friend while returning from a trip, while in a hotel room, alone, and crying. Too much damn stress lately. The dam was bound to break. My thoughts were I didn’t deserve what had just happened the previous week and that I did deserve to be ‘happy.’ But, happy, like sadness, are just moments. Moments to be cherished. Moments when you attain something you strive to achieve. I agree, we don’t ‘deserve’ to be happy, and we don’t ‘deserve’ to be miserable either. But, we do ‘deserve’ the right to make the choice.

    • WIP

      I really don’t see “happy” as a moment. By default, I’m happy. I’d say I’m always happy, even when I’m sad if that’s possible. A better word may be grateful. I can get frustrated and mad and sad, but I can’t stay that way because I have too much to be grateful for. I’m not sure if one can be grateful and unhappy in life at the same time.

      • Yoles

        we are twins whitney private joke not for everybody ;) aka WIP

        • WIP

          LOL, don’t be surprised if Whitney starts showing up around these internets.

      • nillalatte

        I’m a ‘happy’ person in terms of being optimistic about things and the fact that I find much laughter in life in general. But, ‘happy’, for me, comes in terms of accomplishments. Okay, I can roll with ‘grateful’. I am grateful plenty especially knowing that I’m blessed in so many ways, but first and foremost, with good health. I pray that continues until the day I die because God knows I can’t afford to be sick! :)

        • WIP

          “God knows I can’t afford to be sick!”

          you ain’t NEVER lied. i won’t talk about how my dentist bill hurt my feelings. i concur.

    • Rewind

      At least you kept it together and kept moving forward. So you do have happiness…happiness as strength to never left behind.

  • Diana

    I guess…if you’re defining ‘deserve’ and ‘happiness’ in the simplest of terms. But I think like life, they are more nuanced.

    • Iceprincess2

      Yea. Typical champ defense mechanism. He tries to sound like he’s a jerk, but he’s really a big ole sweety :-)

  • chameleonic

    i dont really get it but im just gonna accept your point is true cuz i really dont wanna think about it anymore, or anything else for that matter. i just wanna feel good. doesnt really matter if i deserve to because eventually im gonna find myself in the presence of someone who says some insensitive, distracting isht like that and i shrug it off and continue to whimsically frolic in his open, breeze blowing the sheets in the air, gain commercial bedroom.

    why is it even necessary to be that much of a stickler? i thought it was just a black medici thing. nope. all men are like that. grumpy. mean. borderline aggravated with everything you say and everything you do. you can almost hear them saying in their heads as they tersely correct you, ‘this b*tch is so f*cking stupid’ AS theyre doing something that makes you excessively happy.

    i always accepted the harshness of a mans words as cause to hate myself but now i think if i just outright ignore everything they say and accept what they do i can essentially make some sh*t up about him caring about me. i will sit there and fantasize because it makes me happy. do i deserve to sit there and giggle and feel relief? doesnt matter. it feels good. how dare i enjoy myself.

    [*sits on a dock slowly kicking my feet through the water, inhaling the scent of a rose*] im thinking of you, in my sleepless solitiude tonight. if its wrong to love you, then my heart just wont let me be right. cuz ive drowned in you and i wont pull through without you by my si —

    MAN: you know, that pond has quite a bit of algae in it you should probably stop enjoying the wonderful sensations you were experiencing prior to the sound of my voice, because, you have baby skin. it might get irritated.

    ….youre right. thanks. [*looks up into the stars and continues serenading the sky*]

    • Negro Libre

      Truth > Happiness

      A couple days ago, I was talking to a refugee from Liberia; she was telling me about her experience in the Liberian civil war and how many horrendous things she had to deal with as a 6 year old girl. She talked about how she saw a man get shot in the head at point blank range because he wouldn’t join the rebel’s cause. The lady also talked about how she saw her neighbors home bombed with grenades and how she saw people burned to the ground after being soaked in gasoline and have lit matches thrown at them.

      After telling me all this stuff, the lady told me that had she been born American she would be expected to be traumatized; no one would blame her for being a mess or a failure for the rest of her life after going through such hell. In America; a nation where everyone is a psychoanalysts and people constantly have a story they tell themselves as to why they haven’t achieved what they seek out in reality, people constantly remind each other about how much they deserve from life or other people: all illusions. Reality is you make your own happiness and love comes to those who are loveable; all you deserve is to pay taxes and die madam, everything else you think you deserve is a figment of your imagination.

      • Negro Libre


      • Rewind

        Jesus…that was fawking beautiful. That’s all that needs to be said on this subject.

        We take way too much for granted and keep assuming the BS we’ve been through actually qualifies as REAL SHYTE but compared to people who’ve actually survived REAL SHYTE, it’s like thumb tacks to grenades.

        I don’t know what changed, but the more I keep hearing people complain about shyte (even myself) that they actually had a hand in creating, the more I keep saying in my head “You know nothing Jon Snow”….most of yall won’t get that until after the spring.

      • mena

        “Reality is you make your own happiness and love comes to those who are loveable” Truth. I wouldn’t say loveable but those who love and appreciate themselves are surrounded by those who do seem to respect and love them.

      • namia

        I agree with most of this very well being african i get it… apart from the death just happens

        • Negro Libre

          Stuff happens, and you deal with it, that’s about it. You control what you can, and you conquer the stuff that you can’t…that’s what living well is all about.

      • chameleonic

        what does that have to do with anything, aside from making me curious as to why you are even able to pull such a random, extreme example out of your life experience? i dont even disagree with you but it was an irrelevent thing to say. in all the suckfest experiences ive had in life at no point did i just sit on my butt with my hand out.

        i do not think about what i deserve from another person because all they could ever do is drop the ball, slow me down, or f*ck sh*t up for me anyway. i do not spend my time believing i deserve to be happy by the words and actions of someone else because im happier by myself doing things my way until ive had my fill of feel good. no one, no man could be that to me.

        YOU are now on MY path of personal nirvana. you think you are this glorious gift from the heavens when in all actuality everything ive ever imagined has become reality because i love myself enough to make it so. now ive gotta adjust to you. someone confined to reality. no vision. no toughness. no understanding of the path i walk. admittedly ignorant of my innerworkings yet audacious enough to insist on being a know it all. youd let me slip through the cracks and you think i want that for myself, as if youre good enough to make me feel i deserve you.

        always opting for making good points instead of equally busting your a*s. stupid behind. no one asked you to be right ALL of the got d*mn time. i CAN do it myself ya know…with your help of course. and maybe just a teensy bit of nudging in the right direction.

        • Negro Libre

          Lol first off, it wasn’t my personal experience, it was a Liberian woman’s. Second, do you know what a psychoanalysts does? Well, just in case, a psychoanalyst believes that when people are depressed, unmotivated, failing, angry or suffering from any other form neurosis, that the best way to deal with such problems is for that person to share their experiences and in the process reveal repressed thoughts or ideas. This I said, is how most Americans rationalize their problems and I called it is an illusion and a waste of time.

          Most people in the rest of the world don’t have the time to share all their lives and their issues with people in order for them to feel better about their plight. In the rest of the world, people have to learn; accept; move on or they die. There is always a reason to complain about trivial things, or a reason to go back to that thing that your parents did that you believe scarred you for life, or that man who betrayed your trust. However, time doesn’t wait for any man or woman. If you’re not moving on, you’re moving down into the casket, 6-feet-under.

          The things you’re complaining about are trivial: they don’t matter. You’re either happy or you’re not happy. You’re either in love or you’re not in love. Whether a guy is blowing bubbles with you, or adoring the sunset with you while listening to Maxwell’s Urban Hang Suite: it’s trivial. You might love it, it might be romantic, but it has nothing to do with what life is about: the big picture. What is the big picture? You’re born; you live well; you die – C’est Finit!

          • Negro Libre

            moderation again

          • chameleonic

            lol no, i meant your personal experience of chatting it up with these largesse personality types and people, another extreme account of who you interact with/have encountered and/or dealt with/a very slight indicator of what you do. hopefully you dont think so little of me as to sincerely think i believe you to be a liberian woman. but then again you frequently treat me like im an idiot for the simple fact i just dont feel like being what you know as truth, what we both typical hold as truth.

            as far as your second paragraph that is EXACTLY how ive felt all my life. like i somehow have to keep moving or else all that stuff, depression, anger, suffering starts to set in and it just stays there and pulls me down. ive always been active and busy and exploratory but recently its like the worst possible form of being incapable. and it bothers me. how the h*ll could i possibly be THIS sad ALL the time and now i cant move. i think sharing plight is the dumbest sh*t in the world.

            i hate reflecting on past occurances and i hate being put in a position where people find it normal to continuously drudge up the past when in the present they could be doing what i tell them to do so i can keep moving. im not complaining. im talking because ive run out of sh*t to do and the only realistic option for survival is to shift my paradigm. maybe i *should* listen to someone else, maybe i *should* be more interpersonal, maybe i *should* forcibly begin to believe in love. romance, hopes of what could be, is the only source of energy i have to pull from.

            • Rewind

              My nig, you’re on a roll today.

              pardon my typo above

          • Rewind

            My nig, you’re on a role today

          • YeahSo

            Yup, everything else is extra… I like you.

          • esa

            ~ Most people in the rest of the world don’t have the time to share all their lives and their issues with people in order for them to feel better about their plight.
            i think we need more sharing. at least, i do. i need to know about the plight of other people’s lives to have perspective on by my own and the world in which i live. i just reviewed a book on Niger and it killed me—no text to explain what i was looking at. so i did some research and i created a small context for the photographs, and i only wish more was told, more ways that we could begin to bridge the gaps, if only because there is justice to be served and communication is the first step towards that.
            as to the culture of psychoanalysis, this is not for me. that does not mean it is not for someone else. i think there are many problems with the model, but for the deeply traumatized, there needs to be a safe space where they can begin healing by speaking truth to power.

            • Negro Libre

              I worked as a mental health counselor for 5 years of my life, and let me tell you the truth about (clinical) psychologists and related people in that field: they don’t do sh*t. When clients or patients become aggressive or violent, they are the first to run away and call for meds for clients; any honest person with experience in the field will tell you that. Social workers and those low paid staff who spend the vast majority of time with mental health patients in group homes and hospitals do more for their patients than all those Doctors ever do. All they do is listen to stories, shrink you down to size and then recommend medication; the few who do care, don’t have the capabilities to help patients as much as they need to because all the education they have has brainwashed them with dehumanizing theories that disregard the existence of Free Will and Responsibility.

              See, the fact is when someone is sick they want to be cured; they don’t care about empathy or a therapeutic experience: they want to be free and in control of their lives. Human beings just like animals hate to be in cages: psychoanalysis and most of other people in that field put people like that in mental cages of impotence and powerlessness. They have to rely on the doctor for their own freedom, they have to act in a certain way to get reinforcement and this drives them to become more frustrated and more aggressive (even though the psychologist is following protocol) and the more this happens, the more drugs are recommended and the higher the doses. Before you know it they become institutionalized zombies, like so many kids in America nowadays.

              How do you help these kind of people or any people dealing with trauma? You help them realize that they are better and stronger than the trauma that affected them – that’s all. They don’t need your empathy, in fact, if you’re in the mental health field and you try to emphasize with an aggressive patient don’t be surprised if they punch you in face (girls much more than guys). Your empathy whether you believe it or not is insulting to them, like all those commercials where you see some fly pecking on the face of some homeless African baby is insulting to African people.

              All human beings want to feel that they are strong and that they can deal with anything that ails them: they want to exercise their free will and achieve their betterment on their own. When people don’t have that, and it’s missing, it’s not empathy or sympathy that brings that back: It’s honesty and the respect that this person is responsible for their own life and they’re the only ones who can fix it. If you want to help people understand that, your tears and your compassion will do nothing for these people – your ability to strengthen and lead these people towards a path of independence where they don’t need you, is.

              • Negro Libre

                moderation again and again

              • YeahSo

                Preach!!! My goodness.

              • chameleonic

                yeah, a guide sounds good. or a lead. sometimes i dont directly confront sickness or trauma because i honestly have no idea how to accept how difficult its going to be to recover. and im someone who likes to actively work on solutions i really dont like sitting still. its just different feeling like you cant handle yourself anymore. i dont wanna be someone who just sits around and stews and pops pills like thats addressing my issue but ive also burnt myself out to the point i look at what im going through and i dont feel like getting myself through it.

                i would probably find it really difficult to make myself accessible to someone better equipped and even if i did id just want a guide. a presence. a sense of openess. someone that can look at me and see truth and because they see truth can lead me as naturally as ive done for myself. i like how it feels. but…

                i also know if its a man to do it that would be a pretty deeply bonding dynamic. i wouldnt be dependent but id be bonded. and even if i could get to a point i didnt need him i would still want him there just because. i think its good for me. its good to have a source of wisdom and strength. comforting. but i want my life to change. i dont wanna be sitting here making the most of a reality not worth dedicating to. it feels like im waking up everyday to convince myself this confinement of a life is just a stance of endurance i can hold forever.

                • esa

                  ~ im someone who likes to actively work on solutions i really dont like sitting still.
                  i hear you. for me, working on trauma is nothing like sitting still. it is like walking through hell backwards because .. the way out is the way you came in.
                  for me, i write because i can’t not. and writing has been my salvation and the golden thread i follow through the labyrinth. and even then, it ain’t no cakewalk. it is like Hemingway said, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”
                  i love it and i hate it and there are many times i’d like to throw it all in. but it is my path so i walk it because i shall retire only when i am dead.

              • esa

                i admire your position on this subject. i have been much too close to this profession (not by choice) and have seen doctors destroy too many lives with their poisonous practices.
                i am not sure if you thought i was suggesting compassion/empathy as a course for treatment of mental illness/trauma; i am not. i believe that the road to recovery is centered in the commitment of the individual to themselves, and that they must fundamentally walk it alone. to have the strength to do this, well, that’s the hard part. but yes, it begins with honesty and respect, as you note.
                and this, all i shall add, is where i think sharing/communicating in a safe space begins. how this takes form, i cannot say. friends, family, prayer, writing, art, there are many spaces this can take hold. the key is for the individual to find and use their voice with someone they trust.

      • Asiyah

        I think the reason why Americans are so “soft” for lack of a better word is because American society values reason over emotions and reason over spirituality. While in African societies displays of emotions are sometimes frowned upon, spirituality, regardless of religion is an integral part of their psyche. Regardless of how you feel about religion, God, etc. there are benefits to believing in a higher deity and one of those benefits is seeing how small you are compared to the rest of the world and being thankful that in spite of your size you are still here…alive and breathing.

  • Tippydoowop

    Well I have a right to choose to be happy regardless of the circumstances surrounding me at any given moment. Its just like the scene in the 300-they were still making jokes even though they’re being rained on by a cloud full of arrows. It’s the ability to go through the fire and keep a smile on your face. Happiness shouldnt be pursued it’s something that should be within. Iono excuse me for sounding like a preacher.

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