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Entrance at Virgin Mary & Archangel Michael, Connecticut

I remember first hearing this phrase when I was in my last year of college. A coworker had asked me to translate it into Arabic when she learned my family is from Egypt for a tattoo on her shoulders. She ended up using Google Translate and showing me after she got it, and I was like, oh, cool. But in my head, I couldn’t help but notice how Google butchered the translation, but it’s a tattoo, so nothing could really be done.

It never occurred to me what this phrase meant then. The phrase comes from a book and movie called The Perks of Being a Wallflower in a scene where an English teacher offers advice to the main character who sees people around him in relationships where they are not valued.

“I accept the love I think I deserve.” I accept the love in which I have for my own self. Many times, there have been situations where it is so clear that one person is mistreating the other; it might not be abuse, but hurtful nonetheless. It’s always bewildering why a person would even stay in an abusive relationship. However, when self-worth is low, and I don’t know my value, I think this is what I deserve.

What I believe is “the love I deserve” is what I have learned from my family. Unfortunately, many people struggle with parents who are either aloof, distant, and not present other than their physical presence. Conversely, on the other hand, dealing with a parent with such high demands, expectations, and enmeshed. Whether I am a man or woman, this impacts me in terms of the relationships I seek out, whether romantic or platonic. When a parent does not express to me, as his son or daughter, how much they value and love me, I may find myself seeking relationships that mimic the same thing. In short, I recreate the dynamic of the relationship that I have with my parents in my relations because this is what is familiar. It can manifest in ways like seeking a romantic partner who is emotionally distant. If I have an emotionally distant parent, I might try to solve that attachment by recreating the relationship to solve it; in short, because I think I deserve that type of love. If my parent, the person supposed to make me feel loved, does not, then why would I want a partner or friend who does? If my parent did not make me think I was deserving of love, why would I think I deserved more in a romantic relationship? I’ve developed an inner speech that supports I don’t deserve better. I accept the love I think I deserve because I learned that is what the love I deserve looks like.

The concept also applies to God. Sometimes I have a hard time connecting with God because I cannot believe that God wants to love me; that I am not deserving of His love. Based on my parent’s love, I develop an inner speech of what I think God’s love is towards me.

In all honesty, this was a personal struggle for me. To the point that I sometimes wrote people off who spoke more so about God’s love as Protestant. It wasn’t until seminary that God decided to smack me in the face. However, He prepared that by putting a priest and servant in my life who began that, although I was unquestionably resistant, thinking back on it now. I’ll end with a quote from St. John Chrysostom that has struck a chord, although I know for sure if I read it before seminary, it would have made me cringe. I edited it to be in the first person. He says,

“God loves me more than a father, mother, friend, or anyone else could love, and even more than I am able to love myself.”