Good Deeds & Punishment

On Facebook the other day, someone asked¬†the question, “Why is it that no good deed goes unpunished?”

And it does seem like it sometimes, doesn’t it?

I’m a giver, and I will often volunteer to help people with projects or find a way to give people a break whenever I can. And it’s amazing really how people will take what they want from you and never look back to say thank you or to offer assistance when the time comes that you need a little help yourself.

“Because it hurts to have gone out on a limb for someone who will never go out on a limb for you in return.”

This, of course, can breed bitterness. A person can even become overwhelmed with bitterness. Because it hurts to have gone out on a limb for someone who will never go out on a limb for you in return.

However, I have learned a few things about good deeds and punishment over the years from people much wiser than myself. Here are a few of the biggies:

1. Gifts Don’t Come With Strings Attached

Volunteer work and giving should always be just that: a gift. And gifts aren’t supposed to come with strings attached. It’s okay to be generous and giving and to not receive anything in return. The key is to not expect anything. Give to give. Love to love. Help to help. And don’t expect anything in return. It’s your own expectations that often let you down. Stop expecting.

If what you’re really looking for is a trade, then initiate a trade from the beginning. Negotiate up front what you want help with in return for your help, and people are often very willing. But know the difference between giving and trading, and be clear about what your expectations are up front. If it’s really a gift, don’t get mad or bitter about what you don’t get out of it.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself up front:

  • Am I doing this to get attention?
  • Am I doing this for a particular connection?
  • Am I doing this so that someone will like me?
  • Am I doing this to get business referrals?
  • Am I doing this because I’m emotionally needy?
  • Am I doing this because I want someone to owe me?
  • Am I doing this because I expect anything at all in return?

If the answer to any of these questions is yes, be careful. Evaluate your risks. You’re not interested in simply giving a gift. You’re interested in something else, and you need to get to the bottom of that something else and work out all of the details ahead of time.

2. We All Value Different Things

This is huge. Something that is a big deal to you may not be a big deal to someone else. If you’ve ever taken the love languages quiz or determined your personality type, you know that we are not all alike. Some of us are wired radically different from others. It goes beyond male and female. Some of us are wowed by gifts while others of us just care about quality time. Some of us need independence while others need to be coddled. Some of us need lots of words of affirmation and others of us don’t need much at all in that area but could really use some monetary compensation. It’s different for everyone, and that’s part of why we can sometimes feel unappreciated. Maybe someone did already pay us back the best way they know how, and maybe we missed it because of our own ideas of what matters most.

3. Some People Are Just Plain Selfish

I said it. It’s true. In fact, we’re all selfish. But there are some people who will spend their lives manipulating others, mooching, and taking whatever they can get with no regard for the people they hurt, use, or walk over. These are not nice people, but they do exist. And it’s important to be a good judge of character and to not work with these kinds of people from the start. However, growing up, all of us have to learn some lessons from experience. You can’t really learn to discern this sort of thing until you’ve been acquainted with a few of these types to begin with. Save your good deeds for decent folk and causes you truly value.

4. Some People Are Just Plain Helpless

On the other side of the spectrum, there are others who are simply naive and don’t get it. You can’t help but help them because they need it so badly and don’t know where to begin or sometimes even that they need help. Because of my particular skill set, these are often the people I find myself drawn to. They just need the most basic things to become established. Maybe they need a website that doesn’t look like 1990 or maybe they need to know how to get organized. Simple but time-consuming stuff. But it’s stuff that could change their world. I am a sucker for that kind of thing, and I have to constantly stop myself from diving in, because all I want is to see people become successful doing the things they love to do.

5. It’s Your Ballgame

Really, it is. You are the one who gets to decide which people you’re going to help. It’s up to you to clearly communicate your expectations up front and to follow through. If you end up becoming bitter over something you initiated, it’s ultimately your own fault. So, be careful about how you spend your time. Invest in the things you really care about. Be clear about what you are doing and what you want to get out of it. It’s all up to you; don’t forget that.


So, why is it exactly that “No good deed goes unpunished”? I suppose it has a lot to do with sin and selfishness. And if there’s one thing we can expect about any interaction or relationship, it’s that sin will probably get in the way at some point and really mess a few things up. That’s the only expectation we can realistically bring to the table when we’re talking about good deeds.

I suppose the other is that there are no good deeds to begin with, but that’s strongly related to the first expectation that sin will always get in the way. Even our best works are rooted in sinful motivations, lust, selfishness, greed, and pride. And it sucks.

However, whenever I think about how “No good deed goes unpunished,” I think of Christ. Think of what he’s done for us and how we treat him day in and day out. Think of that. The only one who really, truly has done good deeds, and think of the punishment. Think of the disregard and ingratitude.

I dare you to still be bitter.

Beka Johnson
Beka Johnson

Beka is the Director of Inbound Marketing for a fintech company in the Seattle area. She loves dabbling, reading, scheming, writing, and dreaming up ways to make good things better. When she’s not working, you can find her digging up all sorts of adventures in her new city.

Related Posts

Leave a Comment