No good deed goes unpunished

One of the more satirical quotes came from well-known satirical author, Oscar Wilde – no good deed shall go unpunished. It has been shortened to the above title, which is how I first heard it. Obviously, one would hope a good deed would be well-received by the intended audience(s). Yet, that is not always the case.

What do I mean by that? Have you ever singled out someone in an email or public setting for a job well done. And, then you are approached by others who felt slighted that you failed to mention their efforts. Should you highlight a group, the ones who feel they did the most are frustrated they did not get more credit.

Have you ever promoted someone and things are going fine until the person realizes someone else was promoted at the same time? The person feels he or she is superior to the other person and should have gotten the promotion first. So, what started out well, ends poorly, in the eyes of the first recipient.

Have you ever spent extravagantly on a first child, not realizing you may have been setting up a precedent for other children? Then, you feel guilty for not spending as much on the second and third children. Or, as prices rise, maybe you spend more on the third child and the first child feels left slighted.

Have you ever donated too much of your budget to several charities and then a friend asks you to support one of his or hers? And, you can only donate a small stipend, so you end up offending someone?

Life is full of opportunities to feel guilty over things that you should not feel guilty about. All of the above can be explained away, yet we are made to feel guilty as we did not do good enough in the eyes of others. I can confess to having each of the above circumstances happen to me. I am sure they have happened to others. I spoke to each of the folks who felt offended to explain myself.

What situations have happened to you? Did you feel more guilty than you should have?


20 thoughts on “No good deed goes unpunished

  1. We seem afraid to reward those who stand out because we fear we will slight someone else — forgetting that being left out can be a powerful; incentive to work harder.

    • Agreed on both counts. Competition for attention is a powerful motivator. Being on sports teams is one of the best lessons for that purpose.

      • Indeed. The current Sportts Illustrated features a story about Christian McCaffrey who he felt was slighted by the Heisman vote and will use that as extra fuel this year at Stanford.

      • It happens all the time, doesn’t it? How many times did you lower a tennis player’s seeding to 5th, 6th or even practice squad and he responded by playing better and working his way up to 2nd or 3rd? When I was demoted from starting five on my good high school basketball team, I worked my fanny off practicing against the starters and was an effective sixth man who got to play.

  2. The Charity example is my classic. I am aligned with a number around here, and I then get asked by another charity for a contribution, or a friend to sponsor their fundraising walk/bike ride etc. I have two responses that are both honest, and seem to work.
    For routine additional Charities requests: I am sorry but there are so many perfectly valid charities around the world and I cannot possibly give to all of them, so I have made my commitments and cannot commit any further.
    For a friend requesting sponsorship: I am already heavily committed, but give me a link to your fund raising site. I will monitor it and, if nearer your deadline you look like being short on your goal, I will see what I can do. 🙂

    • Very good and pragmatic responses. We got into the habit of donating in memorial to the deceased family member of a friend, in lieu of flowers, which compounds the problem the following year.

  3. Note to Readers: The first person who shared this quote with me was a good friend and boss. He made reference to the quote being a mantra for Human Resources. He would say if you gave every employee a retention bonus of $1,000, invariably some would question why everyone got the same amount or suggest they should get more,

  4. You bring up some perfect examples behind the quote by Wilde who in my humble opinion was one of the wittiest writers of his time . Thank you Keith, I enjoyed this very much!

  5. I remember when I was little, thinking “what about me?” when my mother or father complimented one of my brothers. You’d think we’d grow out of that when we get older, but maybe not so much. True confession: sometimes I feel slighted if I see that other comments on a blog received a response, but mine didn’t… how grown up is that?! (You are always so good about leaving comments and responding to them.) 🙂

    • Janis, parents have to praise all of their kids while kids vy for their parents’ attention. I remember feeling slighted as well. I also understand your feelings about comments. I can assure you that you are not alone in that sentiment.

      Thanks for noting that I try to comment. I don’t always as some blogs will post several pieces at the same time and it is overwhelming to comment on everything when they hit at the same time.

      Thanks for commenting, Keith

  6. by selecting a month’s archives, i can catch up a bit faster, and there are several of your posts from this month that i appreciated, and yes, this quote echoes in my mind often, and then i try to throw off any negative feelings and say, ‘but it’s not going to change my ways…’…

    sometimes i think we’re given obstacled and challenges as little tests of character – to see if we’re growing/learning/maturing, and if we remember the story of Job, maybe the devil’s behind the scenes manipulating the characters and trying to coax the worst out of us….

    anyway, it’s now time for breakfast then bus to quito and shopping and back and then offline again til next week. just wanted to let you know i’m reading, though not often with opportunity to reply!

    • Lisa, many thanks. I am glad you are surviving all the challenges thrown your way. Watching the mother nature travails of Ecuador and the man-made lunacy of the leaders of Venezuela and Brazil, you are quite the trooper and ambassador of good will. We need more pied pipers like you. Keith

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