I first heard this statement in the summer of 1997. A wise mentor gave it voice after I’d written a ground-breaking grant and determined to shepherd its project to fruition. Naive person that I was, I learned its lesson hard.
Eight years later I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Eight years is the time estimated by medical researchers for cancer to grow to a detectable size. Coincidence? I think not. Stress causes illness, and stressed I got.
I neglected to ask my mentor/friend what the saying meant, but I learned… Basically, “No good deed goes unpunished” is a wry way of stating that going out of your way to be kind, thoughtful, or considerate doesn’t always get the expected result. You know the saying, “Virtue is its own reward?” Sometimes it is and sometimes it isn’t.
As a naive, helpful person apt to forget, I’ve experienced openly disastrous, intentional-to-harm, consequences for kind deeds again and again. Yeah, my heart still smarts because I seem unable to foresee and fend… Though I possess a mighty intellect, and a resourceful sense of humor, my head isn’t smart enough to retort.
As a practiced artist of human nature, you’d think that I’d spot blonde vipers before they publicly stab, but I don’t. Perhaps it’s because my hair color and kind heart are natural and theirs aren’t…gosh, I love word play. Wink. Wink.
What do you feel/think, my friend?
(BTW: I think it’s wild that one of my favorite quotable people observed and said this first)
With each new relationship and interaction, you go in with the assumption that whatever your good deed, it will at least be recognized as such, maybe even rewarded in some manner. Sometimes it works out that way, but sometimes it doesn’t. Because we are both cursed and blessed with a memory, we are apt to store the impact, positive or negative, of our own behavior towards another. If, in any given relationship/interaction, a negative impact becomes predictable, then we learn to establish boundaries. It doesn’t mean that you hate the person who generated the negative; you just don’t expose yourself to the same hurt over and over again. Within the context of setting boundaries, you also come to understand that you can’t “fix” the hurtful person; nor is that your “job”. These are principles that folks in Al-Anon live by. Try them if you like; I can only say they work for me.
Thanks, Marty, ‘the wise mentor’ in ’97 and beyond
This reminds me of the Beatitudes recorded by Matthew, especially the last: Blessed are you when others speak evil of you, revile you, or say untrue things of you: your reward is in Heaven. All of the beatitudes turn the tables on what the world values, by highlighting the attitudes that announce the kingdom of God/heaven on earth.
Doing good isn’t always recognized as good or acknowledged or even valued by the one receiving our efforts. Do we stop doing good because of that?
The reading from today, Romans 2:1-11, has one line about being repaid for our works – “eternal life to those who seek glory, honor and immortality through PERSEVERANCE in good works”…. I, too, am trusting and choose to believe good things about others. And yes, I’ve been burned…but, it’s the pure in heart who will see God – even when spurned/burned.
I think we have an expectation of karma – that if we do good, we’ll get good. …and that isn’t always the case. This is where we fix our eyes on what is unseen, and press forward, even in opposition or hatred, even when it hurts. This is also why we need our communion of saints – to help us lift our eyes when all we see is our wounded heart, and what to immediately steel it against any other hurt.
Yeah, Jessica – good words, thorough and true, helping us remember that we play to an audience of One.
As per karma, I do find that it comes around, too; patience is a virtue, however, that I must constantly center on. I never seek retribution…He’s much better at it than I, if it’s the chosen path – and I’ve been blessed at times to watch.
I’ve got a blog post in me on that score. Yes, He was my point guard (can’t resist a basketball analogy – I am from Indiana, where it is the sport of kings)