Must Good Deeds Lead to Punishment?

Q: Dr. Hurd, what do you think of the saying “No good deed goes unpunished”?

A: I think very little of it and say it even less. The statement is basically a cynical comment that benevolence leads to ingratitude and other harsh punishments. This isn’t true. If the object of your benevolence deserves it, then you are already “paid” for your benevolence just by the fact you bestowed it. If the object of your benevolence does not deserve it, then the fault was with your judgment–not with benevolence itself. Also, benevolence should not be self-sacrificial. This means that you should not give what you are not ABLE to give or do not WANT to give. If you are able and willing to bestow any kindness, however large or small, then you are rewarded just as much as the recipient and sometimes more. If you resentfully look for sacrifices to make, then no wonder you’re in a bad mood. Lastly, benevolence should not only be deserved; it should also be wanted. Maybe you’re offering something kind to someone but, for whatever reasons, they don’t want it. Don’t throw yourself on others. If you do, you deserve to be “punished,” no matter what your intentions were.