No good deed goes unpunished

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The phrase 'No good deed goes unpunished' is a sardonic commentary on the frequency with which acts of kindness backfire on those who offer them. In other words, those who help others are doomed to suffer as a result of their being helpful.

It has been attributed to several luminaries, including Billy Wilder,[1] writer Clare Booth Luce, American financier John P. Grier, banker Andrew W. Mellon,[2] and Oscar Wilde, although its actual origin has never been established. The phrase is featured prominently in the song No Good Deed from the hit Broadway musical Wicked.[3] A satirical poem by Franklin Pierce Adams with the title, "No Good Deed Goes Unpunished (So Shines a Good Deed in a Naughty World)", also exists. In the fictional Star Trek universe, the Ferengi Rules of Acquisition, the 285th rule states that "No good deed ever goes unpunished.".

Proponents of this commentary could argue that, every good deed contains a bad outcome.[4] And that one must also absorb the bad side effect of the deed in order to do something purely good.


  1. ^ "". Retrieved 9 February 2010. 
  2. ^ "The Phrase Finder". Retrieved 9 February 2010. 
  3. ^ "My Routine: Christine Dwyer, actress". Courier-Journal. September 14, 2012. Retrieved 15 October 2012. 
  4. ^ Ying and Yang