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.".[4]

Proponents of this commentary could argue that, every good deed contains a bad outcome.[5] 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. ^ "Rules of Acquisition". Memory Alpha. Retrieved 8 February 2016. 
  5. ^ Ying and Yang