top of page


The road to hell is paved with good intentions. Samuel Johnson

Today’s topic is one that’s impacted me quite often over the years. It has at times left me jaded and unmotivated. It’s also left me saddened and confused and it’s generally brought me down, and buggered up my productivity. As one of the main aims of the show is to give you a happier life, I thought it worth a brief investigation.

It’s an old idiom that I first heard it on Judge Judy. She often uses this phrase and several other truisms in her programming and it’s so far engraved in the culture today that there’s even a song about it in the musical Wicked. But what exactly does it mean?

Well, when I say that no good deed goes unpunished, I am talking about any act of kindness which backfires on those who offer it.

Thinking way back I think first experienced this as I used to collect Victorian costume and an old school friend wanted to borrow a costume for an event he was going to. I went out of my way to help him and loaned him a complete original outfit. Well, that was 30 years ago and I have seen neither him nor that costume since. When I do see that guy, Scott his name was, I will be marching him to an ATM with my hand out looking for cash. Whatever good will I had back then is well and truly gone now.

Karma is the universal law of cause and effect. You reap what you sow. You get what you earn. You are what you eat. If you give love, you get love. Revenge returns itself upon the avenger. Mary Browne

Theft has mostly been how I’ve experienced the no good deed goes unpunished scenario. I directed a gun fight in a short film that starred big Rory that plays the Hound in Game of Thrones, this is nothing to do with him, but when I left that day the director needed a close up of a replica gun I had provided for a pickup. I left it with them. That was what 25 years ago and I’ve never seen it since. Maybe 15 years ago I loaned another prop gun, a broom handled Mauser to a play, a pie and a pint at Glasgow’s Oran More. That never came back to me, and worse still when I chased it up, I was fobbed off by the theatre company who said they knew nothing about it – they even sounded annoyed that I’d dared to call. I loaned a meat cleaver and an original 28 days later prop military ID to Outpost 2 art department. Never saw them again. When I raised it with the guy who’d I’d loaned it to he just said he didn’t know and he was no longer working on it. I loaned two US police belts and side handled batons to an armourer in Glasgow that needed them for a show he was working on. They never came back either. I‘ve just sent him a message asking for their return a minute ago btw but effectively, they were stolen too. What else – Oh yeh, I directed fights for a pantomime at Musselburgh’s Brunton Theatre. I left them 4 swords. Two for the fight and another two as spares in case they had a break. When they still hadn’t been returned to me by the end of January, I chased and chased them till eventually in March they arrived. When I checked them, I saw that one of them had been squashed so flat that you couldn’t grip the sword. They had taken no care over them whatsoever. That’ just a few examples of my doing good deeds that came back to haunt me.

On a more personal note, I’ve had more than one friend turn against me over the years in a sense as I was no longer of use to them.

The most common one of these that I find these days and I’m going to put a stop to it is when I recommend someone for a casting then they don’t get in touch.

They repay me evil for good, to the bereavement of my soul. Psalm 35:12

Due to the cruelty, ignorance, or selfishness of the world or others, your good deeds or good intentions will often result in more trouble than they are worth.

I try to help people when I can, it’s not always possible and some people I have found are just intrinsically un-helpable - but beyond that many people also just don’t like being helped and by offering them help they will in fact punish you. Not everyone, and not always, but when it happens, it is hurtful.

People who are given whatever they want soon develop a sense of entitlement and rapidly lose their sense of proportion. Sarah Churchwell

I’ve kind of experienced cases too and I’ve certainly heard of these situations where when you’ve always helped someone out, but for whatever reason you can no longer do it, that that person will turn against you. I think of this like an addict who is so used to getting what they want from you that when you can no longer provide it, whether it’s money, or time or advice or emotional support of whatever they actually BLAME you for taking that thing away. Elaborate Dom Your good will has bred a sense of entitlement in the person you have been attempting to help and sometimes these people will become quite hostile.

So, what’s the moral here, what’s the real lesson in all this? Well, I’d firstly say that it's not generally true that "no good deed goes unpunished." It’s just a kind of cynical twist on a proverb that proves quite often to be true. Kind words and good deeds are eternal we just perhaps need to be a little more cautious about how we deliver them.

Aesop says that No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.

And it’s with kindness that I suggest you move on from this. Be warned though about what I have spoken about today and sharpen your reflexes. Accurate thinking is one of the cornerstones of productivity and that high level of thinking should guide you when you find yourself in a situation where you find yourself punished for your good deeds.

So, to sum up No good deed goes unpunished effectively means that sometimes when you try to help people, it backfires on you, and quite often they will then they try to take advantage of you. Your good deeds can lead you into trouble of one kind or another and leave you battered and bruised emotionally if not physically from the experience. This is not good for your mental health or for your productivity.

The reward of a good deed is in having done it. Elbert Hubbard

Call to Action

Have you ever done a good deed that has resulted in you being out of pocket or embarrassed or harassed or put down or abused? Do you find this happens often?

If you have experienced it then all I want you to do this week is to consider how it may have been handled differently and what you could do to avoid it next time. If you are jaded by the experience settle down with the knowledge that that best portion of your life is represented by the little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and love which you have committed.

Next time:

In next week’s show I’ll be talking about taking breaks and holidays. Check it out to find out more.

I’ll end today though with some words from Jeanne Phillips who said Like a stone thrown into a pond, a good deed can create ripples that extend far beyond the initial splash.

Now take control of your own destiny, keep on shootin’ and join me next time on FILM PRO PRODUCTIVITY AND SUCCESS!


Season 9 Executive Producer: Christopher McPhillips from Artos Digital

2-time winners of 'Social Media Agency of the Year' at the Prestige Awards; Artos Digital specialise in marketing communications, coaching and personal branding. Owner Christopher McPhillips launched the business from his home in Bathgate and now works alongside his wife, Electra, for specialised event-management and fundraising. Enjoying a broad portfolio of clients over the years, ranging from established enterprises to start-up's - a good fit for Artos Digital given their adaptable and agile approach. Christopher and Electra have combined their talents for three significant clients this past year: Reconnect, a SCIO who run the Regal Theatre in Bathgate; Pro2 Wrestling in Ayr; and Puppet Animation Scotland in Edinburgh.



A Himitsu Music: Adventures by A Himitsu

Commons — Attribution 3.0 Unported— CC BY 3.0

Music released by Argofox

Music provided by Audio Library


bottom of page