May 22, 2013
Written by Joe Pisani
Wednesday, 26 January 2011 23:00
While my daughter and I were driving down the Post Road to the train station, we screeched to a sudden stop behind a long line of cars because someone ahead of us was letting a Mercedes sneak through the traffic to cross the highway.
At that point, my daughter flipped out, pressed on the horn and started yelling at the do-gooder, who to my thinking should have been awarded the Nobel Prize for Courtesy.
“You idiot, I’m late for the train and you’re holding up traffic!” (I’m sure she’d have a different view if she were the one who needed to get across.)There’s a lesson here, several of them. First, never drive with an excitable daughter at rush hour. Second, stay off the Post Road if you’re late for the train. Third, and most important: No good deed goes unpunished.
It’s a fundamental rule of life you should remember the next time you consider doing something charitable. One way or another, you’ll pay, so be prepared. When we expect appreciation or recognition for doing a kind act, we often get swatted like a fly on the fruit salad.
A few days later, a woman was rushing to catch a packed elevator as the doors were closing. She was 10 feet away and her chances were slim — until a fellow put his hand between the doors, which sprang open for her to squeeze aboard. Hostility crackled through the crowd. Didn’t the do-gooder realize we were important professionals who needed to get to work and had no time or tolerance for random acts of kindness?
No good deed goes unpunished. The corollary is: No bad deed goes unrewarded.
A friend of mine recently visited a college that had three buildings named after men who did jail time for financial shenanigans. Naming academic halls, scholarships and prizes after shady philanthropists is a proud tradition in America, and as an act of redemption, many miscreants start charities and foundations when they get out of the slammer.
The biggest criminals are often the biggest benefactors. Panama’s military dictator Manuel Noriega, who probably had his sights set on Heaven, gave money to Mother Teresa and she was criticized for accepting it. And let’s not forget people like Martha Stewart and Michael Milken, who committed the crime and did the time but came back new and morally improved.
Then, there’s the textbook case of rewarding bad deeds by giving hefty bonuses to the financial wizards who invented things like “collateralized debt securities,” which brought down the economy. When I was growing up, my mother always grumbled, “I’m not going to reward bad behavior.” But rewarding bad behavior is part of our culture.
One expert had this advice for raising children: “The best way to stop unwanted behavior is to ignore it.”
Think about it. This is precisely what many institutions do when the bad behavior involves the boss man. Everyone looks the other way so much they get stiff necks ... and then they give him a pat on the back and a bonus.
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