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Doing the Right Thing for the Wrong Reason

Updated on June 13, 2012

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

I never understood "No good deed goes unpunished" until a lawyer taught me.
I never understood "No good deed goes unpunished" until a lawyer taught me.

Doing the Right Thing for the Wrong Reason


You may wonder if it is possible to do the right thing for the wrong reason. I think that it is very possible for you to do the right thing for the wrong reason. I hear of this happening quite often. When couples are in conflict and they stay together ‘for the sake of the children’. They are often doing the right thing, but for the wrong reason. The sad reality is that children growing up in such an environment often feel the burden of the marriage on their shoulders along with the challenges of growing up in modern culture. When couples stay together even though they hate each other, they need another reason for doing so. Doing it for the kids is never the right reason. Such choices always have consequences.

Another area where the you may find yourself doing the right thing for the wrong reason is in a lawsuit. In my case, caring for my mother in terms of making accommodations and arrangements to benefit her turned into something ugly once the opposing lawyer got hold of it. Even simple transactions like cashing checks so that she would not have to go to the bank were turned into something twisted. When my mother sued me, all the things that I had done for her were suddenly morphed into something ugly and repulsive.

Her lawyer now claimed that my reasons for building a handicapped accessible home was one of obtaining greater profit when I sold it. The errands I ran for my mom were done so that I could siphon off funds for my personal use. The accommodations made to help my mom were turned into self-serving gestures. Her lawyer managed perverting things so badly, that the ‘new’ version of me was a money grubbing bitch that stopped at nothing to get her way. When these wild accusations were made in legal meetings, I found myself having to defend actions that had no ulterior motives. Suddenly all the ‘right’ things I had done in the process of caring for my aging mother were made to look like they were for the wrong reasons.

The episode of being sued by my mother taught me many lessons. One of my friends often said, ‘No good deed goes unpunished’. Prior to being sued, that made no sense to me. After being sued, I understood the meaning of that saying. In the hands of a Texas lawyer that would sell his soul to make a buck, any good deed can be turned into something ugly. All my motives for what I did was now up to his interpretation. In a court room, the sharp dressed lawyer fighting for a ‘helpless’ little old lady looked like a fearless knight fighting for a noble cause. When I defended myself from the attacks, I was made to look like an unappreciative gold-digging daughter despite the many years of caring for her.

I also suspected that there were some shenanigans also going on between the lawyer and the judge, since he so quickly believed each accusation made by the lawyer. I was shocked when he delivered his first decisions before even hearing a word from my mouth. It was clear that he wanted to do right by the lawyer, rather than find out what was right by the law or justice. He commented that because the old woman said it, it must be true. Years later, I saw news stories about how the judge was later slapped down by an appeals court for some of his actions. I can understand how there are many people that were unhappy with his actions based on my experience.

I learned very quickly that lawyers can turn anything into something ugly. Perhaps it is because they deal with the ugly side of people day in and day out. I am sure that when you are told lies and deal with lies on a routine basis, you look for the ugly side of life. I can understand how they develop the attitude of “If something appears to be good or decent, there must be a secret behind it”. This also taught me that life, with all the events it includes looks very different in a court room. Motives are never viewed as pure, unless it is ‘pure evil’. I can understand how the innocent can be made to look like monsters in the hands of lawyers motivated by money.

In the business world, I also saw plenty of situations where people did the right thing for the wrong reason. In a company I worked for, there were some individuals who eventually made the right management decisions regarding setting up policies and personnel. The problem is that their actions were not motivated by what was good for the company. Whenever they made those choices, they used them as “your owe me” items in order to manipulate others into doing their will. Such action by managers is a reflection of poor management skills, even though they managed doing the right thing by getting the best policies in place. Their motivation of doing it for self-serving purposes rather than for the best of the company bothered me. Such situations were not limited to that manager. In any company there are often many people that will to the ‘right thing’ for a price.

One of the patterns I have noticed with those who do the right things for the wrong reasons is their self-righteousness. Since they did what they consider the ‘right thing’, they pat themselves on the back, even though their own motives or reason for doing so may have been black as homemade sin. These people are often ‘results-oriented’. They only care about the results and not how it happened or who was stepped on in the process. Since they believe they did the right thing, they do not feel guilty about ‘how’ they did or who they messed over in the process. For them, the Golden Rule (Do unto others as you would have them do unto you) has been thrown out the window in favor of ‘good results’. I have learned that the Golden Rule is not only about results, it is also about how you do it, or your reason for doing what you do.

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