Suppose you have a nice and kind friend who helps you whenever possible, but sometimes they say something to you so angrily and sarcastically that you forget about all their kindness and help, because you feel so annoyed and upset by this sudden change in their behavior or intonation!

(They are not two-faced at all, they just lose their temper badly, especially when you reject their requests or demand, and you feel so upset that decide never ask nor accept their help any more!, actually you feel this behavior neutralizes(?) their past kindness to you, in that moment. However, since this behavior is part of their nature, this doesn't necessarily result in your friendship coming to end, since they are basically kind, they might apologize you later and you forgive them, but this story will be repeated again and again!)

An American friend told me I can say:

Sometimes, my friend ruins all the good she has ever done by losing her temper or acting weird.

What is the most appropriate adjective, expression, idiom, or proverb for describing these people when they act like this? (something that means someone neutralize/ undo(?)or ruin their good doing that easily )


In my country we use a proverb: someone acts like a dairy cow that once in a while kicks over the bucket of milk — just after her milking is finished — and causes all the milk be spilt and wasted. (While the given cow produces the greatest amount of milk among the other cows in someone's farm!)


21 Answers 21


If you're nervous around your friend because you just don't know whether or not they may go ballistic on you, you could say that you're "walking on eggshells" when you're around them. And then when they have a blowout, you might have a (temporary) freak out of your own.

Alt: Her angry outbursts "undermine" our good friendship.


I would say that such people are "self-nullifying". "Nullify" is defined by Merriam-Webster as "to cause (something) to lose its value or to have no effect".


I can't think of a general example but in the specific circumstances you gave, of a friend ruining a friendship by acting badly, it is said that they've burned the bridge with you.

Wordreference.com has a good definition:

This is an idiomatic expression that all English speakers understand. To burn bridges means to suffer the ultimate consequences of personal betrayal: termination of relationship.

Obviously this has a rather stronger meaning than the phrase you seek; if you burn the bridge between you then you leave the relationship so damaged that it is impossible to return.

EDIT: You can be sure that this phrase is established by the fact that it is found in the Cambridge Dictionary:

If you are in a situation and you burn your boats/bridges, you destroy all possible ways of going back to that situation.


Reminds me of this epic Chinese proverb that goes, "One moment of patience may ward off great disaster. One moment of impatience may ruin a whole life." But it doesn't get any truer than the way William James wrote it "Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does."


You can describe such a person as a Jekyll and Hyde.

a Jekyll and Hyde

someone whose personality has two different parts, one very nice and the other very unpleasant

Usage notes: This phrase comes from the main character in the book The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson.

You can't depend on him to be friendly - he's a Jekyll and Hyde.
The Free Dictionary by FARLEX


A common phrase in English for this is "to throw it all away".

Example I:

I once held her in my arms
She said she would always stay
But I was cruel
I treated her like a fool
I threw it all away.

("I Threw It All Away" by Bob Dylan)

Example II:

"What you did today was a wonder. In protecting my sons, you justified my faith in you before the entire court. Unfortunately, you then threw it away."

(Words of Radiance, by Brandon Sanderon)


We were such good friends and now you've gone and spoiled it all!

Google ngram: spoiled it all


...and then we go and spoil it all



Barely six weeks after casting the all-female Ghostbusters reboot, Sony has gone and spoilt it all by announcing that they're making an all-male Ghostbusters reboot


And then I go and spoil it all, By saying something stupid http://www.lyricsfreak.com/f/frank+sinatra/something+stupid_20056436.html


Reminds me of the following quotes/idioms:

"It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you'll do things differently" - Warren Buffet

Fall from grace

"One lie can ruin a thousand truths"


High Maintenance Friend If your friend is neither bipolar, nor under severe temporary stress, her behavior, generous and kind with episodes of outrageousness, is likely to continue; there is little you can do to change it. You have a high maintenance friend, and only you can decide whether the benefits of the friendship are worth the costs of the maintenance.

There is a lot of pop psychology written on this topic, and I will confine myself to one quote: ".... Some people who fall into the “high maintenance” category may seem vulnerable....but they may also be manipulative and 'expert at controlling others with anger, or the threat of it.' " from Experience L!fe [sic]: The Whole-Life Health and Fitness Magazine.

Collins English Dictionary defines high maintenance as: "1.(of a piece of equipment, motor vehicle, etc) requiring regular maintenance to keep it in working order; 2.(informal) (of a person) requiring a high level of care and attention; demanding"

From my brief experience with one such person, I would describe my side of the relationship as "having to tiptoe around what she might think."


I read all the answers and I decided to post my first answer ever on this site too! :D

These two came to my mind:

  1. broken mirror // I prefer that
  2. broken ties

since you might want to forgive, but you should not forget!

In Greece, my mum says sometimes to me, when I do something relevant to your scenario: "You fill the bawl with water and then you kick it once and spill all the water!".

However, I think that she knows that proverb (I would say phrase, but thanks to your answer, I googled and find out the difference, thanks), with the goat and the milk, since in the village she is coming from, goats are more common that cows. So, yes, basically, it's the same as the one in Iran, with local changes, to meet the Greek standards (I would ask my mum, but she is sleeping now).

How nice is to see how the knowledge (such as proverbs) travels from culture to culture, with Middle East coming first and then Greece taking the baton, thanks from the base of this proverb then!

So what to use? It depends on the origin of the person you are targeting.

  1. If (s)he is from your country, use the proverb with the cow.
  2. Else, use the broken mirror! ( it's my first answer, so I should have an advantage, hihi, kidding :) )

On a second thought though, if I were you, I would go with your local proverb, since it's actually the best IMHO, you see proverbs that are formed from the people of cultures that existed way much earlier than now, are (almost?) always the best.

Tip: They should apologize always. Teach them to, they will become better humans then.

  • Thanks, +1, @gsamaras, yes, it is so interesting that there is a similar idiom/ proverb in Greece, too.:), could you explain a little about "the broken window"? and how will you use it in the sentence?
    – Soudabeh
    Commented Aug 1, 2015 at 2:42
  • Yeah it is! You are welcome @Soudabeh. I do not know if the phrase stands with the broken window, but with the broken mirror. An example would be: "Her heart is like a broken mirror, after your behavior yesterday." and it means that you do not forget the crack, but it's not as bad as with the burned bridges, I mean the mirror is still there! Hope this helps.
    – gsamaras
    Commented Aug 5, 2015 at 11:44

OP's comment:

"they loose their temper when they feel the audience is not acting gratefully to them"

Histrionic Personality DisorderWiki

Histrionic personality disorder (HPD) is defined by the American Psychiatric Association as a personality disorder characterized by a pattern of excessive attention-seeking emotions, usually beginning in early adulthood, including inappropriately seductive behavior and an excessive need for approval. Histrionic people are lively, dramatic, vivacious, enthusiastic, and flirtatious. [...]

HPD lies in the dramatic cluster of personality disorders. People with HPD have a high need for attention, make loud and inappropriate appearances, exaggerate their behaviors and emotions, and crave stimulation. They may exhibit sexually provocative behavior, express strong emotions with an impressionistic style, and can be easily influenced by others. Associated features include egocentrism, self-indulgence, continuous longing for appreciation, and persistent manipulative behavior to achieve their own needs.

In a single word, I'd call this juvenile: childish; immature. –Google

To paraphrase your phrase:

Sometimes, my friend acts like such a baby.

See also, Drama Queen


There is an expression "to nurdle someone's wink" which might just convey the idea you are looking for. But then again, perhaps not.


Irreversible damage is often met with "It's all over but the crying." and could be characterized as the nuclear option. The offender ate the forbidden fruit. They poisoned the garden.


It sounds to me like this person possibly suffers from having friends who are suffering from the "what have you done for me lately syndrome." (Forbes)

But then again, it's probably better (for purposes of this question/answer, at least) to blame the other guy for having "ruined a good thing." (Local job network)


I would consider various inflections of betrayal, treasonous, or treachery as possible candidates. Perhaps irreconcilable betrayal or similar. Likewise you could say someone has let you down

Betrayal is the breaking or violation of a presumptive contract, trust, or confidence that produces moral and psychological conflict within a relationship amongst individuals, between organizations or between individuals and organizations

Let Down : To fail to meet the expectations of; disappoint.


To 'blot one's copybook' (British idiom):

  1. Tarnish one's good reputation

'she saw her sister blot her copybook by being quoted in the press'

Source: ODO

  1. To spoil one's reputation by making a mistake, offending against social customs, etc.

Source: Collins

To 'blot your copybook':

  1. To do something that makes other people respect or trust you less

'I really blotted my copybook by missing the meeting.'

Source: CDO

ORIGIN OF PHRASE: in the Victorian schoolroom, children progressed from using slates to using books, and to writing with an ink pen. Copybooks were named as such because children repeatedly copied out the alphabet and lines of text into them, to practice formal handwriting.

Ink pens were made from wood with a steel nib. Children needed to repeatedly refill their pens with ink by dipping them in the inkwell. This often led to blobs or blots of ink dripping onto their copy books, which resulted in punishment.

It wasn't until the era of the copybook was almost over, that the phrase took on an idiomatic meaning. The New Partridge Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English, 2015 records this figurative use of school imagery as first used in 1937.

Sample of Victorian handwriting with blots

A sample of Victorian handwriting plus ink blots - impossible to hide!


Override: "to make (something) no longer valid" Merriam Webster.

Sample sentence (which I made up) "when she acts like that, it just overrides all the good times we have had together." Perhaps what you mean is

Temporarily override temporary: "Lasting for a time only; ephemeral; transitory" Webster's New Collegiate


After reading your comments carefully, I conclude that you are not searching for a dour, bitter expression that scorches your friend or your friendship, but rather a light-hearted idiom, at least on the surface, that describes your friend as an infrequent juvenile who acts out-of-character, which highly offends you, taking you to the brink of friendship, but never off the cliff.

As you stated, they are your "nice and kind friend who helps whenever possible". You point out that their actions only neutralize their past good deeds momentarily. You mention that they will be forgiven. Therefore, we are not talking about burning bridges. Through other comments you indicate you are not looking for clinical or diagnostic comments nor to describe them from a medical point of view.

Based on this, I would recommend considering a new, modified iteration of the common idiom, "Don't throw the baby out with the bath water".

Let's say your friend's name is Alice.

Try, "Oh, sometimes Alice can be a real baby, but I can't throw her out with the bath water!", or, substitute the word "real" with your favorite expletive, then be sure to angrily emphasize that he or she is a baby, but soften the blow at the end by earnestly intoning forgiveness with the latter point. For instance, "Alice can be such a ****ing baby sometimes, but I can't throw her out with the bath water, can I?

  • Very interesting, +1, Yes, you're right, I just want ot describe his/her behavior for an audience, because I know this is part of their character, I want to focus that they nullify their good doing that easily! ,thanks @The Last Progenitor
    – Soudabeh
    Commented Aug 1, 2015 at 8:47
  • Maybe they are having a "bad hair day". Something in their life has gone horribly wrong ("bad hair" is an understatement) and they are reacting negatively to everything and everyone that crosses their path. However, it's reversible because they usually have er, nice hair (are in a better mood).
    – pepper
    Commented May 2, 2016 at 7:17

They are trashing your friendship:

verb (used with object)

  1. Slang. to destroy, damage, or vandalize, as in anger or protest: The slovenly renters had trashed the house. - Dictionary.com/trash

X is a loyal and true friend, but ...

he's hotheaded.

he's a hothead.

he loses his temper easily.

he flies off the handle easily.

he's quite volatile.

he can be quite explosive.

he's got a savage temper.

You can make a more complex phrase such as

You're coasting along enjoying your friendship with X when he'll suddenly let loose with surprising venom, and then you need a little time to recover.

You might be able to train him or her to count slowly to ten before speaking when the anger hits, by putting your fingers in your ears and calmly turning away the moment he starts to let loose.


It seems to me that your friend may be "Throwing out the baby with the bathwater" Or letting "One bad apple (event) spoil the whole barrel" "

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.