There is a proverb in Persian that literally means:

"A lopsided load won't reach the (given) destination."

It implies that "dishonesty, deviation from the right path, or injustice wouldn't have good or favorite consequences".

We use it:

  • for criticizing or giving advice to somebody who is trying to gain their goals through dishonesty, deceitful actions, or injustice.


  • when someone has acted dishonestly and now has faced bad consequences so we remind them "Didn't you know that a lopsided load won't reach the destination?!"

Is there any equivalent for this Persian proverb in English language?


As you see in the below cartoon, watermelons have been loaded lopsidedly on the poor donkey's back, so the man is not able to deliver them to the (given) market.

enter image description here


I just found that in some Persian to English sources "honesty is the best policy" is considered as the equivalent to this proverb, does it have the same connotation?

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    The one I thought of immediately was "crime doesn't pay" but that's not quite what you're looking for. Let me have a think about it. Commented Mar 11, 2016 at 13:43
  • 2
    In this context 'pay' can be read as 'payment of wages'. Read it as 'crime is not profitable'
    – bradimus
    Commented Mar 11, 2016 at 13:59
  • Yes, @ermanen, :)) I found this funny cartoon in an Iranian website that explains the Persian proverbs to the kids.
    – Soudabeh
    Commented Mar 11, 2016 at 17:33
  • 1
    "Crime doesn't pay" [Johnny Dangerously]..."Well it pays a little."
    – Stu W
    Commented Mar 11, 2016 at 21:30
  • @Soudabeh May you give the original proverb with persian letters? are you talking about the following: Commented Oct 25, 2017 at 12:30

9 Answers 9


ill-gotten gains never prosper; ill-gotten goods seldom/never prosper; evil-gotten goods never prove well

But there is a proverb which says that ill-gotten gains never prosper, and the Prince found that the stolen ring brought him ill-luck after all.

The Free Dictionary

Ill-gotten gains: money gained by questionable means

This is all that is left in general use of a proverb that ran 'Ill-gotten gains never prosper'. This first appeared in English in 1519 in the form 'Evil gotten riches will never prove long', and Shakespeare has it in the form 'Didst thou never hear / That things ill got had ever bad success (Henry VI, part 3, II.ii). Ill-gotten gains had become separated from their proverb by the late 17th century, and were a cliché by the 19th.


variants of this proverb:

cheats never prosper; cheaters never win and winners never cheat Dictionary of Proverbs

what is gotten over the devil's back should go under his belly

Early American Proverbs and Proverbial Phrases

It is said, money that is dishonestly acquired, will not "stick," in other words, money that comes over the Devil's back, will go under the Devil's belly," therefor, young men, you who are starting out in life, start honestly. (emphasis is mine.) newspapers.com

crime doesn't pay

Prov. Crime will ultimately not benefit a person. No matter how tempting it may appear, crime doesn't pay.

McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs

Variant of this proverb:

He who steals will always fail A Dictionary of American Proverbs

live by the sword, die by the sword

Prov. If you use violence against other people, you can expect to have violence used against you.; You can expect to become a victim of whatever means you use to get what you want. (Biblical.) The gang leader who organized so many murders was eventually murdered himself. Live by the sword, die by the sword. Bill liked to spread damaging gossip about other people, until he lost all his friends because of some gossip that was spread about him.

McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs

The saying “live by the sword, die by the sword” is an idiom that basically means “what goes around comes around.” More to the point, “if you use violent, forceful, or underhanded methods against other people, you can expect those same methods to be used against you.”


  • Thanks a lot,@Elian. Could you please explain " what is gotten over the devil's back should go under his belly" a little? ( I couldn't find its implication.)
    – Soudabeh
    Commented Mar 13, 2016 at 11:55
  • 1
    @Soudabeh Possible interpretation, "one should render unto the devil what was gotten over his back" i.e. one should pay for their crimes (=ill-gotten gains.).
    – Elian
    Commented Mar 13, 2016 at 12:15

Something that has equivalent connotations of "you did something bad and now you have to (or soon you will have to) deal with the consequences":

You reap what you sow:

everything that happens to you is a result of your own actions.
If you treat your friends like that, of course they drop you. You reap what you sow in this life.
source: TheFreeDictionary.com

  • 3
    Like @PapaPoule's suggestion, this is of Biblical origin: "Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap" (Gal 6:7, AV). I've usually seen it as "As you sow, so shall you reap". Commented Mar 11, 2016 at 18:19

It isn't a proverb so much as an idiom, but I will offer cheaters never prosper or sometimes just cheats never prosper.

If you cheat people, they will not continue to do business with you, and so your business will fail.

I am most familiar with this as a playground taunt among elementary school children- when one of us would try to bend the rules at dodge-ball or red-rover, the others would call him out and chant "Nah-nah-Nah-nah-Nah-nah! Cheaters never prosper!" It is also used in many other situations, however, and has a similar meaning to what you describe.


Reminding someone to stay on a/the “straight and narrow [path]” is similar to cautioning someone to straighten their lopsided loads, not in the sense that a lopsided load will eventually topple, but that it won’t fit on the narrow path or through the “strait” gate leading to whatever rewards might await those who live good and honest lives.

straight and narrow noun: informal the proper, honest, and moral path of behavior
[perhaps an alteration of strait and narrow, an allusion to Matthew 7:14: 'strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life']

(from ‘Collins English Dictionary’ via ‘The Free Dictiobary by Farlex’)

Your edit mentioning “Honesty is the best policy” (which although capturing the essential meaning of the original, is arguably a bit too general) prompted a search for other idioms containing “honesty” that, unlike "Honesty is the best policy," specifically include the notion of motion on a path toward a desired destination.

The following is the only one I found containing a direct mention of motion, but unfortunately it appears to have been concocted by Ed Shewan and Annie Lee Sloan, the authors of ‘Mastering Communication Skills’ merely to provide an example of a simile, for it is not at all familiar to me and more importantly, is found nowhere else on the internet:

Dishonesty breathing in a heart is like a bicyclist going downhill without brakes.

(from ‘Google Books’)

There is the following quote (attributed by some to Mark Twain), however, that is legitimate and fairly well-known and which could be paraphrased to kind of include the notion of “staying on [the right path]” by using “stick to” or “stick with” instead of the quote’s original (or close to it) phrasing:

Speak the truth at all times, it's easier to remember.

(from ‘Here's How: An Introduction to Practical Discipleship’ by Lee Brown, via ‘Google Books’)

Paraphrasing it with “stick with” would give:

[Always] Stick with the truth, it’s easier to remember.

(from ‘Family Matters: An Ernest "Sparky" Hemingway Mystery’ by Joel Rosenberg, via ‘Google Books’)

and paraphrased with “stick to”:

[Always] Stick to the truth, it’s easier to remember.

(from ‘One Day Too Long: Top Secret Site 85 and the Bombing of North Vietnam’ by Timothy N. Castle, via ‘Google Books’)


I would say that a similar proverb is what goes around comes around:

A person's actions, whether good or bad, will often have consequences for that person.


This essentially says "a lopsided load won't reach the destination," but also implies that a balanced load will.

Also, you could say karma's a bitch, which has essentially the same meaning.


It is not an idiom or proverb, but you could consider using "cutting corners gets you nowhere". To cut corners means:

To do a less-than-thorough or incomplete job; to do something poorly or take shortcuts: 'The guy who built the fence cut corners when sinking the posts, and the fence fell over in the last storm.'


Actual usage:

Let’s take the attention away from the people and teams making up the Deflategate scandal. In turn, let’s learn from these headlines and give attention to the fact that cutting corners gets you nowhere. Let’s swear off Deflategate, empower ourselves and others and make any other type of competitor irrelevant.


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    I was going to answer "taking short cuts is a bad move" but I think "cutting corners gets you nowhere" is better.
    – k1eran
    Commented Mar 11, 2016 at 17:47

In English, the phrase monkey business refers to

Silly, mischievous, or deceitful conduct


Also we have playing by the rules,

Follow what is generally held to be the correct line of behaviour


Perhaps you can combine the phrases above and say something like,

You should have played by the rules, Bob. All that monkey business has cost you dearly!

And finally, my personal favorite (more of a quote than an idiom)

There are no shortcuts to success!


There is a famous quotation from Sir Walter Scott, Marmion: A Tale of Flodden Field that has become a kind of catch-phrase for getting into trouble by not behaving honestly and forthrightly:

Oh what a tangled web we weave

When first we practice to deceive.

Marmion was published in 1808, but U.S. awareness of and interest in this proverb-like expression grew considerably in the 1973 after Senator Sam Ervin of North Carolina invoked the lines during the Senate's hearings on the Watergate scandal. The following exchange occurred during questioning of Hugh W. Sloan, Jr., who had been treasurer of the Committee to Re-Elect the President during the 1972 election campaign:

Senator ERVIN. The only identification he [Lee Nunn] gave to you about that certain person who had called him was that it was an official of the Committee To Re-Elect the President?

Mr. SLOAN. Yes, sir. I had the distinct impression that it was a staff member of the political committee.

Senator ERVIN. Yes; but he told you that he was conveying the message to you, but that he would advise you to tell the truth?

Mr. SLOAN. No; he was not conveying that individual's request to me. He told the gentleman that he would in no way ever advise me to take that course of action. He called me just to let me know the fact that someone had approached him with that kind of request. It was purely to inform me, to alert me that pressures might be brought to bear on me over a period of time.

Senator ERVIN. Well, I still repeat what I said earlier in my interrogation of you; I think you have strengthened my faith in the old adage that an honest man is the noblest work of God.

I will also meditate for a moment on the old saying, "What a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive."

That is all.


How about Hebrews 10:31?

It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

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