For example, despite loving my son and taking his care, all I receive in return is hatred... or despite serving the society, all I get in return is abuses...

  • 18
    Related: No good deed goes unpunished
    – livresque
    Aug 19, 2020 at 1:39
  • 1
    "Getting bad results for good actions" to me implies the bad is a direct result of the good, e.g. setting a rat free outside instead of killing it only to have it come back and eat your food (which would've impossible if you had killed it). This doesn't seem quite the same as your examples, where the bad could happen regardless (maybe it should be "despite good actions" instead of "for good actions"). When speaking about life or society in general, like karma (or the opposite of karma), it might also be different than good and bad within some specific context (like a relationship).
    – NotThatGuy
    Aug 19, 2020 at 11:04

9 Answers 9


So what you want is a verb phrase that applies to the person receiving the abuse. Something like "got garbage as thanks for gold", except that that's no good because I just made it up.

"No good deed goes unpunished" doesn't quite apply because it's a whole sentence, and it's used when the person feels like that's the way of the world rather than particular ingratitude specific to a person.

"Bites the hand that feeds them" is perfect except that it puts the focus on the ungrateful person, rather than the victim of the ingratitude. Maybe that's OK, but it certainly can't be directly substituted.

I think the other suggestions so far are also not quite right for similar reasons, and unfortunately my best guess is that there is no such common expression. If one were common, somebody would have thought of it. When I have seen these situations in fiction, the victim might describe what they've done for the person and say "And this is the thanks I get?" This also doesn't fit as a replacement for your phrase, but it might be at least relevant.


No good deed goes unpunished:

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

[The Free Dictionary]

  • 8
    I've edited your answer to include the definition so readers don't have to click the link. Aug 19, 2020 at 14:50
  • 3
    I've been thinking about this. The actual situation described by the OP (not the OP's title) is more a case of biting the hand that feeds him. "No good deed goes unpunished" is used in more "random / luck / impersonal" situations. For example I once stopped to clear some trash from a rfoad, and my car door got scratched on a tree. "No good deed goes unpunished!" You do NOT use "No good deed goes unpunished" when a specific person responds badly to care ("biting hand ...").
    – Fattie
    Aug 20, 2020 at 15:04
  • 2
    @Fattie "No good deed goes unpunished" is typically used to emphasize the effect on the person performing the deed. "Biting the hand that feeds you" is more an observation that a person is acting against their benefit, and doesn't focus clearly on the harm done to the person doing the deed.
    – Edwin Buck
    Aug 21, 2020 at 3:41

You might say that they bit the hand that fed them.

bite the hand that feeds you to act badly towards the person who is helping or has helped you - Cambridge Dictionary

Here are a couple of examples in print:

  • 1
    This is indeed the correct answer for the actual question asked in the body of the question. (The question title was wrong and misleading.)
    – Fattie
    Aug 20, 2020 at 15:05

There ain't no justice.

From The Big Apple (an etymological dictionary):

"There ain’t no justice” is a phrase that dates to at least the 1850s. “There Ain’t No Justice” was the title of several “Moon Mullins” newspaper comic strips in 1924, the title of a book in 1937, and the title of a movie in 1939.

“TANJ (There Ain’t No Justice)” is from Larry Niven’s science fiction novel, Ringworld (1970). “TANJ” has expanded beyond science fiction and has entered common speech, especially for computer users.

The shortened form (TANJ) has been used in science fiction and other forms of popular culture, in particular as a kind of curse.

It essentially means that life isn't fair. If life were fair, you would expect good things in return for doing good things.


a snake in (one's) bosom

Someone whom one has befriended, taken care of, or treated well but proves to be traitorous, untrustworthy, deceitful, or ungrateful. (Used especially in the phrase "nourish/nurse/nurture a snake in one's bosom.")

Well, it turns out that Margaret was quite a snake in my bosom. I put my neck on the line to get her a job in our company, and then she turns around and tries to get me fired!

I thought our love was not only mutual but indestructible; and yet, I have nursed a snake in my bosom all these years: my darling husband has cast me out and run off with a younger woman. https://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/snake+in+one%27s+bosom


You have your love thrown back in your face.

Throw something back in someone’s face:
To behave badly towards someone who has been good to you

Example: He threw all her kindness back in her face.
[Macmillan dictionary]

Your son throws your love back in your face.


The road to hell is paved with good intentions

Well-intended acts can have disastrous results, as in "She tried to help by defending Dad's position and they haven't spoken since-the road to hell is paved with good intentions".
[The Free Dictionary]


... that good intentions, when acted upon, may have unintended consequences

  • 14
    Sorry, but this isn’t applicable at all. This saying means you don’t get in to heaven just because you meant to do the right things. You actually have to do them. But OP is asking for something meaning “I did the right things, and nobody acknowledges and thanks them for it.
    – Jim
    Aug 19, 2020 at 14:03
  • 2
    Please see the full quote which I partly quoted *Well-intended acts can have disastrous results, as in She tried to help by defending Dad's position and they haven't spoken since-the road to hell is paved with good intentions*//updated answer
    – beeshyams
    Aug 19, 2020 at 14:06

I don't get no respect

This was the comedian Rodney Dangerfield's tag line and began some of his jokes. They were often about how people despised him for no special reason. Not the funniest one, but an example: "With my dog I don't get no respect. He keeps barking at the front door. He don't want to go out. He wants me to leave".

There was a time when everyone had seen him in Caddyshack or starring in Easy Money and would recognize it as a Dangerfield reference. It roughly meant "do you see what I have to deal with?" but with a softer tone.


Another day older and deeper in debt

This is a well-known song lyric from "Sixteen Tons", originally written in 1946 and recorded dozens of times by various artists. It describes the plight of a coal miner who does honest, hard work, but whose only reward is to get older and poorer. This lyric is a well-known line from the song, and describes the notion of doing good, hard work with only negative outcomes.

  • A few lines down it has "I owe my soul to the company store". It's about how wealthy owners cheat the poor, turning them into indentured servants. It would be used now to say that your job doesn't pay enough to support your financial obligations. Aug 20, 2020 at 17:52
  • @OwenReynolds Or more generally, that your hard work is not paying off. The question has become a little more specific since I posted this answer. Aug 20, 2020 at 17:53

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

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