By Aaron Clarey
I shan't go into the details, but many years ago when the Captain was but an innocent lieutenant, he met a person. Said person was simply a younger version of the then already-younger Captain. Still, despite my age the parallels between this person and myself were uncanny. It was like looking into a time warp and seeing my younger self.
Naturally my instinct was to warn the kid about what to expect, what was coming down the pike, and in general to make his life infinitely easier than mine had been. With a few tweaks and adjustments, a few key important life lessons, this kid would avoid the hellish nightmare I went through and come out the other end happier, more successful, and very likely a higher life expectancy.
For what transpired was a slow, but inexorable decline of merely continuing the path the kid was already on.
I'd suggest he hit the gym.
I'd suggest he start learning a skill or trade.
I'd suggest he take college classes, CLEP out, WGU online, anything to get a jump on his education and career.
I'd suggest he read Bachelor Pad Economics.
And so I witnessed Cappy v 2.0 slow-motion crash into the ground. All I could do was yell like Bruce Willis in Die Hard 2 for the plane to "PULL UP!!!" (3:15 mark) but had about the same amount of success.
This would be the first in a series of major instances where people I cared about would not listen to me and suffer dire consequences. Matter of fact, so common did it become that people would ignore my warnings or advice, that I was forced to coldly accept there was nothing I could do to help them. I would be watching a lot of planes crash and why have two people suffer? I conditioned myself to truly not care about things I didn't control. Matter of fact, why not make money on warning people, giving zero damn about the results? You at least got some money out of the deal and that was better than having two people suffer. Alas, the cold, callous, indifferent, and Machiavellian Cappy you all love and cherish today was born.
However, dour and dark as I've become, the absolute refusal of loved ones in my life to improve themselves forced my brain to explore and solve some of humanity's odd contradictions. The foremost of which was "why no good deed goes unpunished." And after dedicated the majority of my hike today towards solving that problem, I think I have.
The first thing to understand is your pride and ego are likely the primary cause of you getting punished for any good deeds you do. No matter how noble and selfless your intentions to help somebody, it still stings, if not, is outright insulting that your wisdom, help, and advice goes unheeded. This is your problem, not theirs. Your advice could be right. Your wisdom could be 100% spot on. You could indeed save that person's life. But whether that person listens to you and acts on your advice is moot. You've done your good deed. Now it is out of your hands. The "aftermath" is simply validation for your ego and the "insult" when they don't heed your advice is merely bruising of your pride.
Let it go. You do not control it and you are not entitled to having others "value your wisdom." You simply are punishing yourself taking umbrage when you are not listened to.
The second thing to understand is the source of most punishment when you try to do a good deed. If you help a wounded dog, move a turtle off the road, or do something to some animal there is usually no retribution. Animals don't interact with humans. But when you help a human you have now exposed yourself to an infinite amount of possible subsequent decisions and actions that human will make/commit due to your good deed. And not all these possible outcomes are good. You could get a person to stop drinking and they will go onto hard drugs. You could get a person not to have a kid they can't afford, but their spouse may hate you for that. You could convince a young man to join the military, but his mom will blame you if he gets shot in Iraq. Not matter what your intentions (let alone responsibility) the fact your help was acted upon will, in the eyes of people you help, make you partly responsible for ALL outcomes, good or bad.
Third (and closely related to the second point) when people need help there's usually a reason. And that reason is they're usually losers. Admittedly there's some truly innocent people (kids for example), but adults that need help have screwed up somewhere along the line and are to blame for their own situation 9 out of 10 times. This means bad decision making is endemic to them and their lifestyles. Illegitimate kids. Crime. Worthless degrees. Uncontrolled spending. Dating bad boys. Dating T n' A without the brains or responsibility. Or simple outright laziness and sloth. Yes, a truly statistically rare and bad thing may have happened to somebody you care about, but more often than not, adults who need your help are perpetual bad decision makers. They may take your advice this one time, but whatever fruits come from that will quickly be thrown away the next bad decision they make. Plugging one one-inch hole in a sinking ship that has a 10 yard section blown off by a torpedo is still going to sink.
This one I find particularly hurtful because in my professional life you see many people espousing strong work ethics, conservatism, independence, and excellence, but the percent who actually pursue it is shockingly low. They are merely theoreticians much like a celebrity pastor who bangs a ton of his congregants and buys expensive toys. Still, laziness manifests itself most commonly in people via their expectations of how much labor they will have to expend in life.
Let me state that again because this is a very important point and lesson to learn about humanity.
Laziness manifests itself most commonly where people have a view, ideology, or life philosophy where "X" amount of sweat, labor, and toil is going to be required to sustain them through their life.
When you introduce a course correction, advice, or just plain reality, that course correction almost ALWAYS requires that person expend WAY MORE effort and energy in their lives than what they were expecting. And they simply do not have the courage, spine, or mental strength to admit it AND commit to it.
Telling a poor person the only way out of poverty is to stop watching TV, stop eating crap, to get off welfare, spend 4 years in school, and 35 years in a profession literally increases their life labor by 50 fold.
Telling the NEET who lives at home he/she needs to get out of the house, get themselves a job, learn a skill, and to put down the video games, increasing their life long labor commitment by 1,000%.
Telling Ms. Sociology Masters Graduate her degree is worthless and she has to go BACK to college and this time major in something MUCH MORE rigorous increases her expected life pain and suffering exponentially.
And the average human brain simply can't handle it.
Instead most of these people choose to live in denial, ne'er cutting their spending, ne'er learning a real skill, ne'er putting down the ho-ho's, ne'er hitting the treadmill, ne'er studying calculus, ne'er learning to do their own auto-maintenance, and ne'er putting others ahead of themselves to find true love. They just kick the can down the road until they're like many of my clients where they're 58, divorced, fat, out of shape, physically ill, financially insolvent, with absolutely no hopes whatsoever of retiring before they die. All because they were too damn lazy and too damn cowardly to admit what life was REALLY going to take to be successful, and thus their fear is what drove them to ignore your advice.
The problem is, more often than not, your advice forces them to look into this dark mirror and their inherent laziness strikes back at you. Additionally, their ego and pride take offense because you are essentially pointing out the truth - that they are a loser who will never succeed in life unless they change. This cuts too deep and 9 out of 10 times they will stop being your friend, tell you to pound sand, or lecture you saying "how dare you tell me how to live my life!!!" Try telling a high school graduate his choice to major in theater is stupid as all hell. Try telling a careerist 35 year old woman who wants to have kids her most fertile years were a decade and change ago. Try telling a NEET he'll get diabetes if he doesn't put down the mountain dew and XBox controller. And try telling a dudebro $30,000naire he won't "fake it till he makes it." You are guaranteed to incur vitriol and hatred, no matter how much you're trying to help them.
The truth is nobody likes the truth, and if you're going to dispense it, I suggest you charge a pretty penny for it. In the meantime, do not do any good deeds. There's no market for it. You don't deserve the punishment. And the beneficiaries of your good deeds won't appreciate it.
Editor's note: This article was originally published at Captain Capitalism and has been rerun with permission.