Years ago, I came across a dispiriting, yet oddly profound proverb going something along the lines of:
No good deed ever goes unpunished.
And these six words have stuck with me ever since. After every attempt to help someone that has come back and bit me in the buttocks it’s there to remind me that more people than I would like to think are clever snakes with honeyed voices, wolves in sheep’s clothing (or as the film Zootopia so cleverly conveyed (spoiler alert!), sheep as “wolves in sheep’s clothing”). But to feel that it’s unsafe to be a good samaritan is a terrible fear to carry, and at those unfortunate occasions where I have come to regret doing something good for someone I have always ended up feeling utterly, utterly ashamed of myself.
A few days ago though, my focus shifted from myself and I suddenly found myself wondering what it must be like for my fellow Iranians. Most of the ones I’ve spoken to have often talked about the troubles they face when it comes to trusting others, of how they often have been swindled, ridiculed, used, and betrayed, and of how they eventually have had to teach themselves to be guarded and wary of others and their intentions.
But yet, I figure there must be millions of people (including some of the ones I’ve talked to) who despite of this actively strive to both do and be good; people who try to live honest lives and who try to interact with others with unyielding integrity, even if it means that they, in the end, will end up as “losers”.
But why continue if there’s a risk of being swindled or used? Why bother?
I cannot come up with a better answer than saying that we should bother because we have to. Even if our efforts seem fruitless, we have to care. Even if we aren’t getting anything back except harm and dismay for whatever it is that we either silently or conspicuously have done for others, we have to care. Why? Because an act of unselfishness is in itself so beautiful and complete that it does not need to be reciprocated. Even if all we have given someone is our trust, we might have equipped them with more than we realise; trust can give the most insecure of souls the courage and strength to actually grow into individuals worthy of other people’s trust.
To err is human. Probably all of us have, at some point in our lives, made someone else think of the aforementioned proverb. We might just not focus on that as much as we focus on our own fear of being vulnerable or getting hurt. But if we truly want to protect ourselves we ought to strive to see the best in others, because by exhibiting transparent trust we somehow ensure that we ourselves aren’t turning into wolves in sheep’s clothing, and more importantly, we ensure that we are growing into something better than the society we grew up in.