No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

It’s great to give, but be careful to set boundaries

Shefali O'Hara
3 min readMay 26


Photo by Nick Hawkins on Unsplash

Thanks to my upbringing and faith, I think it is better to give than to receive. That doesn’t mean I’m not selfish at times, or mean, or even b*tchy. I’m human, and dealing with cancer can make me cranky at times.

When I’m in pain, it’s harder to control my temper. But I try, and I try to find ways to give to those I care about even when life seems rough.

However, I also try to set boundaries because I think that’s healthier for everyone in a relationship.

That being said, I recently let someone ride roughshod over my boundaries.

Of course, I bear the responsibility for this myself.

Here’s what happened:

One of my Facebook friends decided that since I publish articles on Medium, I could help him do the same.

Now, he and I were, at best, acquaintances. I’d met him a few times several years ago as part of a gaming group and one time he drove me home afterwards. During that trip, he told me about how his brother died, and I offered sympathy and told him about resources in the area.

He left town shortly thereafter, and, aside from the occasional FB joke or comment, I wasn’t in touch with him.

So it surprised me that he was, out of the blue, asking for me to help him out with something that, frankly, would take me more time than I really had to give. This is because, if I offer to help someone, I take it seriously, and, frankly, given my health issues, I couldn’t really spend so much time. But I knew from the occasional FB post I saw that he was still really sad about his brother and so I decided it would be a nice thing to help him.

I came to regret that kind impulse, however.

To start with, the article was very badly written, plus it was on a topic I had no interest in.

He had no concept of grammar, punctuation, etc. When I told him he might want to use a nomme de plume, he made fun of my “big words”. Which made me wonder about his reason for wanting to write, since I always thought a love of language was part of it.



Shefali O'Hara

Cancer survivor, writer, engineer. BSEE from MIT, MSEE, and MA in history. Love nature, animals, books, art, and interesting discussions.