what goes around, comes around

A proverb meaning that a person’s actions (good or bad) will often have consequences for that person. In other words, wrongdoing will result in comeuppance or retribution. 

Or in blunt but accurate Internet terms: Karma’s a bitch.

“What goes around comes around” is the basic understanding of how karma, supposedly the law of cause and effect, works. Depending on one’s actions, one will reap the fruits of those actions. The fruits may be sweet or sour, depending on the nature of the actions performed.

The most reliable souce says that the the phrase “What goes around comes around” was coined in San Diego, California, in 1970. A former Green Beret, who was going through a physical purification after several months of self-induced drug experimentation expressed the idea of “karma” in this way to explain the enlightenment he had gained. In the room at the time were several friends, all of whom immediately grasped upon the expression and it spread rapidly, to be used many times again. No examples of this expression have been found in print prior to that date.

The idea of karma originated in Indian religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism, but is also used in the West to mean that good deeds will be rewarded with good results, with the opposite for bad deeds. This assumption is captured in the popular saying “What goes around comes around,” and in the much older proverb, “As you sow, so shall you reap.”

Karma appeals to people because it’s comforting to think that people will get what they deserve. It’s based on a religious idea that a god or gods will ensure that people really do get what they deserve. This idea is no more plausible than the formerly widespread belief that the good will of the gods can be achieved by sacrificing animals. Reciprocity—treating people well because they have treated you well—is important in human interactions, but the cosmos plays no part in it. The original Buddhist idea of karma based on reincarnation is even more problematic with respect to evidence.

The belief that what goes around comes around is just wishful thinking. There is no evidence that supports ideas about fate, destiny, and some things being meant to be, or not meant to be. Like karma, fate, and destiny, the view that everything happens for a reason merely serves to provide false assurance to people suffering through a difficult world.


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