You might think from the headline (Do good, even if it annoys somebody.) that I am advocating annoying people.

Au contraire, as they say in France. I am advocating doing good not for the purpose of annoying others, but in spite of the fact that it might. No, in spite of the fact that it will.

At times in my life, I confess, annoying others was my intent. That was (a) when I was young and had siblings; (b) when I was in high school; (c) when I was a pledge in a fraternity. I never really enjoyed it, except once or twice when my older brother was the target. There was never a mean spirit, either in the give or the take.

I’m certain that many times I have annoyed others unknowingly. That could have been my wife, some random person on the highway, or any number of others.

A little more than 100 years ago, P. G. Wodehouse wrote this line in one of his novels:

It is not easy in this world to take any definite step without annoying somebody.

That could have been written today — in fact it sounds like it was. But it has always been the case that almost any “definite step” you take — and that includes posting something online — will annoy someone.

Back when Wodehouse (pronounced wood-house) wrote that line, most annoyances were suffered in silence. His line referred to the hero of the story, Kirk, who had fallen in love. He was now spending most of his time with Ruth, and the pals who were used to leaching off of him were annoyed by that.


Most of Kirk’s pals moved on, but one of them got over his annoyance by trying to break up the romance. Annoy just the right person, even with a good thing like falling in love, and you might be in for a spot of bother. That is still true today. Ask Evan Gershkovich.

We often call it “cancel culture” and other clever names, even though it is petty revenge for an imagined wrong. Do you see what I did there?

I wrote that last line honestly, but someone could be annoyed by it. “Imagined?” they might huff. “The wrong you have done me is real. I can feel it, and it hurts. Nothing will soothe my pain other than your own suffering.”

That sounds like petty revenge to me. And when I say “petty” I refer to the kind, not the degree. Often times these days the degree far outweighs the annoyance.

Here is a case in point. Vito Perrone was offered the position of Superintendent for Easthampton Schools. He studied the financial offer and saw that it was less than he was currently being paid, so he decided to negotiate.

Toward that end he sent an email to the chairperson of the search committee and the executive assistant to the committee, both females. His salutation was “Ladies,” and they were annoyed by it.

Rather than discuss the perceived gaffe, the committee withdrew the offer. The chairperson told him that “ladies” was “hostile and derogatory” and that he had used it as a “microaggression.”

He said, “I grew up in a time when ‘ladies’ and ‘gentlemen’ was a sign of respect. I didn’t intend to insult anyone.”

Trying to do good

The chairperson’s response calls up all kinds of emotions in me, and I’m not Vito Perrone.

I’m also not P. G. Wodehouse, though I am a huge fan. He may well be the greatest comic writer of all time. He wrote 72 novels, contributed to more than 40 plays and musicals, and is still beloved by millions. Many of those don’t know that, during World War II, he annoyed a lot of people.

According to Wikipedia: “In 1940 Wodehouse was taken prisoner at Le Touquet [France, where he and his wife lived] by the invading Germans and interned for nearly a year. After his release he made six broadcasts from German radio in Berlin to the US, which had not yet entered the war. The talks were comic and apolitical, but his broadcasting over enemy radio prompted anger and strident controversy in Britain, and a threat of prosecution. Wodehouse never returned to England.”

Often overlooked though, is that while in internment camp in Germany he was allowed to send postcards to his publisher. (He was a best selling author even in Germany.) Wodehouse used that privilege to surreptitiously alert several families that their sons were alive and well. One biographer noted, “Wodehouse risked severe punishment for those communications, but managed to evade the German censor.”

In 1975, 30 years after the war, Wodehouse received a knighthood for all the good he did with his pen, even though a great deal of it was satire.


I say “even though” it was satire, because still today that form is one of the finest ways to criticize political issues, stupidity (is that redundant?), and excesses.

One of the best at that for a long time was The Onion, but the current king (IMHO) is The Babylon Bee. It’s actually a Christian satire site that is unsparing. Trump, Biden, Christians, Satanists, LGBTQ, straights are all fair game.

Here are a couple of their headlines:

  • Family Arriving For Easter Service Surprised How Different Church Looks Without The Christmas Decorations
  • Beverage Pretending To Be Beer Features Man Pretending To Be Woman
  • National Public Radio Denies Being National Or Public
  • Government Accidentally Shuts Itself Down With Ban On Non-Essential Businesses

You can imagine that their brand of humor is annoying to some folks. Among the annoyed is the California legislature, which has now passed what The Bee says is basically a censorship bill. And they are not wrong.

It is not easy in this world to take any definite step without annoying somebody.

Still, I hope The Bee buzzes on, that Vito Perrone gets a raise in his current job, that Wodehouse is appreciated, and most of all that Evan Gershkovich is soon released.

Keep doing good, even if it annoys somebody.

This Post Has 8 Comments

  1. Randy Wolff

    It is 4:30 and I can’t sleep so I read Lewis and learn more about P.G. Wodehouse and now I am laughing and smiling. I hope that doesn’t offend anyone.

    1. Lewis Greer

      I’m sure someone is annoyed by that, but not I!

      Perhaps what made you laugh was this Wodehouse gem: “The least thing upset him on the links. He missed short putts because of the uproar of the butterflies in the adjoining meadows.”

  2. Tom Herrmann

    I always look forward to DoGoodU on Fridays. I’m always surprised by what you come up with. You usually provide me with something or someone I never knew & then feel forced to looked into it further. Thanks so much & keep me questing!😊✝️🙏

    1. Lewis Greer

      Thanks very much, Tom! Keep that questing going, and I do hope part of this one is P. G. Wodehouse. You’ll definitely like the quote above in my reply to Randy Wolff. You can even use it on the course!

  3. Jim Dunning

    Lewis, great stuff.. really enjoy your articles.. will have to read more Wodehouse. Laughed out loud about the poor fellows obituary and the Lion who didnt think he was dead !

    1. Lewis Greer

      Thanks, Jim! The line about the late A. B. Spottsworth always makes me laugh, so I’m really glad you liked it too. Wodehouse’s short stories about golf are terrific, and you’ll get a kick out of those for sure. Just thinking about them is making me smile!

  4. Josh

    Great read as always, Lewis! I will need to pick up something by Wodehouse. Send your suggestions my way!

    1. Lewis Greer

      I’ve got you covered, Josh! Recommendations are coming. Glad you liked the article and that Wodehouse appeals to you. The man definitely had a way with words, and the main characters he created (most famously Jeeves and Wooster) are terrific. So is Psmith (“the P is silent”).

      I can’t remember whether it was Wooster or Psmith who “arrived in the city with a brush, and little bucket of red paint.” 🙂

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