Why you’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t at times


Kevin Mangelschots

Sometimes, you’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t. At times, there’s simply no winning in life, no matter what decision we make.

For example, if I invite my parents over for dinner, my girlfriend will be mad because she doesn’t like them. But if I don’t invite them over for dinner, my parents will be mad because I didn’t invite them for dinner.

Yet, making the best of a bad situation can make all the difference. This is how you do it.

Damned if you do, damned if you don't explained

Image of a sign with fire in front of a stick man, and a fire behind him, indicating that it's damned if you do, and damned if you don't.

You can’t win, no matter what you choose

Sometimes, you are simply put in a situation where no matter what you do, you’ll lose something.

If you have to select between two bad situations, then the best of those two is still not a desirable option.

You get to pick your poison

In life, choosing is often losing. But, you’ll get to pick your poison. At least that’s something.

You get to pick what you suffer for

If we use the example of inviting the parents over to dinner or not, then you’ll get to decide who of the two parties is mad. It’s either your parents or your girlfriend. Sure, it’s still not an amusing situation to be in. But at least you can select what you get to suffer for.

There are times when we just get dealt a bad hand in life. And we need to play it out as well as we can.

We can’t please everyone

The quote, “just a quick reminder: you can't please everyone” written in black letters on a gray background.

What is important to realize is that we can’t please everyone around us. And the simple fact of being ourselves typically means offending people around us. Especially those who are fake.

Everyone can’t think the same. Thus, we will frequently butt heads with each other.

Doing something is typically better than doing nothing

But, it is better to be damned if you act than to be damned if you do nothing.

If you act, you’ll at least give yourself a fighting chance at making a difference or making a positive influence.

If you don’t do something, then you are damned and doomed from the very start because there is no choice but to make anything positive of the situation.

Pick the less bad of the two options

If you have to choose between two poor situations, then at least pick the least detrimental one.

This might seem negative, but it can make a big difference!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What does “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” mean?

A person holding a question mark in front of their face.

Damned if you do, damned if you don’t means being in a situation or position in which one can’t win.

It signifies that no matter what you do, you’re going to get criticized for it. It imparts that there are no good choices available.

Damned if you do, damned if you don’t synonym

  • Stuck between a rock and a hard place
  • Between the devil and the deep blue sea
  • Between Scylla and Charybdis

While the wording is different, the meaning remains by and large the same, since they’re synonyms of one another.

Damned if you do, damned if you don’t origin

The quote, “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” probably originated before 1834 when it was said by American evangelist Lorenzo Dow.
 He was born in Coventry, Connecticut, and lived from October 16, 1777 – February 2, 1834. He’s most famous for being a traveling preacher.

Damned if you do, damned if you don’t examples

Image of the word “example” being written with a blue marker by someone's hand.

Example 1

An example of being damned if you do damned if you don’t is selling soda drinks in school.

If they were to ban it from the schools, then the kids would be mad and feel like they’re being controlled, all the while gaining the impression that their rights are being breached.

But if the school doesn’t ban it, then the parents and other people in society will say that the schools are damaging the students’ health.

Example 2

And for our final example, Jim is being bullied in school by the other children.

If Jim stands up for himself verbally, the bullies might punch him. If he decides to physically defend himself, then he might get harmed, or he might injure the offenders. Whatever the case, he’ll be punished by the school, and possibly his parents.

But if he doesn’t defend himself, then the bullying will continue, and probably only get worse since he has shown himself to be an easy victim who’s unwilling and/or unable to defend himself.

Is damned if you do, damned if you don’t an idiom?

The word “idioms” written in black letters on a gray background.

Damned if you do, damned if you don’t is an idiom, since you can’t derive the meaning of the separate words.

When we put all the words together, however, is when that phrase receives its substance.

Is damned if you do, damned if you don’t a paradox?

It is considered a paradox since it seems conflicting to be damned when doing something, but also when not doing anything.
In our minds, one of the choices we have to make is better than the other. But in some instances, both options are equally bad.

But when we take a closer look, then we can see that there are instances where there simply isn’t a good decision to make or pick from. This means that we’re still going to suffer, whatever option we select. Thus, this statement is justified.

How to make the best of a bad situation?

  1. Analyze the situation

    Before making decisions about what you should do next, it’s best to assess the situation properly.

    This includes figuring out what went wrong, where it went wrong, and what you can do to improve your circumstances.

    Don’t be afraid to take your time and spend some time alone. This is the single most important step, and properly analyzing means that the other steps will go that much smoother.

  2. Take the time to process the position you’re in

    Closely related to the previous point. We’re not necessarily used to these bad situations. They might even mess with our mental state and make us experience various negative emotions such as sadness and anxiety.

    As such, we need to take the required time to figure things out and to let things calm down. Because making choices based on our emotions is rarely a good thing. We know that fear is a bad counselor.

  3. Accept the circumstances

    Accepting the circumstances involves properly analyzing that you can’t change the bad situation you’re currently in. Sometimes you’re simply stuck between a rock and a hard place.

    In these cases, we have no choice but to accept our situation as part of reality that we can’t escape. When we go through hurtful events, we might try to flee by actively deluding ourselves to decrease the pain. Yet, this will backfire sooner rather than later. And that’s why we have to deal with the truth.

  4. Reflect on past bad situations

    Image of the words “self reflection” being reflected through a mirror.

    To make the best out of a bad situation, we must reflect on past situations that were negative and challenging. This way, we can rely on our experience to guide us toward the best possible choice.

     You should prevent the victim mentality from taking hold of you. Because feeling sorry for yourself, and blaming your misfortune on outside sources such as other people, won’t make your position any better.

    Take responsibility for your situation, and strive to handle it as well as you can.

  5. Figure out what you should do

    When there’s no getting out of a bad situation, then it’s best to figure out what you should do instead.

    Sometimes you can make your bad situation better by choosing the lesser of the two evils. But better doesn’t necessarily mean good.

    In some instances, this means doing the bare minimum. And just trying to let things pass as quickly as possible, so you can move on with your life.

  6. Minimize your expectations

    The words “expectations vs. reality” written in black letters on a light blue background.

    Damned if you do, damned if you don’t already refer to the fact that there’s no good pick to make and that whatever you select, you will not come out victorious.

    Thus, you should minimize your expectations. It’s good to pick the option that’s the least detrimental to you and your environment, but don’t expect to come out on top.

  7. Concentrate on what you do have

    Making the best out of a bad situation involves concentrating on what you do have rather than what you don’t have, or are about to lose.

    The grass always seems greener on the other side of the fence. Then there’s also the fact that we typically don’t value what we have until we lose it. Part of life is appreciating what we possess instead of always wanting more, as this is an endless cycle.

  8. Accept change

    Illustration of a woman hugging a pole reading “change.” This indicates that she embraces change.

    Change is inevitable, and is a natural process of life. We might not always like it, but we must learn to accept it since the world simply does not remain static.

    What made us survive is not our superior intelligence or numbers, although that’s a part of it. Rather, we can adapt better to new situations than any other creature on earth.

  9. Learn the life lesson

    To make the best of a bad situation, we must learn the life lesson that’s available to us.

    Just because the overall experience might be negative doesn’t mean there’s nothing we can learn to do better in the future. Failure is required, and one of the keys to thriving in the future.

    If we don’t learn the teaching in front of us, then the same mistake will happen in some way, shape, or form down the road. But we can prevent this from happening by understanding what the world is trying to instruct us.

  10. Keep your head up

    And finally, keep your head up, no matter how hard the choice is, or what the results are.

    Picking between poor options will most likely still feel pretty bad. There’s also a chance that you will come to realize at a later date that you made the “wrong” decision.

    If you followed the steps before, then at least you will have a clear conscience that you made the best possible selection with the information that was at your disposal. We make mistakes, and we fail. That’s part of life. But doing something is always better than passively watching from the sidelines!


Image of the word, “conclusions” written on a black backboard with white chalk.

Damned if I do, damned if I don’t is something I, and everyone else, have been through in the past and will experience in the future from time to time. But making the best of a bad situation can make all the difference.

Life is hard. And sometimes, that means we just have to make do with the cards we’re dealt.

My best tip would be to make the decision that you value the most, and what will cause you the least pain. Of course, this still won’t feel good since we’re missing out on something, regardless of what we gain.

But that’s a life lesson too. We can’t always win, no matter who we are, how much money we have, and what our social status is.