‘What goes around comes around’ – Origin, Meaning, Expansion, and Importance

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‘What goes around comes around’ – Origin, Meaning, Expansion, and Importance

Introduction: You may have heard the phrase ‘what goes around comes around’, either in a song lyric (or as the title of a Justin Timberlake hit), or simply said sagely by a friend or a family member. However, what does this phrase mean? Below, we explain the origin and meaning of this phrase, as well as its importance.


The earliest citation of the phrase ‘what goes around comes around’ in print is in 1974 in a book by Eddie Stone.

However, the idea on which this phrase is based has been around for centuries. In the book of Genesis in the Bible, there is the phrase ‘as you sow, you shall reap’ which is (as we shall see) a similar idea to ‘what goes around comes around’. In addition, this notion is the basis of the idea of karma.

What does ‘What Goes Around Comes Around’ mean?

This phrase means that ‘the actions of a person returns back to him’. The deeds of a person will impact on his life in the future.

Your good deeds will bring you good. If you do good actions, you will be rewarded later in life with good done to you.

We can see this principle in action even in our daily lives. If we are loving, kind or polite with other people, then they will also behave with us in a loving manner. Hence, we should always engage ourselves in good or virtuous acts.

However, there is also a much wider significance to this idea of ‘what goes around comes around’. Though events may not seem connected, good fortune can be said to be a reward for our actions done many decades earlier. For instance, this phrase may be said:

  • If we spend our lives helping others, and then when we need help suddenly have a whole host of people to help us.
  • If we study hard all our lives and then are rewarded with a stable job later in life.

Expansion of this idea.

As mentioned above, the idea of ‘what goes around comes around’ is central to the principle of karma. This can be read about in texts such as the Bhagavad Gita. Here we learn that this phrase can be applied to the idea of good deeds or bad deeds in one life influencing the type of life that we have in the next.

One metaphor that might help you to understand the idea of ‘what goes around comes around’ is that of paying a bill on credit. For example, a store may enable you to take a purchase home and not pay anything for it until 30 days later. You may forget about your purchase completely – until you are hit by the bill a month later. According to the principle of this proverb, our deeds are like these purchases. We do a deed, then we may completely forget about it until sometime later when we receive our reward or punishment.

There are many ways in which our deeds may return to us.

  • Firstly, people with whom we have interacted will remember us. Their memories of how we have treated them will influence how they treat us.
  • If we work hard today, we can enjoy the rewards of this in the future.
  • If we save up money and we will not need to worry about finances in the future.
  • Being kind toward others, even strangers, then if may be rewarded in mysterious ways.

Some people feel that a cosmic force is controlling human actions. Other people argue that there is no such thing.


We should all take care to be good. The importance of the proverb, ‘what goes around comes around’, is discussed below:

1. Reminding us to be kind. This principle gives us extra motivation to be kind. If we are kind towards others, then think kindly of us. They will also behave with us in a kind and loving manner.

2. Central to culture and religion. In many world religions, the idea of being rewarded or punished for your actions is absolutely central to ideas about morality.

3. Binding communities together. The idea of ‘what goes around comes around’ reminds us to always be aware of the effects that our actions have on others.

4. Keeping us in mind of the future. We remember that our spontaneous or reckless actions could have a far-reaching effect on the future.

5. Building positivity. This idea encourages us to be positive every day, safe in the knowledge that further positive things will come to us in the future as a result.

6. Cultivating happiness. Acting according to this principle helps us to bring happiness to ourselves, and spread it to others.

7. Preventing war. When we acknowledge that violence or harm in the present day will beget violence in the future, we will refrain from engaging in war and violence at all.

8. Encourage selfless behavior. When we acknowledge that our selfless actions will, though they may not seem to help us in the short run, actually bring prosperity in the long run, we become much more selfless people.

9. Caring for the planet. ‘What goes around comes around’ applies to the environment too. If we care for our planet, it and our fellow humans will care for us.

10. Politeness. Politeness may seem to be a small and simple virtue, but it is a very powerful one. Both kind and harsh words will be remembered, so be polite and kind. When we remember that being insulting to someone will only lead to a backlash against ourselves, we learn to empathize with other people’s feelings and to treat them with politeness and respect at all times.


The simple phrase ‘what goes around comes around’ has roots that go back for centuries. Whether you approach this principle in a religious frame of mind, or simply as a rule to remind yourself to be kind and considerate in all of your deeds, there is no denying that it is an idea that helps us to be kinder, more peaceful and more environmentally friendly at every moment in our lives.

Have you noticed this principle at work in your own life? Perhaps you recently had an unexpected spell of good luck and are wondering where it came from, for example. Well, why not cast your mind back and see if you have performed any good deeds in the past that could have caused your fortunes to take a turn for the better in the present day.

In general, this idea is a very useful one as it reminds us to be mindful of our actions and their consequences (both on ourselves and on others) at all times. And that can only be a very good thing.

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