"Good medicine sometimes tastes bitter."A situation where something sounds, appears, or feels like it is absolutely horrible or evil is actually an act of kindness. Essentially, it is a misunderstood action by the characters, who believe the action is being performed for nefarious purposes, while it is actually being performed to assist. It could be a seemingly evil character kidnapping somebody to actually protect them or a trained doctor viciously stabbing somebody in the chest to relieve a collapsed lung. The root of this trope is the act is perceived, and only perceived, as cruel or evil. This is what distinguishes it from related tropes such as Shoot the Dog, because the act is not actually evil, and Stab the Scorpion, because the act is not discovered to be kind until much later. Of course, since perspective is everything, not everyone will consider the person's actions "good". A subtrope to Good Is Not Nice. Compare Shoot the Dog, The Extremist Was Right, Necessarily Evil, Percussive Prevention, and Kind Restraints. For the parental version see Tough Love. Also compare Break His Heart to Save Him and It's Not You, It's My Enemies, where a character abandons a love interest in an attempt to protect him or her. For Your Own Good is usually the character's stated justification in incorporating this trope. Could be the way of the Stealth Mentor. Contrast Cruel Mercy, which is about being kind in order to be cruel.
— Chinese Proverb
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Anime and Manga
- In Attack on Titan, during Eren's trial, Levi proceeds to brutally beat him as a demonstration that Eren could be controlled. Levi beats up Eren so badly that even those who was previously called for Eren's execution or dissection looked uncomfortable and felt Levi was going too far. It was all an act to protect Eren. Commander Erwin uses this to convince the judge to let Eren join the Survey Corps and utilize his Titan abilities to help humanity reclaim Wall Maria. Eren recognizes this and doesn't hold a grudge against Levi for doing what he did.
- Discussed in Bakuman。, when Mashiro is talking to Takagi about an editor's story that left an impression in him. He tells of a young artist who had sent his drafts to the editor, who proceeded to take a look and dump everything into a paper shredder. This only drove the artist to work harder on his art and, when he got serialized, the editor invited him to dinner and apologized for the earlier treatment, while the artist tearfully thanked him for forcing him to strive harder.
- When Byakuya and Renji make it clear they're willing to kill Ichigo to reclaim Rukia and restore her lost powers, Rukia turns her back on Ichigo, deliberately abandoning him and ordering him to never come after her because she knows her coldness is the only way to save him.
- After Aizen kidnaps Orihime, Ichigo does this to Tatsuki by saying that his spiritual activities did not concern her and telling her, Keigo and Mizuiro to no longer associate with him. Urahara later mentions it was very naïve of Ichigo to think coldness could stop his friends from caring about him or the situation Orihime (who happens to be Tatsuki's best friend) was in.
- When Isshin and Ryuuken debate which of them is the worst father, there's a strong indication that they've both been forced into this trope for the sake of protecting and preparing their sons. The reasons, especially in Ryuuken's case, have only partially been explained.
- Matsumoto thinks this is Gin's most endearing attribute. After the battle with Aizen, Gin left nothing behind for her to use as a keepsake. She believes he understood that a keepsake would make her linger in the past and was therefore helping her to move on by leaving nothing behind.
- City Hunter: Ryo Saeba does this constantly. He is a "sweeper" -a mix of private eye and hitman- and it is dangerous to become acquainted with him due to his profession. So that whenever a client is getting too attached to him, Ryo becomes -more- insensitive, rude or lecherous in order to drive her away:
- In one story a client was considering giving up her dreams for Ryo... so Ryo pretended that he only wanted to have sex with her because he thinks he can not to make a honest woman happy.
- Ryo had spent an arc protecting an old friend of his: a weaponsmith that wanted to quit her job for her daughter's sake. However she was considering to go back on her decision in order to remain with Ryo. So he made her believe that, should she stay in his apartment, he and his friends would force her to constantly fix their weapons. Disgusted, she decided leaving (although she eventually understood and accepted that Ryo was trying to do).
- A Cruel God Reigns: Ian keeps the photos his father took after physically and sexually abusing his stepbrother Jeremy in case anyone found out Jeremy messed with the brakes on his step-father's car, which led to his death. When Jeremy accidentally finds them he doesn't react well, shouting that he will kill himself if anyone else finds out what was done to him.
- In Detective Conan, one of the murder victims was an Idol Singer who was rude to his manager and his band. The reason for this was that his manager had plastic surgery to make her nose smaller, not knowing that he preferred her the way she was (and murdering him as a result) and that his rudeness was a means of coping with it. Though the anime version omits the reasoning for him being rude to his band, with said reason being that he was going to leave them and didn't want them to miss him.
- In the Full Metal Panic! Overload manga, Sousuke agrees to help Kaname get into shape for swimsuit season...and puts her in a Bonta-kun suit that forces her to exercise until the point of exhaustion. Sousuke eventually reveals that he was trying to teach Kaname to exercise in moderation, since her original fitness regimen (before he offered to help) was dangerously unhealthy, including outright skipping meals.
- In Hekikai No AION, Seine must make the parasitic Mushi's host hate her so they kill her and excite the Mushi before take it out the host. For this, she's willing to do anything in order to save them from a worse fate.
- InuYasha: Sesshoumaru was so obsessed with feeling like The Unfavourite and trying to obtain his brother's Infinity +1 Sword that he needed increasingly harsh lessons to try and correct his ways. In the end, his mother carried out instructions left behind by his deceased father to drop an anvil on his head about how precious life is and why people with his level of power must protect it. She does this by putting him in a situation whereby he fails to protect his Morality Pet. Once he's learned the lesson, she restores the life of the Morality Pet to ensure an innocent life is not punished with death for her guardian's shortcomings.
- This is what Ishigami's plan to take down Iino's campaign boils down to in Kaguya-sama: Love Is War. He wants an overwhelming victory in Shirogane's favor to take her down a peg, so that the blow will be so devastating that all the bullying she had been suffering from before, during, and after the election is turned to pity—that she didn't lose just because she was inept, she lost because her opponent outclassed her in every way.
- In episode 2 of Maoyuu Maou Yuusha after finding two runaway girls, the Head Maid tells the Demon King and Hero that she always reported runaway serfs in the past. The Demon King orders her to feed them and clothe them anyway. Later the Head Maid tells the girls that she despises insects. The Hero thinks she's being incredibly cruel to them, but after a few dialogue exchanges, he begins to see that the Head Maid is actually trying to help them, and hires them to be live-in maids to help around the mansion.
- Mazinger Z: In episode 23 Kouji was looking after Sayaka's cousin Yuri, a disabled girl that refused to undergo physical therapy to rehabilitate her legs because no one did pay attention to her when she was healthy. During one scene, sick of trying kindly to talk her into training her muscles, he picked her and forced her to stand up. Yuri claimed that he was being "mean" to her.
- Lyle Delandy (the second Lockon Stratos) in Mobile Suit Gundam 00, upon finding out that Feldt was attracted to his deceased twin brother (and was therefore showing signs of being attracted to him), acts shallow and callous towards her, causing her to slap him and run off. However, he did this so that she would not misplace her feelings for his brother onto him, and because he hates being continuously compared to his brother.
- In My Hero Academia Shota Aizawa takes this approach to his students, not hesitating to expel them if he feels they aren't up to hero work. As far as he's concerned, it's kinder to just send them home than to let them waste time and effort on something they aren't capable of achieving.
- In Naruto, the teachers can sometimes act like this, and it's justified given the rather unpleasant nature of the profession for which the students are training.
- Kakashi sets up a bell test that only two people can (theoretically) graduate from, which would split up a three-person genin team for certain, and when the would-be genin fail he threatens to starve one of them. To pass the test, the remaining two are supposed to feed the starving would-be genin, and then stand up to Kakashi when he starts screaming at them in mock anger for it. This teaches the genin that there are some things in life that are more important than the rules, a lesson they would not have learned in school.
- Also, Ibiki's test is another example of this. He sets up a Chunin Exam in which you have to answer ten questions, but if you or even one of your teammates gets caught cheating 5 times, your entire team fails. The questions are brutally hard, as well, and when Ibiki threatens to give one last question, he gives you the option of either backing out and thus keeping a chance to retake the exam next year, or answering the question, possibly failing, and never again be able to advance in rank! Turns out there is no last question, it's just meant to test the students' resolve. Which is also cruel to be kind, because if students don't learn how to sacrifice absolutely everything for the sake of the mission, or go on a dangerous mission without knowing what's in store for them if they students put their own futures ahead of the well-being of their teams or their villages, then they are useless as the hired hands and protectors that ninjas are meant to be.
- This is ultimately revealed to be the reason why Gendo treats Shinji the way he does in Neon Genesis Evangelion. He didn't want to lose his son like he lost Yui before, so he decided to become emotionally detached from him in the hopes Shinji wouldn't get involved with the battle to prevent the Third Impact. When this didn't work, and Rei proved ineffective in controlling the EVA-01 despite having matching genetic material, he was forced to bring Shinji in, and even though he saw for himself the results of his parenting methods (a depressive, borderline-suicidal kid), he didn't change, as he hoped to drive Shinji away again. Gendo only came clean about this when SEELE raided the NERV Geofront in order to shut it down and Shinji was already in too deep into the fate of the world to turn back.
- One Piece:
- The people of Nami's hometown knew that Nami was working for the Arlong Pirates for their sake. After an initial reaction of genuine anger, followed by questioning Nojiko (the one person Nami told about her plan to free the village), they pretended to be ignorant of her motives and acted like they hated her so she wouldn't feel obligated to keep working for Arlong.
- When Bartholomew Kuma separates the Straw Hats from each other and sends them flying to different islands. Superficially this seems like a very cruel thing to do, but he actually (and intentionally) saved their lives. They were in a situation they were very unlikely to escape alive, and even if they somehow did, they weren't ready for the New World yet. Kuma not only helped them escape, but by the time they reunited (two years later), they were MUCH stronger and thus more likely to be able to make it in the New World.
- Sanji dreamed of going to the Grand Line, but refused to leave the Baratie because he felt he owed too much to Zeff. So Zeff and the other chefs on the Baratie insulted Sanji's cooking to goad him into accepting Luffy's offer to join his crew.
- Donflamingo's brother Corazon is introduced in a flashback as a Child Hater, for example throwing a preteen Trafalgar Law out a window. It turns out he's awful to the kids who join the crew in an attempt to make them leave since he doesn't want kids working for his evil, manipulative brother.
- In Seiken Tsukai No World Break, Urushibara does this to help snap Satsuki out of her Heroic B.S.O.D. after she loses a practice match and gets humiliated in it. First she steals the fries on Satsuki's plate, claiming they'd go to waste when she says she's not hungry. Then she teases Moroha a bit in front of her. Though Moroha found her methods crude, he thanks Urushibara for helping Satsuki out of her slump.
- In Silver Spoon, Hachiken is initially disgusted at some of the things farmers do, such as separating a newborn calf from its mother the moment it's born. However, they tell him that they do that because if the animals grow a bond, separating them later on becomes even more difficult, so it's best to do it before one can be established. Tamako also headlocks a baby calf to force feed it, because it's unfamiliar with a bottle, and will starve if it's not trained to suckle one. They also warn him not to bond with animals too closely, as they are often butchered after a short while, such as the piglets.
- Tiger Mask has a habit of doing this:
- Before entering the World Maskmen Tournament (where all the other wrestlers are Tiger's Cave wrestlers that are there specifically to kill him), and knowing there's a good chance he'll get killed, he insults the rooster of the Japan Wrestling Association so they won't consider him a friend if he doesn't survive. Thankfully, Baba ultimately sees through it and enters the tournament himself in disguise, saving his life.
- Having just learned that Black V is immune to submission moves, Tiger Mask gives a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown to aspiring wrestler Teppei Oiwa and acts like an asshole to his love interest Ruriko (who knows his real identity and is a friend of Teppei), both to test Teppei's resolve to become a wrestler and make sure Ruriko won't suffer if he gets killed as he expects (this happens before he figures a way around Black V's rubber body). Teppei sees through it with ease.
- When Tiger's Cave takes Kenta as hostage to force him to walk into their base and get lynched, Tiger Mask repeats the performance from the World Maskmen Tournament. This time they all realize immediately what he's trying to do, and, as his friends, come to his rescue.
- This is the reason for the Training from Hell: in this series Pro Wrestling Is Real, so a wrestler needs to be brought to his limits if he's to survive a match. No better example is Tiger Mask training to Teppei after defeating Black V, in which he imposes him hard exercises and motivates him with what he himself calls "fear of death" so that in a real match Teppei will be ready.
- In Tokyo Ghoul, when Aogiri storms Anteiku to kidnap Kaneki, Ayato swiftly takes Touka out before she can resist, and disdainfully declares that she's of no use to them. Then when Touka infiltrates Aogiri to rescue Kaneki, Ayato confronts her and once again overpowers her, going as far as to devour her kagune. Later, Kaneki realises that Ayato has been trying to protect Touka the whole time by hurting her just enough to keep her out of the real fight. It is implied that Ayato was angry at her for attending school because he thought Touka was putting herself in unnecessary danger by getting close to humans, and the reason he left Anteiku to join Aogiri was because he wanted to become stronger, believing he wouldn't be able to protect her if he was weak.
- Although initially denying caring for Touka, he's shown watching over her. He also starts using a rabbit mask when he kills, convincing the CCG that he is the Rabbit ghoul who killed two CCG investigators, successfully diverting attention away from Touka, who was the actual killer.
- Koon's tactic in Tower of God of keeping the team around Baam. At a critical point, he rescinded his loyalty to Baam. The more honorable team members stuck to Baam to be the exact opposite of Koon. It worked, just as Koon wanted it to.
- Sleepwalker had the ability to detect demonic possession in humans, and could use his warp vision on those people to break the demons' control over them and free the humans' minds. Unfortunately, a side effect of the beams was that the humans were briefly turned into Noodle People, and so other humans who saw Sleepwalker do this typically assumed that he was attacking them. This led to more than one fight between Sleepwalker and Spectra, at least until the Noodle People effects wore off and the woman that Sleepwalker zapped explained to Spectra what really happened.
- In "The Proteus Saga" from The Uncanny X-Men, Proteus' ability to shape reality puts a great deal of fear into Wolverine. So much so, that Cyclops pushes him into a killing rage to prevent him from being permanently gunshy.
- In Action Comics #314, Allura's physical and mental health are deteriorating due to her daughter Kara Zor-El alias Linda Danvers alias Supergirl never calling or visiting. The Danvers -Supergirl's foster parents- find out about it and they decide to abuse Linda verbally until she rejoins her biological parents (rather than explaining the situation to her). Their plan doesn't work very well because it's a bit hard to hide things from a teenager with super-hearing.
- In Red Daughter of Krypton arc, Guy Gardner kicked Supergirl out of the Red Lanterns because he thought Atrocitus would kill them all and Kara didn’t deserve that.
- A surprising amount of fanfic examples comes from Neon Genesis Evangelion fanfics, so take a seat before you continue:
Older Asuka:"And raising the dead? Heh. Mama’s just the beginning. But if you don’t come along, you’ll never know."
- A Crown of Stars: Asuka's future self was trying to convince her younger counterpart that she and Shinji should take up Daniel's offer to help them, but her younger self still hesitated, so Older Asuka resorted to giving her a low blow:
Asuka:“...you are low, nasty bitch. Alright, I’ll go.”
- Evangelion 303: When Asuka attempted suicide she believed that she was doing a favor to everybody by ending their suffering.
- In Ghosts of Evangelion:
- In a chapter set in 2016 Asuka tells Shinji harshly that both Rei and Kaworu made their own choices so he must stop blaming himself for everything.
- Asuka criticizes Shinji constantly because she thinks he will never become assertive otherwise. Misato admits that her female ward has a point.
Asuka: I thought Shinji was your best friend.
Misato: Shinji's a doormat.
Asuka: Isn't that my line?
Misato: He is! He's helpful and earnest and very nice, but he wouldn't know assertiveness if it walked up and bit him. And it's so frustrating! He stands up to you all the time, I see it, but with everyone else he's a passive little mouse.
Asuka: That's true. He doesn't like it when I yell at him, and he's learned that being assertive around me means I'll be nicer to him. But the rest of you are too polite to criticize him, so he doesn't feel the need to change. Typical Japanese.
Misato: How delightfully racist of you.
Asuka: It's true. You only ever called him out when it came to his piloting; apart from that you let him do whatever he wanted, which was usually nothing at all. What did you expect?
- Higher Learning: Right before the Final Battle Asuka is so depressed and mind-broken that she would rather die than fight for her life. Not knowing what else to do, Shinji threatens to blow his own brains out, hoping to provoke a reaction of her. It works.
Shinji: "Nine bullets. I'm sure there will be plenty enough for you. You're not much of the Shakespeare type, so I don't think you'll use them on yourself. But...if you want to join me, or fight, you'll still have the choice.
Shinji: What? You want to ask me to die with you? You know what? Kaoru may have been right...he told me that this had all happened before.
Asuka (giving in): What... what are you saying? Shinji... I... I thought...
Shinji: What if it's my fault, Asuka? What if everything is happening because of me? Because of Unit-01? If I am the thing that's holding you back... and making you give up, then I will fix that right now.
Asuka: Shinji... I just wanted us to be...
Shinji: "For the last week, the only thing on my mind is trying to figure out how to get you back. How to make you fight back. Like you taught me to. If I'm just a bandage to make it hurt less, then I'd rather you have to sew yourself up.
Asuka: You...I was only...
Shinji: Then GET IN THAT PLUG!
- The Second Try: In chapter six Asuka is angry and depressed and she stubbornly refuses to eat anything due to her pregnancy. Shinji does not know what else to do to reason with her so he resorts to hurting her:
Shinji: Why did you lie?
Shinji: When it became apparent that we'd be the only ones left, I was glad that at least you were here with me. Not because I was with somebody, but because I was with you. And I believed you, when you said that you would feel the same way about me. But that was just a lie, wasn't it? It never mattered to you that it was me. You just didn't want to be alone; anybody would... (Asuka slaps him)
Asuka: How... how dare you...?
Shinji: If you really love me, why are you trying to take away what I love more than anything else?
Asuka: So you already love it mo...
Shinji: I'm talking about you! Can't you see that it will kill you if you go on like this? Didn't you say you never wanted to give up life again?
Asuka: I- I did... didn't want... I...
Shinji: So, do you really want to leave me here by myself... or are you going to eat something?
Asuka (giving in): This isn't fair...
Shinji: No. No, it's not...
- Thousand Shinji: In the noncanonical side-story Shinji meets his counterpart of the original universe. To force his counterpart to know the price of failure and get his act together, Shinji makes his younger self believing that he is going to behead Asuka. When the younger Shinji screams "NO!" right before the axe-blow intentionally misses, Shinji suggests him earnestly stopping his self-pity party, growing a spine and fighting to defend Asuka and other people he cares about.
- Neon Genesis Evangelion: Genocide: In chapter 9, Asuka tries to convince Keiko to quit piloting for her own good, telling her that she isn't pilot material and will likely be torn apart by the enemy. She is harsh because she doesn't know how to be tactful about it, but she’s actually trying to help Keiko.
- In Supergirl story Hellsister Trilogy, Kara vents her frustration and says aloud she just wants to be a normal girl from Argo City. Superman has to remind her it's not an option anymore.
Supergirl: But we don't have to go out there with our dukes up, spoiling for a fight. Do we, Kal?
Superman: No. Most of the time, it comes to us.
Supergirl: Well, it's gonna have to start coming somewhere else before long. I'm tired of this. I wasn't born to be a, a super-heroine. I just wanted to be a normal girl from Argo, and, and get a good job and a good man and settle down...
Superman: (gently) Except, there aren't very many people from Argo left anymore. Are there, Kara?
Dev-Em: El, You have got the most peculiar set of proprieties I've ever seen. Why don't you just shove a Daxamite knife through her heart? Or would that be too kind?
Superman: What I'm trying to remind her of is that our powers place us in a certain position. And it's one of obligation. No one on Earth can do what we can, and very often, to protect it and other planets, we are required to do everything we're capable of.
- In The Mouse of Konoha, Naruto is kidnapped and brought to T&I to be interrogated. After he breaks down crying in fear, it's revealed this was done to break him of the Hubris he'd been developing. "The Frightener" as it's known is actually something almost every ninja goes through when they become too cocky. The argument being that "It's better they see the inside of our T&I department than an enemy's." Afterwards, Tsume reveals that in her session, she was made to think she'd actually been captured by enemy forces who were brutally killing her partner Kuromaru.
- A few Naruto stories (such as the First Try Series) have someone deliberately making Sakura suffer so she'll either shape up as a kunoichi or quit before she gets herself and/or her team killed or worse.
- In Code Geass: The Prepared Rebellion, Zero consistently allows Kallen to vent her issues to Tamaki regarding his mistakes. This is because he has to be broken of his bad habits if he wants to survive the rebellion against Britannia.
- A Shadow of the Titans: At one point, an aged-up Jade is drunkenly wailing on a karaoke mic, and Jinx knocks her out with a baseball bat. But only because the alternative is that the annoyed bar patrons were going to ask Gadjo to do it.
- In this The Goblin Emperor fanfic, Cala is given a magical date-rape drug that compels him to return to his abusive ex. As no cure can be found, Beshelar decides to lock him in his room until the effect fades. He explicitly says that he is being kind when Cala accuses him of cruelty.
- Partially due to a spell, but Hinata in ADD Hyper decides to act on a bit of advice from Kurenai that not fighting her family at full strength is harmful to them by making them think they're stronger than they are. As a result, Hinata decides to "beat the weakness" out of her entire clan to make them stronger.
- Fates Collide: The reason why Bazett always attacks her students in sparring matches hard enough to send them to the infirmary is because she believes coddling them will only make them weaker. By forcing them to toughen up against her, she hopes it will reduce the chances that they will get themselves killed.
- This is invoked as the basis for why Beacon and all the other Hero schools in Forged Destiny set such high standards for students, and won't hesitate to send them to the lower Soldier Caste should they fail. The academies understand that Remnant is a Death World and that the life of a Hero is both harsh and dangerous. They know that if a person can't make it through the First Quest, or the various school demands, then it's better that they be kicked out now rather than get themselves and others killed later. Word of God is that this is why only 5 percent of the entire population are in the Hero Caste, while another 30 percent make up the Soldier Caste, despite there being no differences in the ''Classes'' that comprise the two. This is seen twice during the Beacon entrance exam:
- Jaune sees a nervous applicant by herself, and tries to comfort and give a few tips, while Blake helps the same applicant by intimidating her to go back to the rest of the group while giving her a story to bond over. Jaune speculates that, between the two of them, Blake helped her more.
- Jaune then has to practice this himself while overseeing the actual examination. He spots the same applicant in the midst of a losing battle, but doesn't interfere so that she could have a chance to prove herself. His desire to see a younger initiate succeed nearly gets her killed before he's forced to rescue and subsequently fail her.
- In Pokémon Reset Bloodlines, when Iris tries to follow Hunter J's Ship in an attempt to save her family, Ash's Pokédex immediately stops her and bluntly tells her it would be pointless as even if she could track down an invisible flying warship, she'd stand no chance against Hunter J or her equipment and Pokémon, even going as far as commandeering Ash's Charmeleon to beat down her Excadrill to prove its point. While this understandably shook Iris, it still ultimately saved her life and allowed her to travel alongside Ash and the others.
- In Concerning Us Janine breaks Helen's heart by maintaining the lie that her former fiancé is a serial killer, when the actual culprit is the elemental possessing him. She does it so Helen won't risk getting involved - the elemental expressed interest in her, and this is the only way to ensure her safety.
Films — Animated
- In Shrek the Third, after Charming finally corners Shrek and Artie, the former admits that he was the original heir to the throne, all the while, berating Artie and calling him a pawn and a loser. Artie is understandably pissed, but Donkey explains that Charming would have killed Artie right then and there had Shrek not made him look so pitiful.
- In Tangled, Mother Gothel continually humiliates and belittles Rapunzel, and when she doesn't claim to be teasing, she claims to be this trope.
- Wreck-It Ralph: Subverted with King Candy, played straight with Ralph. When King Candy tells Ralph that Vanellope becoming a racer could lead to the game world being destroyed and Vanellope dying along with it, Ralph tries to convince her to drop out of competition. When she won't listen, Ralph feels forced to destroy her car and ends up devastating her. Only later does Ralph realize that King Candy is lying through his teeth. He doesn't care for Vanellope's safety one bit, he only prevents her from racing to prevent the others from finding out that she's the real ruler, not him.
- In Frozen (a pattern is emerging here), Elsa distances herself from her sister Anna because, when they were children, Elsa almost killed Anna with her magical powers. Elsa purposefully neglects Anna because she's scared of hurting her again. But since Anna can't remember the incident (or Elsa's powers), she's doesn't understand Elsa's actions, and concludes that Elsa must just be mean-spirited. Unfortunately, Elsa's efforts don't succeed, and in the end, she realizes that love is the key to controlling her powers, rather than keeping people at a distance.
Films — Live-Action
- Hard Boiled: After Foxy's cover is blown and he is nearly beaten to death, another undercover agent Alan seemingly does Shoot the Shaggy Dog. It's actually a trick to convince the thugs that he has been killed by first slipping a metal lighter into his chest pocket while punching him in the gut and then using Improbable Aiming Skills to shoot exactly at it (breaking a few more ribs). It's cruel, but Foxy survives ( but not for long).
- The Artist: After George Valentin's film career crashes and burns with the advent of talkies, his valet Clifton remains in his service, even though Valentin hasn't been able to pay him for a year. Valentin coldly fires him and kicks him out of the house, in order for Clifton to find a better employer.
- Pool Of London (1951): Near the end of the film, Dan (played by Bonar Colleano) abruptly brushes off his loyal sidekick Johnny (played by Earl Cameron). Johnny assumes it is for racial reasons but actually Dan realizes that he (Dan) is likely to be arrested and wants to distance Johnny from his problems.
- Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest: Will is ordered to be flogged for a mistake on Davy Jones's ship. When it comes out that Will is Bootstrap Bill's son, Jones orders Bootstrap to carry out the flogging himself. Initially, Bootstrap refuses, but when Jones threatens to have the boatswain do it instead, Bootstrap obliges. Later he explains to an angry Will that the boatswain is an expert flogger who "prides himself on cleaving flesh from bone with every blow". Therefore, doing it himself spared Will even greater pain.
- The Dollmaker, published in 1954, has a scene where the title character slices open her child's throat with the knife she uses for whittling. She's hitched a ride with an Army general, and he's horrified, calling her a murderer — but the child is choking to death from croup, and the Dollmaker cut his (her?) throat to bypass the obstructed part of the windpipe so the kid could breathe while they head for the hospital.
- Ender's Game: Ender's entire journey through battle school, where he endures pure physical, emotional, social torture ends up making him an epic commander and thus saves all of humanity. For specific examples, he is intentionally set up to be ambushed by a bully and his gang in the showers...so he'll realize that no one will help him and he needs to come up with a solution, which ends with him killing the bully. He is manipulated with coerced letters from his sister Valentine, so he won't simply write off all of humanity being as bad as his brother Peter and will therefore kill the Buggers as needed. He is placed in games that have unfair rules set up against him (such as low preparation time, more enemies on the other side, etc.) so Ender will start thinking less in terms of how to follow the rules and more in terms of how to win, which ends up helping him when he must participate in simulation not! games where the Buggers have every advantage against him. There is a virtual reality game set up for him called the Giant's Drink that is intentionally designed to be impossible to win, so Ender will start looking for third options to screw the game over, a sentiment which culminates in him bombing the Buggers out of existence and taking his own, actually real, soldiers out with them.
- Harry Potter: Several things done by both Dumbledore and Snape:
- Dumbledore's actions include giving Harry to the Dursleys (to be kind, since the Dursleys have magical wards around their house that protect Harry from Voldemort), not making Harry a Prefect (to be kind, since Harry gets so much positive and negative attention already that Dumbledore didn't want to add to his burden), and generally avoiding Harry during his fifth year (to be kind, since if Harry asked Dumbledore too many questions he might find out about the prophecy in the Ministry, tip Voldemort off about it through his mental connection, and give Voldemort an opportunity to lure Harry into a trap...which is exactly what happens when Harry does find out about the prophecy).
- Snape's actions are more extreme, with slicing off George's ear and, of course, killing Dumbledore at the top of the list.
- Granted, the flashback seems to paint George's severed ear as something of an accident and not an overenthusiastic cover act.
- Also, Snape counts as a "meta-example" of this trope in which the author was cruel to be kind. At one point during an interview, J. K. Rowling was asked why Dumbledore even allows Snape to be a teacher of children if Snape isn't going to enforce the rules fairly and if Snape is going to behave like a jerk. Rowling responded that that was exactly why Dumbledore let Snape stay on: because Dumbledore wanted every child to learn at some point that not every authority figure can be trusted, and they'll have to figure out a way to deal with that eventually. All of the other teachers are relatively nice and are more than fair in their judgments; if there wasn't at least one teacher like Snape, children might grow up mindlessly trusting authority figures their whole lives because of only "good teacher" examples to draw their frame of reference from.
- McGonagall has a moment of this in the very first Harry Potter book. She catches Harry, Neville, Hermione, and Draco out of bed after hours and takes away one hundred and fifty points, and from her own house at that! (She also takes twenty points from Draco, though, since he too had to be out of bed after-hours in order to even know what the other three were doing; there was no other way he could then have informed the professor about their rule-breaking.) Her reaction is justified when you consider: one, during this particular school year there was a lethal monster in the school in addition to Voldemort being after the stone, and ultimately McGonagall doesn't want the students to consider wandering around after-hours to be acceptable. Two, part of the reasons the Slytherins all come off as such jerks is because Snape plays favorites and never takes any points away from a Slytherin student, no matter how awful. McGonagall's willingness to cost her own house the House Cup, by contrast, teaches the Gryffindor students that ethical behavior is determined by the choices you make, and not the groups to which you belong. Three, the students were willing to break rules was in part because Snape only ever punished Harry for breaking rules out of a personal vendetta, so the students understandably came to the conclusion that the rules couldn't be trusted. The fact that McGonagall had a legitimate reason to punish them and the fact that she punished Draco along with them (something Snape would never have done) drove home for the students the fact that just because one teacher is a jerk, doesn't mean they all are.
- "Kingsmeat" by Orson Scott Card, collected in Maps in a Mirror: An alien species conquers planets with human populations and devours all inhabitants. On one such planet one of the intended victims offers to cut off parts of selected humans and cook them for the aliens' meals, leaving him dishonored and loathed among his fellow humans. However, this offer prevents the aliens from actually killing the entire population, so, in effect, the dishonored man saved his planet.
- Percy Jackson and the Olympians: Features this as a major plot thread. "Demigods", born from the union of a mortal and a god, suffer serious angst because their immortal parent rarely acknowledges them. The gods usually have very good, compelling reasons for not contacting their kids.
- Twilight: Bella deliberately picks a fight with her dad, using some of the same words that her mother did when she left him, before storming out of the house, so that James won't go to her house and kill her dad.
- In Jeeves and Wooster, Jeeves to Bertie. He snarks at Bertie, manipulates him, gives him the cold shoulder when he most wants sympathy, gets him into trouble, and destroys his stuff. Why? Because he cares.
- The In Death series: Being a murder cop has this trope as part of Eve's job description. She has to interrogate witnesses, and pull no punches, even if said witnesses are her best friend and her aide's (later partner) brother. She has to tell families that one of their members is dead. There was one book where she had to tell this one person of interest to her face that the man she had sex with was her birth father, because she had to find out if she knew and if she murdered him. Another book had a person of interest saying about how terrible it must be for her to see only the worst in people. This is why being a cop can suck.
- With all of the really scary magic out there, Harry Dresden knows which lines to toe and which to burn. Most of the lesser talents of Chicago don't, so he thinks he's being this trope when he refuses to teach one about a certain kind of Ward. He had misunderstood the Ward's purpose, so her lack of knowledge ends up getting her killed.
Most wizards, Harry's godmother Lea, and Mab, Queen of Air and Darkness argue that wizard training must be this because that's the only way to get good enough to survive. Anything else leaves them incorrectly thinking they're prepared, which is a major disservice. Harry learned to shield with baseballs? Luccio taught Morgan to shield with rocks. Lea teaches Molly after Harry's apparent death to fight by pitting her against real enemies. Mab teaches Harry Dresden, Winter Knight with months of surprise attacks of at least that lethality, but more inventiveness.
- In The Five People You Meet in Heaven, World War II veteran Eddie has suffered his entire life with his leg injury from the war. When he dies and goes to heaven, he meets five people, including his former captain in the army, called The Captain. The Captain reveals that he was the one who shot him in the leg in the Philippines so that he wouldn't get burned alive trying to save a villager from a burning house.
- A Christmas Carol is built on this, with the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet To Come being harsh with Scrooge in order to save him from damnation.
- In Lords of the Underworld, Ashlyn sees Maddox being stabbed by his friends and thinks that there can be "no reason good enough" for what the attackers. In one respect, that's true, but Ashlyn doesn't know about the curse Maddox is under: a curse that will compel Maddox to stab himself if no one else is willing to do it, so he dies and comes back to life each day. His friends were taking the fastest and kindest option they could.
- In Wings of Fire, Winter's brother Hailstorm is shown to care for his little brother, so it comes to a surprise for Winter when Hailstorm derisively calls Winter weak and useless and that he would be a disgrace in battle. It's later revealed that Hailstorm did it protect him from other invading dragons.
Live Action TV
- Chuck: Bryce Larkin, Chuck's best friend and roommate, framed Chuck for cheating and got him kicked out of Stanford to protect him from being forced into the spy life, where Bryce knew he wouldn't survive.
- Sliders: In one episode, our heroes pop into a new universe to find a woman trying to force her child off of a high balcony. They try to stop her, but she succeeds in pushing him off...only to have him sprout wings and fly around. The woman shrugs at the confused protagonists, saying "It's the only way they learn."
- Star Trek: The Original Series: The episode "A Private Little War''. Mr. Spock is using a form of self-hypnosis to concentrate all of his metabolic activity into healing a wound. As he tries to fight his way out of it he asks Nurse Chapel to hit him, because the pain will help him back to consciousness. This leads to some confusion for Mr. Scott who doesn't understand that the slapping is actually helping Spock.
- The episode "A Taste of Armageddon" has Kirk destroy the computers that are used to prevent all out nuclear war. This is a good thing because the two sides were using those computers to sanitize war by peacefully euthanize their populations (simulating various battles and strategies) in a cheaper and less destructive way. Kirk points out that war is supposed to be a miserable experience so that you do everything you can to avoid it. By making nuclear war possible, they have a reason to actually end the conflict.
- True Blood: When Eric Northman imprisons a kicking and screaming Sookie and chains her up in his creepy basement, she does not know (and he does not bother to tell her) that it's all part of his plan to save her and other peoples lives by using Sookie's blood as bait. He also wants revenge for himself, so it´s not a completely altruistic act, but his cruelty still serves a higher purpose with clear benefits for Sookie in the end, i.e. her staying alive.
- In American Idol, this was basically Simon Cowell's approach to the many applicants who simply did not have talent enough to succeed as a singer. Telling someone who doesn't have a chance in hell that they don't have a chance in hell is this trope. It's often the only dose of reality some of them have gotten after years of being told to keep trying by well-meaning friends and family.
- Burn Notice
- Michael state that you have to be cruel to be kind when in hostage negotiations, because if you show too much sympathy for the hostage, you're going to give the hostage-taker leverage. If you show you're willing to let them kill the hostage if they're too badly hurt, you've gained an advantage, as hostage taking is a business, where there is only one buyer for each product.
- He also mentions in another episode that sometimes, what is safest isn't the most comfortable, like when a parent twists their child's arm pulling them out of a busy street. This was when he put his (tied-up) client in the trunk of his car to prevent him from being seen and/or shot in the ensuing car chase. This particular car chase involved driving backwards through heavy foliage, which wouldn't be pleasant for anyone in the trunk.
- He even namedrops the trope in another episode, where his mom Madeline is forced to blackmail a woman who watches over insurance records and who she grew close enough to call a friend in order to get the files they need to stop the Villain of the Week. He notes that you have to do this in blackmailing situations because showing sympathy for the target only makes things worse on both ends and that in order to make it as easy as possible, you have to be the bad guy. Madeline plays the role perfectly in order to get the files, which reduces the woman to tears...but she's royally pissed and hurt at both herself and Michael for having to do it since she knows it means she'll lose her job. Michael even mentions that while this approach might make it easier on the victim, it does nothing for the blackmailer if they do care. Luckily, Michael reveals he managed to break in and put them back before anyone could find out, thus sparing the woman.
- Neal says these exact words in White Collar before intentionally turning off a woman he was flirting with to get a lead on a case. He is too much of a gentleman to pursue her interest and can't tell her what his true intentions are, so he settles with cheerfully informing her that she is the first women he's had a drink with since getting out of prison. She leaves.
- On The X-Files, Scully shoots Mulder in the shoulder to prevent him from shooting Alex Krycek. Why? Because Krycek shot Mulder's father and is framing Mulder. If Mulder shoots him, there will be no way to prove that it wasn't Mulder. Though a little Not Himself because of a tainted water supply in his apartment, Mulder is eventually grateful that Scully is a good shot and apparently missed doing much permanent damage.
Wesley: "You try not to get anybody killed, you wind up getting everybody killed."
- In the episode "Untouched", Wesley intentionally provokes Bethany by suggesting they send her home to her father. This reveals the circumstances of her powers to Angel so he can help her. In fact, Wesley can be surprisingly ruthless, willingly sacrificing his allies or sending men to their deaths as part of a grand design. In his own words:
- In the episode "Double or Nothing", Gunn, thinking he is about to die, starts insulting Fred during a date and breaks up with her to make sure she won't mourn him as badly when he is gone.
- In the episode "Happy Anniversary," Angel reveals to Lorne (then known as "The Host") that he fired his team and cut off ties with them because he wanted to keep them away from the dark territory he was treading and didn't want them to compromise their own morality like he was compromising his, along with other worse consequences. So he had to make them think he didn't care for them, and was willing to let them hate him and consider it a betrayal (and they did, especially Cordelia) since he didn't think he'd survive to apologize. Unfortunately, this was all subverted when he discovered the truth about Wolfram & Hart and its home office in "Reprise."
- Hawkeye did this to a patient on M*A*S*H once. A soldier was brought in who claimed to be paralyzed, but had no physical injuries. After consulting on the phone with Sidney Freeman, Hawkeye point-blank tells the soldier there's nothing wrong with him and to get up. He also refuses to issue him a bedpan or have food brought to him. Eventually, the soldier comes around and Hawkeye apologizes for the treatment he gave him.
- Doctor Who: In "The Arc in Space", one of Tom Baker's first story-lines, Sarah Jane Smith had to make her way through a narrow passage to reach the Doctor. When she got stuck halfway through, the Doctor began berating Sarah Jane as "useless", which angered Sarah Jane enough for her to push her way out of the passage, just to give the Doctor a piece of her mind. Once she cleared the passage, the Doctor assured her that he only said what he did to "encourage" her, and that he was very proud of her.
- In "The Curse of Fenric", the Doctor (at this time portrayed by Sylvester McCoy as something of a Manipulative Bastard) intentionally broke Ace's faith in him as part of strategy to destroy a coven of psychic vampire-like beings.
- He also broke Amy's faith in him in "The God Complex" in order to save her from a monster that used faith to control its victims
- BabylonFive Season 4 Episode 19 "Between the Darkness and the Light" Lyta puts Garibaldi through a deep scan breaking the blocks Bester put in his mind. This chances destroying Garibaldi's mind or killing him. The alternative is that The Mars Resistance would execute him for betraying Sheridan.
- Dr. Cox on Scrubs often found himself looked upon as a mentor figure by incoming interns, main character J.D. foremost among them. He hates that people rely on him, but also likes it because it fuels his own ego. But he is often purposefully harsh to J.D. so that he will work harder just to prove him wrong, also deflating dependence on him. J.D. realized that if Dr. Cox doesn't chew him out it's because he no longer cares.
- One episode of Frasier sees the doctor make a new, cloying friend named Bob, who's in a wheelchair. When Frasier finally breaks it off, he tells the man exactly what he hates about him. This breaks Bob's heart, so a remorseful Frasier pretends that he actually hates the disabled to restore Bob's confidence. Unfortunately, nearby people overhear this and chew Frasier out as he futilely tries to explain himself.
- Kamen Rider Ex-Aid: Treatment of evolved Bugster Virus involves hitting the patient with hammer in video game styled battle.
- It may not have been intentional, but in Arrow it's Oliver's vicious "Reason You Suck" Speech to Laurel over her alcoholism/drug addiction and Never My Fault mentality that ultimately get her to realize how far she's fallen and take steps to fix her life.
- An episode of Criminal Minds features a crazed albeit Well-Intentioned Extremist. He kills the parents who he perceives as abusive and unfit to raise children. He kidnaps the children as well believing that he has done both parties a huge favor. His final Targets are a promiscuous mother and her daughter. He ties the mother up and asks the daughter for permission to kill her. At this point the mother starts insulting her child relentlessly and making it seem as though her current boyfriend matters far more but it was all a ploy to get the Unsub to waste his bullets on her and not her daughter. Thankfully the team arrives just in time to save the pair.
- Another Episode has Agent Hotchner feign empathy for the unsub. To really sell it, He kicks Agent Reid several times. After the situation is resolved, Hotchner is repentant and asks Reid if he had hurt him too badly. Reid informs him that he kicks like a nine-year old girl.
- Not surprisingly, this is the subject of Nick Lowe's 1979 hit "Cruel to Be Kind"; the narrator's girlfriend uses the title phrase to justify the way she treats him ("It means that I love you").
- In "Love in the Dark" by Adele:
Please, stay where you are, don't come any closer/Don't try to change my mind, I'm being cruel to be kind.
- Many interpretations of Judas Iscarot selling Jesus out to the Pharisees imply that Judas was hoping Jesus would use the incident to incite a Jewish revolt and overthrow the Roman occupation of Judea (Judas and lots of other lower-class citizens saw the Pharisees as Les Collaborateurs). Naturally, Jesus refused.
- In Alice: Madness Returns, while Witless claims to be an example of this trope and is certainly kinder to Alice than some other residents of London, she is still blackmailing her because of her Survivor's Guilt regardless of how kindly she acts.
- In Sonic Rush Adventure, Blaze coldly tells Marine that she's an annoying nuisance (which is not entirely unjustified) and that she'd be a burden to them because it would be to dangerous for her to come with them to Whisker's hideout and because Sonic and Tails don't have the guts to do it. The cutscene is even explicitly called "Cruel to Be Kind."
- In the PS2 game Final Fantasy X, Auron intentionally withholds crucial information from Tidus, telling him only what he needs to hear at each particular moment. This is because the only way to "shock" the rest of the group into considering how pointless the sacrifice is involves Tidus learning at the last minute that the Final Summoning will kill Yuna, then Tidus responding to it emotionally by screaming at the rest of group asking why they didn't do or say anything about this before now; do they care about Yuna as a person at all?! Tidus is also a person who is cruel to be kind, although unintentionally in his case, because he is the outsider who questions what the rest of the group would rather avoid facing, to give the group the kick in the pants they need to dispense with the Final Summoning and figure out how to beat Sin for good. Which was Auron's plan all along.
- Also, It turns out Jecht, Tidus' father, made a failed attempt at this. He wanted to "show Tidus what it was like" at the top of the Blitzball championship. This is a laudable goal, but as Jecht himself acknowledges at the end of the game, his methods for achieving this goal were questionable at best, they involved repeatedly mocking and insulting Tidus so that Tidus' resulting anger would push him to improve his skills. This technically worked, since Tidus became the star player of the Zanarkand Abes, but since Tidus didn't realize Jecht didn't actually mean what he was saying, Tidus grew up with a hatred of his father to match his increased blitzball skills.
- In the Galaxy Angel videogame trilogy, Ranpha Franboise can sometimes come off this way. There are several instances where Tact is having a problem with his chosen girlfriend, and Ranpha ends up verbally beating him over the head with an obvious solution. Tact himself can come off this way a few times, such as when in Mint's route in Moonlit Lovers, he solves his conflict with Mint by barging into her room using his commander authority to open the door and forcing Mint to have a frank discussion with him that makes her extremely uncomfortable. It works; the discussion ends with them hugging romantically, their conflict over.
- Raz the psychic hero of Psychonauts is terrified of his father, Augustus. As circus performers, Augustus trains Raz so harshly that the boy is convinced his father hates him for being psychic. The truth is that all Raz's dad wanted was to instill discipline in his son so that his powers would not go to waste.
- In the second Dot Hack GU game, once free of Sakaki's control, Atoli falls apart and falls into a "It's All My Fault" spiral. Kuhn tries to reassure her that this is not the case, but to little effect. Haseo however, having been around her long enough to know that she's got cripplingly low self-esteem, resorts to another method. He slaps her in the face to get her attention then asks her how she intends to take responsibility. Seems cruel at first, but it works a lot better since it helps her focus on actually doing something rather than just wallowing in self-pity.
Endrance: Kind words are not always kind once spoken.
- In Tears to Tiara 2, Hamil attempt to get Tart to leave town. If she doesn't, she'll either be captured and burnt at the stake for calling herself a Goddess, or get caught up in a rebellion. It kind of backfires in that his harsh words lead to her capture.
- Subverted by the Kingdoms Of Amalur Temple questline. There's a beggar guy ranting to everyone else in the slums about how society has failed them and there's no hope of changing their situation. He thinks he's being brutally honest, but the questgiver points out that he's encouraging the peasants to resign themselves to living in squalor and to resent other classes solely because they were born into better circumstances. This ties in with the game's overarching aesop of 'yes, life sucks- but it doesn't have to forever, so get up and do something'.
- Inverted by The Matron in Evil Genius one of her command responses is "You have to be cruel to be... cruel".
- In Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Justice for All, Moe the Clown brings Regina to the trial in order for her to see what her naive behavior had caused (Acro had attempted to murder her in grief-stricken retaliation for an accident she caused which put his brother into an irreversible coma). Thankfully, despite (or possibly because) of the resulting mental breakdown, the plan works.
- Miles Edgeworth, post-Heel–Face Turn, wants to reveal the truth, no matter how awful, in order to separate the truly innocent from the truly guilty. Case in point, he forces Athena Cykes to realize she might have killed her own mother — pushing her to the edge of a breakdown in the process — but it's all to spare an innocent man who confessed to the crime and was about to be executed for it. In addition, the actual killer was exposed only because he forced Athena to relive some memories that she had repressed until that moment.
- During Hatoful Boyfriend Yuuya is actually pretty gentle about trying to help Ryouta through his angst, but he does interrupt and cut through one of the younger dove's self-pity spirals.
Feel like writing me off as a heartless bastard yet? But ignoring me won’t change anything.
- In Little Busters!, this turns out to underpin a great proportion of a certain main character's actions through the game. That is, Kyousuke was deliberately controlling the events of the dream world so as to push Riki and Rin into becoming stronger and realising what they were capable of, so they wouldn't give up once they're left on their own. Another character also claims this as their motivation, but that situation turns out to be a lot more complicated: Kanata did hurt Haruka because her family told her they'd hurt her even worse otherwise, but she also did it at least partially because they also told her Kanata would take Haruka's place as the outcast if she didn't. That she'd been conditioned into acting that way since birth probably also played a part.
- The Roak Orcs of Goblins have a tradition where a young orc's most prized possession is taken away from them. This teaches the orc to accept loss as a part of life rather than allowing the loss to define their life. The Orc explaining this then tears off Duv's remaining wing, which has been the focus of her obsession.
- The Order of the Stick: Belkar gives Roy a scathing "The Reason You Suck" Speech when the latter nearly gives up completely following Durkon being turned into a vampire... which has the expected reaction of motivating Roy to keep going.
- In The Adventure Zone, Lucrecia's decision to use the voidfish to wipe the memories of her crew is a perfect example of this. She did it because she hated to see the people she loved dealing with the knowledge that the artifacts they'd made were killing thousands of people but in doing so she caused the seven birds to lose all knowledge of the people they had helped and deep personal connections they had forged, forced Taako to forget his twin sister, and left Davenport a shell of who he had been.
- In Bojack Horseman, the circumstances of Hollyhock's birth are revealed to have been, in part, because of this from Beatrice Horseman. Hollyhock's mother, Henrietta, had her medical school bills paid for by Beatrice in exchange for giving up Hollyhock for adoption. Beatrice even refused to let Henrietta hold Hollyhock after she was born to avoid them becoming attached at all so Henrietta wouldn't back out of the deal at the last minute. All of this was done to ensure that Henrietta would have a better life than Beatrice, as Beatrice went through the same thing Henrietta did, but made the wrong choice, and doesn't want it to happen to Henrietta.
- In Ed Edd n' Eddy's Valentine's Day episode, Double D and May Kanker end up becoming Sickeningly Sweethearts due to a pair of cupids (played by Jimmy and Sarah) causing havoc. They spend the entire episode calling each other affectionate pet names, having Held Gaze sessions and generally seem really happy. When Ed and Eddy and Lee and Marie find out they're a couple, they decide to separate them, despite protests from the couple themselves. Even after Rolf "cures" everyone from the cupids, it's implied there are still some lingering feelings between them.
- In Family Guy after Peter's failed indoor water-slide ended with him injuring himself.
Brian: I'm not gonna call the hospital, because you won't learn anything if I do.
- Sadly, Brian overestimated Peter's stupidity during that event.
- Parodied in an episode of Kaeloo, where Mr. Cat does horrible things to Quack Quack and Stumpy for no reason and says "I'm being cruel to be kind!" when Kaeloo calls him out on it, despite having no reason for it at all.
- In the King of the Hill episode "Movin' On Up", Hank's niece Luanne gets so fed up with Hank's demands that she moves out of his house, but the house she moves into is home to a trio of college-aged deadbeats that are even worse. Luanne calls Hank for help and advice on how to deal with her roommates...but Hank refuses to give either help or advice, pointing out that if Luanne can move out of the house to live on her own, she can solve problems on her own as well. It's a rather unpleasant response...but in this particular case it actually works, because Luanne does in fact figure out a way to make her roommates fall in line.
- Some of the solutions to the problem-of-the-week in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic are this, although given the light-hearted tone of the show, it doesn't happen too often.
- In episodes 1 and 2, "Friendship is Magic", Celestia apparently blows off Twilight Sparkle's concerns and makes Twilight Sparkle go get some friends instead... but if Celestia hadn't "blown her off", Twilight Sparkle wouldn't actually have been able to beat Nightmare Moon because to use the Elements necessary to do that, you need friends.
- Fluttershy does this more often than you'd think. In "Dragonshy", she makes a dragon stop ruining Ponyville with smoke by yelling at him until he cries. In "Stare Master", she makes a cockatrice stop turning ponies into stone by threatening to tell its mother on it.
- Twilight Sparkle gives Spike a nasty speech in "Owl's Well That Ends Well", but it's because she was disappointed in him and thought he was better than this. Spike unfortunately didn't see it that way.
- In "The Cutie Pox", Apple Bloom gets a disease that causes multiple cutie marks to appear and forces her to act out all those talents. To get Apple Bloom back to normal, Zecora makes Apple Bloom tell the truth about having committed a theft in front of everyone in Ponyville...which is kind, ultimately, because in-context it's literally the only way to restore Apple Bloom back to normal.
- "The Mysterious Mare Do Well" episode was this. Rainbow Dash was bragging about her heroics, and then graduated to actually putting ponies in danger just so she could save them and earn more praise. It was rather cruel of Dash's friends to dress up as another superhero and upstage Dash, but it's ultimately kinder than letting Dash potentially get somepony killed, and be in much worse trouble than simply being made to look like a fool.
- "The Last Roundup" could also be this. It was rather cruel of Applejack's friends to follow her all the way to Dodge Junction and then repeatedly pester her until she breaks and tells them the truth about why she left Ponyville...and her reason for leaving turns out to not be justified, so it was ultimately kinder not to allow Apple Jack to keep thinking her friends would stop loving her.
- Yes, the entire town shunned the Cutie Mark Crusaders after they found out who Gabby Gums was... but the ultimate result is that after the CMC apologize for spreading gossip, Diamond Tiara, the instigator of the mess, is punished for her part in the events of the episode. And it's kinder to let the CMC know how wrong it is now, before they screw up later in life.
- Subverted during the season 2 finale, where Twilight spends several times accusing Cadence (who is to become her brother's wife) of being an imposter because her personality was uncharacteristic of the babysitter she knew as a baby foal. Not only does this cause her friends frustration at her actions, even Celestia becomes disappointed in her when her last accusation sends Cadence to tears, prompting her own brother, Shining Armor, to tell her off for hurting Cadence's feelings. Now this would have seemed like it was all in Twilight's head, that the people you know will not always remain the way you want them and that a harsh scolding from her brother was needed to bring her out of it. Except Twilight is absolutely correct! The Cadence she was suspicious off actually was a Changeling imposter who imprisoned the real Cadence under the caves and took her form so she could feed on Shining Armor's love and use the wedding to distract them from being taken over by her Changeling minions.
- The Aesop of episode "It Ain't Easy Being Breezies". After an accident where a group of migrating Breezies are separated from the rest of the group, Fluttershy takes them in. When she tries to get them to leave, they show no interest in leaving. Finally, after saving one of them from a swarm of angry bees with more aggressive words, Fluttershy finally decides to kick the remaining Breezies out of her home to ensure that they get back to their own home. Fluttershy learns that being kind doesn't always mean doing whatever someone else wants; it means pushing them to be the best they can be.
- This trope is also inverted in that same episode with Seabreeze (the Breezie she saves) learning that while good leaders are tough on their followers when needed, being too tough only causes dysfunction and hurt feelings, leading him to enlist Fluttershy in helping him learn to be more gentle with his fellow Breezies. Ultimately the lesson is "There's a time for tough love and a time for tenderness. True kindness is knowing which is which."
- "Tanks for the Memories" also covers this one. Rainbow Dash spends most of the episode in denial that Tank (her pet tortoise) needs to hibernate for the winter and trying to find ways to keep him around. Finally, Fluttershy bluntly confronts her over it and tells her that she can't keep him around. Rainbow Dash breaks down in tears, but it's ultimately what helps her work through the issue rather than trying to avoid it.
- In the Sonic Boom episode "The Sidekick", after Tails nearly dies in a plane crash during a battle with Eggman, Sonic fires him from his sidekick role in an effort to protect Tails from further harm. It doesn't quite work out.
Sonic: Tails... I didn't really want to fire you. I was just trying to protect you.
Tails: How? By putting me in more danger?
Sonic: The plan had holes!
- In Voltron: Legendary Defender, Pidge is upset at first that Shiro had attacked her older brother Matt and even acted bloodthirsty. Shiro later tells Pidge that it was a ruse so that Matt (who was chosen to fight in the Galra gladiator arena) would be safe and in the labor camps, and Shiro gets to fight opponents in Matt's place.
- Comic-book writer and editor Jim Shooter told the next story in his blog:
In 1980 or '81 — I forget — Jack [Abel] had a stroke that paralyzed his right arm and his drawing/inking hand.[...]Then, Howard Chaykin came breezing in. Howard had been one of Jack's roommates at Continuity.Howard's opening line was words to the effect, "You were a lousy inker anyway, so no great loss." Then he proceeded to insult Jack's talents, his ancestry, his looks, his wife, his kids.....Jack looked up. At Howard. And fired back. And they had a raucous insult-fest.It brought Jack back to life.Thank you, Howard. You knew what to do and you did it, while we dimwits stood around helplessly.
- Most modern medical procedures fall under this category, including (but not limited to) amputations, invasive surgeries, and organ removal. They all would sound quite barbaric to someone unfamiliar with the procedure, but are being done to save lives.
- Similarly, veterinarian procedures are very likely to be interpreted as an attack by the animal.
- Unlike CPR: Clean, Pretty, Reliable, actual CPR is an emergency procedure for a reason. Part of the reason we have CPR: Clean, Pretty, Reliable is because in live action media, demonstrating correct CPR techniques for the sake of showing what is correct and avoiding aforementioned trope could actually seriously harm the actor it was being done on. Among other things, the pressure of well-done chest compressions are enough to not only restart the heartbeat, but it can break the person's sternum, the rescue breathing can be enough to cause vomiting, and the combination usually causes a lot of pain for the resuscitated person later. The person doing CPR is most likely well aware of the potential consequences, but performs the procedure anyway because it can save that person's life, but only if it is done in combination with calling for qualified medical aid. CPR alone only guarantees a 2% chance of survival.
- The whole point of the Mercy Kill trope: killing someone (quickly and with a minimum of pain) rather than letting them die painfully or suffer a Fate Worse Than Death.
- The idea of sailors not learning to swim sounds incredibly stupid and impractical in modern times, but in the age of sail, someone who could swim a little but couldn't be saved would drown slowly, while someone who could not swim at all would drown quickly. Since nobody was actually forbidden to learn to swim, this was more being cruel to be kind to yourself.
- In terms of romantic relations, there are those who maintain that it is kinder to dump a romantic partner quickly and efficiently, rather than drag out the pain, if the breakup is a done deal. They hold that the pain is worse in the short term, but fades more quickly compared to false hope and dragged out melodrama. Not everyone agrees.
- There the ancient proverbs to the effect that "The cut of a sharp knife hurts worst and heals quickest."
- On the extremely mild end of the scale of cruelty, the "pull the Band-Aid off fast" school is all about being cruel to be kind. Though modern research has shown this to be wrong: Removing adhesives slowly hurts less both immediately and overall.
- One of the hardest things a parent, coach or teacher sometimes has to do is the opposite of helping a student/child overcome self-doubt. Sometimes, one has to puncture a dream, shatter a hope, because the circumstances are such that it's just not going to happen and pursuing it can even be harmful. It's agonizingly hard to be sure when such kind cruelty is necessary, and very painful to inflict it. An example would be an offspring or student who is pretty good at baseball, say, and dreams of playing Major League Baseball. The trouble is that he's just not that good, he's not pro material and the parent or coach knows it, and knows his dream could keep him from pursuing a more realistic and achievable goal. How to tell him without being more cruel than need be? (And of course how to be sure you're right that he really doesn't have what it takes!) Similarly, a couple can be head-over-heels in love (or at least infatuation) and totally wrong and unsuited for each other, and all their relatives and friends know it. How to tell them or at least get them to think about it before they jump into something?
- Some people, after asking and explaining and doing everything they can to tell them, just leave them to crash into the heartbreak. Usually, it's The Only Way They Will Learn.
- This goes triple for acting. Any actual actor believes the absolute worst thing to do to someone is tell them they have a chance to make it big if you don't think they do. Best case, they get motivated enough to prove you wrong, and develop the chops needed to succeed (rage against the person trying to crush your dream can be a pretty powerful motivator). Second best case is they listen to you, and drop the dream before it puts them on the streets (in that case they wouldn't have made it anyway, and you did them a huge favor) And if they do still try and fail, they will at least usually give up with enough of their life ahead of them and avoid losing everything chasing that dream, as it's a very expensive one to chase.
- Some people, after asking and explaining and doing everything they can to tell them, just leave them to crash into the heartbreak. Usually, it's The Only Way They Will Learn.
- Anyone who has owned a pet and they get too old, sick, or hurt to continue living a life without pain and suffering goes through this. Considering a number of pets live anywhere from 5-15 years, that is a lot of emotional investment you've put into them, and they into you in many cases. Sometimes "putting them down" is better.
- The other half of the proverb at the beginning of the page: "And the truth hurts.".
- This also applies to those who care for animals who will eventually be released back into the wild. The animal's caretakers will act as cold and uncaring towards it as possible so that when it is eventually released it will live off on its own rather than seeking out humans for food and comfort, possibly endangering them as well as itself.
- This is the idea behind excommunication as described in the Bible. If a brother or sister in Christ is being unrepentant in sin, then they're supposed to be placed outside of the Church and not to have any contact with other Christians. This in turn, hopefully, will turn them away from their self-destructive path and bring them back to Christ. It's considered the Godzilla Threshold because of how harsh a method it is.
- Interventions sometimes invoke the trope, especially with drugs and alcohol; the person being intervened has a serious problem and sometimes it takes a close knit of friends or family to come together and show the person that their actions are affecting not only themselves, but others that are close to them. The cold and harsh truth coming from people they know can break a person emotionally and it's sometimes what is needed to get the person to acknowledge that they have a problem and have to do something about it.
- There is a Gaelic proverb saying "A cat in mittens won't catch mice" which means that being careful and polite won't always be the most effective method.
- This is the principle of Fire Fast, discussed in the link by Harvard Business Review.
- Organizations should boot people who aren't going to cut it early. Kick them out during Basic Training, or the first semester of medical school, or fire them as soon as you see they aren't going to make it on the job. Fail quickly. Get them out there to do something else with their life, and fill their slot with another applicant. That's best for the applicant, who is miserable, possibly wasting money, and likely to fail anyway. That's best for the organization, as it allows someone else to give it (whatever it is) a shot.
- One notorious example is Hell Week in SEAL training. Cut the people who won't make it as soon as possible, so they won't get hurt, won't hold up the team, won't waste taxpayer's money, and won't occupy a slot someone else might have.