"If you seek to aid everyone that suffers in the galaxy, you will only weaken yourself... and weaken them. It is the internal struggles, when fought and won on their own, that yield the strongest rewards. You stole that struggle from them, cheapened it. If you care for others, then dispense with pity and sacrifice and recognize the value in letting them fight their own battles. And when they triumph, they will be even stronger for the victory."
You are in trouble. Big trouble. It is painful — emotionally, physically, or both. You could come to harm, maybe you could even get killed.
There is this person. He has power, he is able to help you. And it's not like he's too busy to be able to spend the time on you.
But he cares about you and wishes you well. And that's why he won't help you. Because he thinks that you need the experience. Or self-confidence. Or reputation. Because he thinks that solving your problems for you would be bad for your growth. Or that showing doubts in your ability would be impolite. And so, you are on your own.
Although this trope is about passively letting bad things happen rather than actively setting them up, it can apply to a Stealth Mentor or other Trickster Mentor that has set things in motion and then remain in the background while reminding himself that he mustn't step in. Might become a very reluctant Deus ex Machina that is really sorry he gave the protagonists that vital information instead of letting them find it themselves, or regrets that he removed That One Obstacle. One of main tools of the Sink-or-Swim Mentor.
The trope is named after a common derogatory epithet in MMORPGs.
Compare This Is Something He's Got to Do Himself, where something is left to The Hero because he has an emotional stake in it.
Contrast Kill Steal and Stop Helping Me!. Inverted trope of The Evils of Free Will.
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Anime And Manga
This is one of the basic principles of teaching martial arts in Kenichi: The Mightiest Disciple: it's repeatedly said that a martial arts mentor must not interfere in his (or her) disciple's fight with a non-master fighter, even when the disciple's life is in danger. However, mentors sometimes break a sparring (i.e. friendly) match when a disciple is in a serious danger. (It happened once to Takeda and once to Kenichi.)
However, they will avert this trope should the situation truly warrant their intervention, such as if a different disciple's master attacks Kenichi. Or when Kenichi is in a real life-or-death situation, such as when he's attempting to save his sister Honoka from some sharks and is unable to do much about it on his own.
Urahara's method of mentoring Ichigo is this. He realises quite quickly that formal training won't benefit Ichigo, so he does little more than point Ichigo in the right direction for tough battles, and Ichigo then has to become stronger or die.
Isshin notices that Ryuuken appears to be using Urahara's method on Uryuu. Uryuu thinks he's independant and defying his father by running off to help Ichigo in battle, but it turns out that Ryuuken actually allowed him to go precisely because Uryuu needs the experience and needs to get stronger.
An explicit rule in Squad 11 of the Thirteen Court Guard Squadrons. These Blood Knights believe battles are one-on-one and will not step in to help a struggling comrade.
One of Meta Knight's favorite excuses for not helping Kirby is that he needs the experience.
It happens in Mahou Sensei Negima! during the Mahora Festival and Negi's final battle against the Arc Villain. Evangeline (who recently became Negi's magic mentor) and the school principal observe the fight and in one moment Evangeline forcibly prevents the school principal from interfering in the battle, because she wants her disciple to prove that he can defeat the adversary himself.
Soul Eater:Discussed in the first episode. Shinigami and Spirit watch Maka and Soul struggle with and Spirit suggests helping them. Death responds that while they could defeat that enemy "with a single REAPER CHOP", that would not help the kids create a death scythe.
A theme that sometimes pops up in Superman. One of the more memorable stories, the Guardians summon Superman and get him to at least consider the possibility that he is coddling mankind. It does cause him to adjust his approach a bit.
In Superman: Red Son Superman so coddles the human race that people stop trying to avoid accidents.
The sorcerer Arion shows Superman that he has been coddling mankind for so long that when something comes a long that Superman can't handle, the human race won't stand a chance. By allowing lesser disasters to happen, Arion asserts, Superman would be allowing mankind to strengthen for still more difficult challenges.
Batman makes a point of rejecting help from his super powered buddies in part for this reason. He needs to do it himself and Gotham needs to fear Batman, not Superman.
Sometimes a theme for the Justice League too. In a couple of memorable stories, villains have come along who seemingly solve all of mankind's major problems. The League notes that they want humanity to grow on its own solving its own internal problems while only being there to help when we're truly in over our heads such as repelling alien invasions.
Aahz in Myth Adventures taught Skeeve on an "as the need arises" basis and allowed him to deal with everything they met, keeping his interference as slight as possible unless the situation was very life- and purse reputation-treatening.
"[M]ade some of this work tougher than I had to, just to make sure we'd weed out the cry-babies. But I figured that with all these hardships to overcome, the cowpunchers would develop in time into a bunch of rootin'-tootin' heroes. It'd be enough of a challenge, you see, so we'd have a line of work a man could be proud to do. (...) It'll be a fine life, you see, if you have the good luck to live through it."
Over the course of Galaxy of Fear, Tash's more studious nature and growing grasp of her own Force-Sensitivity gradually start to prove more useful than her brother Zak's Book Dumb brashness, technological skills, and minor physical advantage. Aware of this, by the last book Zak feels like The Unfavorite. When they meet Yoda, the Jedi Master holds Tash back and makes Zak confront the terror of the book by himself - Tash could have managed more easily, and of course Yoda could have effortlessly resolved everything, but Yoda wanted Zak to regain confidence in himself and discover his own Force-Sensitivity.
A conversation between Father Joe and God in The Phantom of Manhattan has God explaining that the sinfulness and suffering of mankind is Inherent in the System; God has given Man free will and directly changing people from bad to good would violate it.
Live Action TV
Jacob in LOST. Played straight on the island: He doesn't interfere, because he wants everyone to figure out the right thing to do on their own. Subverted in the outside world, as Jacob seeks out Kate in her childhood and saves her from a problem that would likely have been a important life lesson.
Giles in the sixth season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. He chose to abandon Buffy because he feels that she's making herself smaller than she is by clinging to him in a immature way.
In principle he had good reasons, but the fact that he chose to make his stand right in the middle of a crisis, and forbade everyone else from helping Buffy as well, can only vaguely be justified by him following musical logic at the time. When he returns at the end of season six and finds out about every f'ed-up thing that had happened to the Scoobies in his absence, he apologizes to Buffy and states that leaving her was a mistake.
This is one of the main solutions to the Teodice problem, the question of how God can be Good, Omniscient and Almighty and still allow the world to become as horrible as it is. God is able to make the bad go away, and He does want the bad to go away — but this desire is counterbalanced by His desire that we will learn to solve our own problems and grow stronger in our free will and virtue.
The other half of it is that if God always stepped in to prevent people from being dicks to other people, then there's no ability to choose to be a dick, which is basically pissing all over human free will and forcing us to do what He wants.
Then there's the median between the two, that God is able to make the bad go away, and He does want the bad to go away — but He refuses to do so because humanity rejected him. He does intend to eventually make the bad go away, but is continuously waiting until the last possible moment so that the maximum amount of people will have a chance to turn good and be eligible for saving; meanwhile, humanity's screw-ups prove that we need God.
Canonically a behavior that can crop up among Clan warriors in BattleTech. Since the Clans consider themselves pretty much theProud Warrior Race, unwelcome assistance in a fight can actually be a pretty serious offense. (Some Clans are more flexible on teamwork than others, but the dueling code of zellbrigen is still an integral part of even their culture — the ideal battle for any Clan warrior would pretty much by definition involve a series of straightforward duels against Worthy Opponents.)
The classic example is Phelan Kell's realization, at one point in the "Blood of Kerensky" trilogy after his adoption into Clan Wolf, that the other members of his Star are hanging back and letting him handle his fights alone out of sheer respect. (Being kind of busy at the time, he just makes a mental note to have a chat about teamwork with them later.)
MMORPGs such as EverQuest are the Trope Namer. In these games, killing monsters is a main source of personal growth for your character. If a monster attacks you and hurts you, you normally do NOT want someone to save you. If someone else attack the monster before you do, then that person has "stolen your kill".
Averted in the MMO Guild Wars 2 though, where everyone gets full EXP and loot when a monster dies. In this case, helping becomes actually helping even if you're only in it for yourself. As a result, having the Big Damn Heroes come charging over the hill to save your beleaguered arse is the rule, not the exception. Considering that some end-game zones are positively overrun with Goddamned Bats, this is most welcome indeed.
In World of Warcraft, the first person to attack a monster and deal damage (this is called "tapping" the target) gets the experience, loot and credit for any relevant quests. This often leads to people waiting for a monster they need for a daily quest to spawn, and then trying to get the first attack in to get credit, or grouping up to share the kill. Cataclysm thankfully implemented "shared kills" for most quest-relevant mobs (which have an exclamation mark in their character portrait), so that anyone who deals damage to the quest mob gets to share credit for the kill.
Also occurs in FPSs and other games where kills equates to points, ranking and sometimes bonuses and experience. Even in team games where theoretically it doesn't matter who on the team gets the kill, the individual rewards can motivate this.
Modern Warfare 2 for example gives powerful killstreak rewards for achieving a certain number of kills in a single life. Some players will get more annoyed at teammates who "help" by killing opponents than at the opponents themselves, especially when they "just needed one more kill for Harriers".
Defense Of The Ancients and the following games of the Multiplayer Online Battle Arena genre have heroes that benefit differently from getting money and experience: some (called supports) can get by with an inexpensive item or two, relying mostly on their abilities, while other (carries) require thousands of gold to be somewhat effective. This difference encourages use of the trope with support players giving up everything they have for the carry's growth, to hitch a ride to victory on the back of a farmed carry. This also explains why good support players are valued as much as good carries: they can stay in fight without taking any extra experience or gold and still benefit the team.
This is pretty much the only reasonable explanation for why in the climax of Pokémon Diamond/Pearl/Platinum the much more qualified Cynthia doesn't step up to beat the Big Bad into a pulp- even though she's literally standing right next to you- and lets you handle him instead. The Pokémon Special manga averts this by nerfing Cynthia so she can take on Cyrus and lose. The show also averts this, since she doesn't just stand on the sidelines while Ash and Co. deal with Team Galactic.
Subverted by Alder in Black/White who actually DOES take on N. Since N had captured Reshiram/Zekrom and Alder was out of practice due to having been retired, it doesn't go so well.
In Ruby/Sapphire/Emerald, neither Wallace nor Steven step up to help you against the Big Bad, despite being Champion-caliber trainers.
Played straight again in Pokémon Black 2 and White 2. So you've just defeated the Black/White Kyurem that Ghetsis fused N's legendary with, and they defuse, returning N's Pokemon back to his side, and now Ghetsis is about to battle you. So even though N has this big Level 70 legendary right here that he could easily stop Ghetsis from battling you by sweeping him with it like he did the Elite Four and Alder in the previous game-he leaves you to battle Ghetsis himself. N does heal your Pokemon to brace yourself for his challenge, though.
Kreia (as seen in the page quote) lampshades this in Knights of the Old Republic II, when you help people too much; by taking their burdens, you deny them the opportunity to grow strong by themselves. Whilst her take on this trope sounds a lot like the Sith philosophy, unsurpring given she is a powerful Sith Master, even a light-sided player can acknowledge it's a truth that needs to be taken into consideration.
In Jade Empire, Smiling Mountain makes a similar point to Kreia when he explains that the Open Palm and Closed Fist philosophies don't necessarily correspond to good and evil (a distinction sadly lost for most of the rest of the game). He explains that a pragmatic follower of the Closed Fist can force people to handle hardships to grow strong, while an Open Palm practitioner might help everyone around himself to keep them dependent on him.
In Fallout 3, this is the reasoning that certain companions give for not being willing to turn on the irradiated water purifier, despite being immune to radiation. The DLC fixes this, with Fawkes the Super Mutant stating that while he would initially say this, you've changed his life so much that he might as well change yours.
Despite this, the ending cinematic still calls you a coward for not stepping into the chamber yourself. Since when is refusing to die unnecessarily considered cowardice? Mind you, this is a case when no one has to die.
The developers' explanation for this is that recruitable companions were implemented quite late into the game's development (which also explains why the player character is insistently referred to as "Lone Wanderer").
Incidentally, companions helping can be literally killstealing; you don't get XP for people they kill who you didn't deal much damage to. This was thankfully rectified in Fallout: New Vegas.
As a meta-example, this is why Crutch Characters are so looked down upon by the Fire Emblem fandom. While attacking and defending alone give modicum experience, you get much more from kills. Also, experience gained scales by a mix of level and rank; a lvl 5 paladin only gains a fraction of experience a lvl 3 cavalier would. Units that start at low levels also have greater potential than their veteran counterparts, so using nothing more than that paladin or general the game literaly hands you for the first few chapters will leave you woefully unprepared for the larger scale battles later in the game.
Subverted in Disgaea 2: When you frequently summon Kurtis to help you in battle, he eventually responds that you need to learn to stand on your own...and then decides to help you anyway, since you can't learn this lesson if you die in battle.
In Skyrim, it's very unlikely that you'll get travel from Riverwood to Whiterun without seeing a group of Companions fighting a giant. Help them kill it and they will praise your valor; watch from the sidelines and they'll criticise your apathy. For the latter, you are only allowed to say that you didn't think they needed help or that you didn't think that you could help, when the real reason might be that you truly didn't want to steal their kill. Or that they killed it before you had a chance to interfere
While present in the World of Tanks, with the usual experience for kills and damage, the players subvert it. The huge bonus for winning a battle outweighs individual kills so much that most players have no problem with another player finishing off the tank they were shooting at. A small exception where that kill might offer a medal, but even that is fairly mild.
This is Forte's reasoning on not directly helping Chitose's inability for flexible thinking. Left alone, she will cause disaster sooner or later, as evidenced in the aftermath of a particular mission where she froze up, never expecting the freighter she rescued was an enemy in disguise, despite nigh-blatant clues. However, telling her directly would most likely backfire, as Forte herself puts it:
Forte: "If I do tell her 'suspect everything beforehand', she will start suspecting even the regular coffee she drinks, thinking it is poisoned. It's not something you learn from the Academy; she's got to do this on her own."
Klaus Wulfenbach of Girl Genius happily dumped almost any sort of problem into his son's lap as a "test", and even made up some when he had no real crisis at hand to shove Gilgamesh into.
In Homestuck, this is the reason Rose gives for not killing all John's imps for him.
What happens to the team in Young Justice. Red Tornado, their guardian, points out that they need to solve their problems as a team, rather than have the Justice League come in when things get tough. It also handwaves why the team is on their own so much, even when the League can easily respond to a crisis within minutes.
A common theme in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, especially with Celestia's relationship with her student, Twilight. This trope actually kicks off the show: Celestia could keep teaching and supporting Twilight normally, as she has for the past few years, and Twilight would naturally grow into a famous mage, beloved by Equestria's ruler and goddess. But then she would become dangerously isolated from other ponies, unable to ask for help or work in a group, and she would forget how to relax and have fun. Hence, Celestia sends her to study in the peaceful country town Ponyville, away from Celestia, where Twilight will basically have to bond with ponies in order to get anything done- and certainly to fight off the evil, other goddess-pony, who is breaking out of her prison...
This is the reason the fans wanked out for why Celestia never directly helps the Mane 6 take on any villain in the series. The Season 3 finale more or less implies this to be the actual reason.
In the end of the Season 4 premiere, Discord reveals that he planted the seeds thousands of years ago that sprouted and attacked Ponyville, and had he bothered to say something they could have solved the problem much sooner. When Twilight asks why he didn't speak up, he more or less references this trope.
Discord: And rob you of a valuable lesson of being Princess? What kind of friend would do a thing like that, hm?