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Cruel to Be Kind

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"Good medicine sometimes tastes bitter."
Chinese Proverb

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. Another variation is if the character is running a Restricted Rescue Operation and needs to keep it a secret. 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". Said actions also have a significant chance of backfiring if the beneficiary fails to understand their purpose, which is often a consequence of the benefactor refusing to provide an explanation. There are also some cases in which the actions simply do more harm than good.

A subtrope to Good is Not Nice. See also Hard Truth Aesop, where important lessons are learned through bitter experiences. Compare Shoot the Dog, The Extremist Was Right, Necessarily Evil, Percussive Prevention, Helping Would Be Killstealing, Revolting Rescue, 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 or Trickster Mentor.

Contrast Cruel Mercy, which is about being kind in order to be cruel.


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  • The 100 Girlfriends Who Really, Really, Really, Really, Really Love You:
    • When meeting Iku, Rentarou notices that she's a masochist and initially rejects her confession of love to him so she could experience the pain of heartbreak. Of course, Rentarou being the Love Freak that he is, and having been on the receiving end of numerous heartbreaks himself, finds it too hard to keep up himself and vomits blood.
    • In chapter 147, Hahari adopts Tama, a woman who prefers to live as a cat instead of working as a human, as a pet in her household. It goes well at first but Tama notices that for all the bliss she's experiencing, everyone else is striving towards goals or otherwise living their lives while she's lazing about. When Hahari realizes Tama feels worthless because of this, she leaves Tama as an Abandoned Pet in a Box... but not without a flyer for a potential part-time job. The job is at one of Hahari's companies and, Hahari being someone who adores anything and everything cute, her companies will hire anyone cute who asks for a job, no questions asked.
  • 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 had 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, proving that if he doesn't turn into the titan after being assaulted, he isn't a threat. 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.
    • Ymir, who can be rather unpleasant, has a tendency to do this. She mocks Connie so he will stop thinking about how his mother had been turned into a Titan while they're in the middle of a dangerous mission, and later abandons her best friend Historia, since she doesn't want Historia to give up on humanity inside the walls.
  • Bakuman。: Discussed when Mashiro is talking to Takagi about an editor's story that left an impression on 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 — much to Takagi's astonishment, as he notes that nowadays, the editor would probably be sued if he tried that. 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.
  • Bleach:
    • 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 after he's defeated and badly wounded, 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, since the three of them had secretly followed Ichigo to Urahara's shop and watched him enter the portal into Hueco Mundo.
    • 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, in which Gin is killed in a failed attempt to kill Aizen in revenge for what he did to her, 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.
  • In Bokurano, when Kako has a Freak Out over the fact that he'll die at the end of his battle and begins running away, Kirie tells Kako that he "sure (is) a fast runner" so that Kako will be able to fight- unfortunately, it ends up causing Kako to fly into a rage and beat up Kirie until Chizu stabs Kako in the neck and takes his spot as a pilot. Moji later points out that someone had to say something to Kako to break him out of his funk, or else they would have lost and their world would have been destroyed. Of course, Kirie's words wouldn't necessarily have helped Kako, since Kako would have died either way, even if Chizu hadn't killed him.
  • In Case Closed, 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 Chainsaw Man, when Denji first meets his Devil Hunter partner and foil Aki, Aki proceeds to lead him into an alley and beat him up, explaining that the High Turnover Rate ensures that those who don't take the job seriously wind up dead and that he's better off quitting. However, he underestimated Denji's conviction and the two come to blows.
  • 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 doesn't believe he can 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 Danganronpa 3: The End of Hope's Peak High School, when Hajime Hinata tries looking into Natsume's murder, suspecting that it's being swept under the rug, he gets caught by Juzo Sakakura, who assaults him and gives him a brutal "The Reason You Suck" Speech saying he's only good for the money he provides to the school. After Hajime leaves, Juzo admits to Chisa Yukizome that he did this intentionally to prevent Hajime from looking into the school too deeply and getting himself killed. Unfortunately this backfired as it further drove Hajime to participate in the Kamukura project in the hopes of finally becoming special, which turned him into Izuru Kamukura, one of the main instigators of the Tragedy.
  • Delicious in Dungeon: Happens when Shuro plans to report Marcille's use of the The Dark Arts to the town on the surface, effectively getting them banished but permitting Laios to immediately focus on rescuing Falin rather than wasting time returning to the surface. Maizuru provided Senshi the cooking supplies they would have returned for, and Shuro himself provided a magic bell to be used when they succeed that will get them safely to the east.
  • Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba:
    • Yuichiro Tokito, late older twin brother of the current Mist Hashira was deliberately mean to Muichiro because he believed Muichiro's kindness would eventually spell out his death just like their father's kindness caused both him and their mother to die, leaving them both alone. Even in death, Yuichiro tries to sternly tell off his younger brother for choosing to die fighting instead of running away to live another day. He is forced to admit that he didn't want Muichiro to die after the Mist Hashira sternly rebutted that he is satisfied that his death had meaning.
    • Eventually shown to be part of why Sanemi Shinazugawa, the Wind Hashira, acts the way he is, the reason he acts so cruel to Genya is because he's trying to keep him from becoming a Demon Slayer and getting himself killed in the heat of battle, wanting him to instead live a normal life and honor their deceased family. Unfortunately for Sanemi, Genya is determined to fight as a Demon Slayer to earn his brother's respect and apologize to him, which eventually leads him to give his life to save Sanemi from Kokushibo.
  • In Fullmetal Alchemist, Truth AKA God is revealed to be this. While it forces alchemists that attempt human transmutation to pay a toll (such as Ed's arm or Alphonse's body), it wants to teach them a lesson; mainly that alchemy isn't everything and to become better people as a result. Best exemplified when he confronts Father- he sounds dissapointed as he drags him to his well deserved fate for his actions. Meanwhile, when Ed sacrifices his door of Truth (the source of his alchemic powers) to recover his brother's body, saying that he doesn't need alchemy when he has people, Truth praises him for his decision and states that he is the first one to defeat Truth; showing that in the end it wants to teach a lesson to those that commited human transmutation, not cause suffering For the Evulz.
    • At the start of the series, Ed and Al meet Rose, a woman who's lost her boyfriend and believes that Father Cornello, the spiritual leader of the city of Liore, can bring him back. After the brothers reveal that Cornello is a fraud and defeat him, Rose begins to despair, but Ed harshly tells her to stand on her own two feet. He and Al had lost their mother and made a failed attempt to bring her back that cost Ed his leg (symbolic of his ability to move forward) and Al his body (forcing Ed to sacrifice an arm to bind Al's soul to a suit of armor), so they know what it's like to lose someone. Much later in the series, as Liore is starting to rebuild, Ed and Al's Childhood Friend Winry meets Rose, who's much more determined and hopeful. After Rose tells Winry what Ed did for her, Winry's shocked at how much of a jerk Ed can be, but Rose says that's Ed's way of showing kindness.
  • Full Metal Panic!: In the 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.
  • In Hitoribocchi no OO Seikatsu, after Bocchi, the extremely shy main character, gets into a different school from her Only Friend Kai, Kai makes her an ultimatum- she'll break off their friendship if Bocchi is unable to befriend her entire class by the time she graduates. Her goal is to force Bocchi out of her shell and get her to make some friends, but she does come to wonder if she was too harsh with Bocchi. That said, Kai has a point, since Bocchi, despite being an excellent student, failed to get into Kai's middle school due to being too nervous to do the interview. Eventually, Bocchi realizes that she can apply for a recommendation to Kai's high school, which gives her a greater chance of getting in but places more emphasis on the interview, and has grown enough to be willing to take that step.
  • Inuyasha: Sesshoumaru was so obsessed with feeling like The Un-Favourite 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.
  • In JoJo's Bizarre Adventure: Stardust Crusaders, Avdol warns Polnareff and Iggy that once they enter Dio's mansion, he won't be watching out for them, something he says in hopes that they will be vigilant enough to watch out for themselves, and thus more likely to get out alive. It turns out to be subverted, since Avdol goes back on his word when Vanilla Ice attacks, performing a Heroic Sacrifice that saves Polnareff.
  • Kaguya-sama: Love Is War:
    • This is what Ishigami's plan to take down Iino's campaign boils down to. 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.
    • After Iino freezes up in front of the audience, Shirogane responds by dismissing Iino's cause as hopeless and her campaign promises(such as mandatory head shaving) as impractical. She's so insulted that she manages to break out of her funk and starts arguing in favor of her points.
  • In A Love Letter For The Marching Puppy, when Aisen becomes depressed after learning that the major she admired got married, Hasebe doesn't comfort her, but gives her a Quit Your Whining speech instead. Inaishi calls her out on being so harsh and says that's why no one likes her, but Hasebe stands by her decision.
  • Maoyu: In episode 2, 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.
  • Mobile Suit Gundam 00: Lyle Dylandy (the second Lockon Stratos), 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 project 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. It's revealed that he actually lied to last year's Class 1-A about expelling them, and immediately re-enrolled them. Some of the students are bitter about the expulsion being on their records, but others see that he taught them a valuable lesson.
    • At the very start of the series, All Might tries to discourage Midoriya from pursuing his dream of becoming a hero, saying that it would be impossible for a boy without a Quirk, and saying that there are other ways Midoriya can help others. When Midoriya risks his life to save Bakugo from the Sludge Villain and inspires All Might to act, however, All Might changes his mind and decides to entrust Midoriya with his Quirk.
  • 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.
    • When the three rookie teams' jonin teachers nominate their teams for the Chunin Exam, Iruka protests that it's too soon to enter them into the exam. Kakashi, however, notes that Naruto, Sakura and Sasuke are no longer Iruka's students, but Kakashi's subordinates, and he believes the test will be a reality check for them. Of course, the test ends up being much more dangerous than Kakashi could have anticipated.
    • 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 risk absolutely everything for the sake of the mission, or go on a dangerous mission without knowing what's in store for them, then they are useless as the hired hands and protectors that ninjas are meant to be.
    • Similar to Ibiki, Izumo and Kotetsu act as preliminary gatekeepers to the exam, bluntly telling the students to go home while applying a basic genjutsu to make it look like they're just outside the exam room. The goal is to weed out the hopeless cases and prevent them from getting badly injured or killed in the exam.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion: This is ultimately revealed to be the reason why Gendo treats Shinji the way he does. 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. Of course, this only made everything worse.
  • In New Game!, Umiko downplays this by refusing to go the kind but misguided route. After Momo says why Naru's so determined to get hired at Eagle Jump- to prove to her parents that she has what it takes to be a programmer- she realizes she's said too much, since Naru didn't want anyone to find out. Ko promises not to tell Naru's boss, Umiko, but says that Umiko wouldn't hire Naru out of pity for her circumstances. According to Ko, Umiko knows that if she did that, Naru would only end up falling behind.
  • 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. Genzo admits the truth when trying to stop Nezumi from confiscating Nami's money.
    • In the Arlong arc, there's back-to-back examples with the same boy as a beneficiary. When Nami sees a boy at the gates of Arlong Park who's trying to avenge his father's death at Arlong's hands, Nami hits him with her staff, condescendingly tells him that Arlong doesn't have time to deal with a kid like him and leaves him a stack of bills. Shortly thereafter, Nojiko stops the kid and Usopp from picking a fight with one of Arlong's men, knocking the latter out. She then explains that she and Nami saved the kid's life by preventing him from taking on Arlong and getting himself killed. Annoyed by the kid, she tells him to get himself killed if he wants, but says that Nami kept on living despite the suffering she endured working under Arlong, which is why Nojiko has no patience for kids with death wishes. Usopp calls her out on being too harsh, but the kid gets the point, gives up on revenge in favor of enduring his grief and goes home to his mother.
    • After Chopper recovers from his injuries, Dr. Hiriluk forcefully kicks him out of his house so that Chopper won't have to see him die. It doesn't work, as Chopper eavesdrops on Hiriluk's conversation with Kureha and sets out in a misguided attempt to cure Hiriluk's disease.
    • Shortly before the Time Skip, the Straw Hats are facing a hopeless battle against an Admiral, a Pacifista (a Cyborg of the same type as an opponent they'd just barely defeated) and a high-ranking marine officer. The only way they survive is when Bartholomew Kuma arrives and uses his Devil Fruit power to send 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 that 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 helps them escape, but by the time they reunite (two years later), they're 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.
    • Doflamingo'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 Robin's backstory, she's subjected to this twice. After she passes her test and becomes a scholar, she asks to study the Poneglyphs like her mother, since that had been her reason for studying so hard. Clover, however, points out that studying the Poneglyphs is a serious crime, and threatens to ban Robin from the library if she continues further, so that she won't endanger herself. When the World Government attacks the island, Robin's mother initially denies that Robin is her daughter in the hopes that Robin will be able to get away without being branded the daughter of a criminal. Unfortunately, the attempt fails, but she is able to say goodbye to her daughter before dying with the rest of the island.
    • Brook's pirate crew attempted to do this to Laboon in the backstory, sailing off without saying goodbye so that Laboon wouldn't follow them into the extremely dangerous Grand Line. Once they crossed into the Grand Line, they discovered Laboon had followed them anyway, so after spending some time there, they left Laboon with a somewhat kinder goodbye, and a promise to see him again.
    • Fisher Tiger branding the little girl Koala sounds awful at first, especially when you hear the hiss of her burning flesh as she screams. However, he did this to mark over her previous Slave Brand, to drive home the point that she's free and break the terrible mental conditioning her slavers had inflicted on her.
    • In the Water 7 arc, Franky is moved to tears by seeing Usopp's devotion to the Going Merry, despite the two having been enemies for the past two days. Despite that, when Usopp mentions wanting to sail home on the Going Merry, Franky replies that the Galley-La shipwrights were right and the Merry won't make it to the next island. In order to make Usopp understand, Franky starts ripping chunks out of the Merry and throws Usopp in the water below the ship so he can get a good look at the damage to the keel(the reason why the Merry is beyond repair). Usopp them admits that he knew the Merry was on its last legs and couldn't abandon the ship.
    • In the Wano arc, Luffy meets Tama, a destitute young girl who is waiting for Luffy's adoptive brother Ace to come back for her. Luffy tells Tama that the person in question is dead, breaking her heart but forcing her to give up on waiting for someone who wil never come back.
  • 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 roster 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.
  • Tokyo Ghoul:
    • When Aogiri Tree storms Anteiku to kidnap Kaneki, Ayato swiftly takes out his sister Touka 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.
  • In World Break: Aria of Curse for a Holy Swordsman, Urushibara does this to help snap Satsuki out of her Heroic BSoD 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.
  • Wonder Egg Priority has an example that went horribly wrong. Rika was once a junior idol whose biggest (and biggest-spending) fan was an overweight girl named Chiemi. Rika liked Chiemi due to how much money she would spend at her meet-and-greets, but one day realized that Chiemi was spending literally every penny she had, driving herself into poverty in the process. Rika thus decided to drive her away by verbally abusing and insulting her at a meet-and-greet, hoping she'd stop bankrupting herself if she was no longer a fan. Instead, Chiemi committed suicide, and Rika became a Hatcher in order to save her - though whether she is genuinely remorseful or just misses having Chiemi as a source of income is left ambiguous, and is a constant source of friction between her and Neiru.

    Comic Books 
  • In Pride of Baghdad, Safa the old lioness is this to Ali the lion cub. Ali ventures off and gets captured by monkeys that Safa dispatches. She asks Ali if they scared him, to which he replies yes.
    Safa: Good. You needed it.
  • Marvel Universe:
    • Runaways: At the end of volume 2, Nico dumps Victor as harshly as possible because she realizes that she's self-destructive and fears that Victor will try and "save" her and just get caught up in her problems as well.
    • 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.
    • SpiderMan: In "The Other", after Peter is killed (he gets better), Wolverine flirts at MJ pretty heavily, laying it on thick that he has exactly what she needs to get over Peter. This ultimately makes her angry enough to slap him hard and storm out of the room, after which he reveals to another character that he riled her up on purpose; according to Logan, what MJ needed most in that moment was a quick burst of rage to distract her from her grief.
      Wolverine: Maybe that's cruel, but it's always worked for me.
    • Uncanny X-Men: In the Proteus Saga, 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. By throwing a cup of coffee in his face.
  • Supergirl:
    • In The Untold Story of Argo City, 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.

    Fan Works 
  • Adalheidis: While Sir Nighteye justifies his treatment of Himiko this way, in reality, it's born from his being an utter Control Freak who's bitter that All Might didn't let him select the other hero's successor. So he rips into her for every mistake, tearing open all of her emotional baggage, and making All Might and Gran Torino utterly disgusted with his callousness.
  • ADD Hyper: While influenced by a spell, Hinata recalls Kurenai telling her that not fighting her family at her full strength is detrimental, as it's making them think that they're stronger than they actually are. So she decides to "beat the weakness" out of the entire Hyuuga clan.
  • Anchor Foal:
    • One of the reasons Princess Celestia has Fleur take on Fluttershy as a student is because Fleur isn't afraid to be ruthless when necessary. For instance, many ponies were exploiting Fluttershy's kindness by refusing to pay their medical bills, leaving her impoverished. Fleur has no problems forcing these issues out into the open so they can be addressed.
    • Fleur sets Fluttershy up on a date with Caramel for this very reason: she knows that Fluttershy isn't likely to enjoy herself, and that she'll have to figure out how to turn her would-be suitor down. While this is painful for both parties, it's also necessary for Fluttershy to learn how to assert herself.
  • Apotheosis (MHA): Deconstructed; All Might crushes Izuku's dreams in order to prevent a Quirkless boy from pursuing a dangerous career path. This winds up massively backfiring — after a lifetime of discrimination and disappointment, having his idol tell him to give up simply convinces him that the Symbol of Peace is a massive Hypocrite, turning Izuku into a Villain Protagonist.
  • Beautiful Monster: Drew has to bluntly tell Stu that Tommy will be born dead and to stop making toys for him in order to get him to accept his loss.
  • Blackbird (Arrow): Keeping the truth about what happened to Laurel from Quentin is this, unquestionably. Everyone acknowledges that he deserves the truth, more than anyone else, but also that the guilt of the entire situation (unknowingly letting Laurel be kidnapped by the League, being oblivious to his ex-wife and other daughter's roles in what happened, unfairly disparaging Laurel for 'leaving him', etc.) might very well kill him. So they decide to keep it a secret from him instead, even though it strains his relationship with Laurel.
  • Blank Canvas: Katsuki tells himself that his Barbaric Bullying is ultimately helping Izuku, as he's preventing him from getting himself killed pursuing his dreams of Pro Heroism. Deep down, however, he recognizes this as bullshit, with his own conscience calling him out on his cruelty and making clear that he's really just bullying him because he enjoys it.
  • In Boys und Sensha-do!, this is Shiho's justification for disowning Miho. Shiho wants to fight against allowing boys into sensha-do, but knows she wouldn't be able to do so as long as Miho, her younger daughter, has boys on her team, so she casts Miho out of the family, partly so that Miho will be able to live and do tankery her own way. Of course, Shiho's elder daughter Maho has a very different opinion on this, since she does as Shiho says and works to become Shiho's heiress so Miho won't have to, and protests that this course of action only served to hurt Miho.
  • Breathe In, Breathe Out: Izuku gets Shouto to reconsider his stance on not using his fire by punching him in the face and calling him out for not considering how holding himself back could cost others their lives:
    Izuku: Todoroki, you're an idiot. Your father is right, the path you're taking would cost a lot more than just some frostbite. People could die because of you. Is that what you want? For people to die because you couldn't bear to use your own quirk?! To tell the families that lost their parents and children that you couldn't save them because you weren't willing to use your flames?!
  • Cain: Subverted; While one of Katsuki's many, many excuses for his treatment of Izuku is that he's preventing him from getting killed, when All Might calls him out on this, Katsuki doesn't deny it, instead demanding to know why Izuku is getting an opportunity that Katsuki feels he doesn't deserve.
  • In The Cat and The Bee, Adrien is the one to select Chloe as the holder of the Bee Miraculous, but is frustrated that her Alpha Bitch attitude keep causing Akumas, especially as she keeps emulating her mother. Knowing she won't grow unless she stops idolizing her, he stages a meeting between the two, letting her understand firsthand how Audrey treats anyone, especially her own daughter, is not something that should be followed.
  • Cellar Secrets:
    • In chapter 31, Aikurou considers getting Ryuuko a flu shot this, as she's had not a good experience with needles and he hates the idea of traumatizing her. When he explains to her that "getting sick would hurt more" and that Satsuki would want to her to be okay because she loves her, she stops resisting and just asks to be held.
    • Played subtly in Chapter 25, as, initially, Satsuki wanted to shield Ryuuko from Shiro's dying but opted not to because, to her, Ryuuko had to "see what death was for herself".
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • In The Emerald Phoenix, Bakugo's initial reasoning for bullying Izuku was because he knew trying to be a hero without a Quirk would get the boy killed. Eventually, Izuku's refusal to give up resulted in Bakugo bullying him for real.
  • In Erased Potential, this is Yoshida-sensei's self-justification for how he treats Izuku. In his eyes, Izuku is a very bright, talented young man who unfortunately happens to be Quirkless, and needs 'help' letting go of his Tragic Dream to become a Pro Hero. So he singles Izuku out during an exercise where he has his students stating their plans for the future, trying to humiliate him in front of his peers and force him to reconsider. He's very surprised when Izuku calls him out on it.
  • Fallout: Equestria: Velvet Remedy sedates Littlepip with a dart gun to force Littlepip to undergo treatment for her drug addiction. What makes it worse is the reason Velvet felt she couldn't wait any longer: Littlepip was planning to rescue a criminal from the noose, which would have gotten Littlepip banished from the only place capable of curing her addiction. By the time Littlepip wakes up, the criminal has been executed.
  • 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.
  • Forged Destiny:
    • This is invoked as the basis for why Beacon and all the other Hero schools 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 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.
  • In the Hellsister Trilogy, a Supergirl fanfic, 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?
    Supergirl: Oh.
    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.
  • Subverted in Kara of Rokyn. Villain Zora Vi-Lar claims she insults Jara in order to push her and make her a better wrestler, but in reality she just despises her partner.
    Zora: You're still in love with her? Are you Travelling Clan people as dumb as they say? You want to put this—
    Jara: What's that about the Clan? You want to repeat that?
    Zora: Hold it, hold on, Jara. Really, I'm sorry. I'm not downing the Clan, really, I'm not. That's just part of verbal motivation. I'm trying to get your back up for the match.
    Jara: You've just about got it up for me to give you a preview of the match right here. There aren't enough of the Clan left hardly to count anymore, and you want to down them. I ought to pull your tongue out through your nostrils.
    Zora: Jara. Don't you remember how I talked to you when we were sparring? And didn't that work, to get you going?
    Jara: It sure did. You said if I couldn't do better than that, I might as well go back to making a living on my back. I damned near pulled your arm off for that one.
    Zora: Exactly! I had to say something like that to get you mad. Without the rage, you don't have a chance against her. Put it together, Jara.
  • In Logic of the Soul. Raph acted as a Big Brother Bully towards Mikey and Don because he thought they needed toughening up. The approach worked on Mikey (who was able to shrug it off and retaliate in his own way) but not on Don.
  • Naruto fanfics:
    • A few 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 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.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion fanfics provide a surprising amount of examples, so take a seat before you continue:
    • 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:
      Older Asuka: And raising the dead? Heh. Mama's just the beginning. But if you don't come along, you'll never know.
      Asuka: 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.
      Asuka: Shinji...
      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?
      Asuka: What?
      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.
  • Persona V: Reversing the Wheel of Fate: The protagonists' Shadows push this trope to the breaking point, better resembling The Corrupter. What they're trying to do with their constant taunts and insults is coerce their other selves into standing up to them and Awakening to their dormant power. But as in Persona 4, it's extremely hard to face yourself, and the Shadows go berserk when their other selves deny the truth. The most extreme examples thus far are Shiho's shadow forcing her suicide attempt when she was about to step down and Yusuke's shadow ruining his latest picture that Madarame was going to plagiarize.
  • 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 A Prize for Three Empires, Marie Danvers forces her daughter Carol to face the fact she has been blaming everyone else for her own issues so Carol can finally overcome their trauma instead of wallowing in anger and self-pity.
  • In Remnant's Bizarre Adventure, this is given as another reason by Joseph for faking Avdol's death and not telling Polnareff. Earlier, Polnareff reckless pursuit of J. Geil on his own nearly got himself and the others killed. The shock of Avdol's "death" will make Polnareff realize he can and should rely on his teammates rather than on his pride alone. Joseph even remarks he wished he went through something like that in past, instead of only learning this lesson after Caesar's death.
  • The Rigel Black Chronicles sees Aldon Rosier coming to the conclusion that Rigel is too reserved, wanting to connect with others but being afraid to, and he takes it upon himself to push Rigel out of his comfort zone, stroking his hair and asking probing questions that clearly make him uncomfortable. (He doesn't realise that "Rigel" actually has deeper reasons for shying away from familiarity, namely, actually being Harriett Potter in disguise.)
  • In Security! (Worm), Michael Allen forces Allan Barnes to face that his overprotective behavior is not helping his daughter overcome her trauma; in fact, she's gotten worse because he keeps enabling her, and the only way to help her is to stop ignoring her issues, let her face the consequences of her actions, and get her therapy.
    "Thank you. It wasn't in the least bit pleasant, but I think I needed to hear it."
  • 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.
  • Gabriel thinks he's doing this in Someone to Watch Over Me, when he deliberately torments Adrien in order to advance his plans to revive Adrien's mother. Since that kicks off the whole storyline, Technically he's even right, although not in the way he intended.
  • Chloe Bourgeois plays this straight in Spellbound (Lilafly). By keeping up her low-level torment of Marinette, she can claim to the Faerie Courts that Marinette belongs to her and is off-limits to others, which keeps Marinette safe. Unfortunately, that breaks down when other fae ignore and undermine her claims by befriending Marinette.
  • A Teacher's Glory: Serves as Anko's reasoning for putting her students through Training from Hell. She fears that if she doesn't regularly push her kids to their limits (but not too far beyond what they're currently capable of handling), then they'll end up getting killed.
  • Towards the Sun: Zuko continues to refuse to listen to Iroh even as he's having a literal heart attack due to all the stress of being Fire Lord, due to Iroh never taking responsibility as a prince. This results in Iroh challenging Zuko to Agni Kai to oust Zuko as Fire Lord. While Iroh saves Zuko's life, having to re-live the worst memory of his life emotionally destroys Zuko. Zuko's relationship with Iroh is destroyed and ruins Iroh's credibility as Fire Lord.
  • In Whatever It Takes, Viktor needs to get a fugitive Powder/Jinx into his apartment before the Enforcers see them, but she is so weak and exhausted that she collapses just outside the building. When gentle coaxing fails to get her moving, and knowing that he cannot carry her because of his disability, Victor resorts to coldly threatening to leave her behind in order to make her desperate and angry enough to push on until they reach safety.
  • Whispered Tribulation: Nedzu keeps Izuku locked away in solitary confinement for weeks after Aizawa accuses him of being a mole for the League of Villains. While Izuku thinks that this is because he believes Aizawa, it's actually his way of keeping Izuku in protective custody — Aizawa and his co-conspirators have already made clear they are more than willing to hurt him in order to extract the "confession" they're after, so the best he can do is keep him away from Aizawa while working to clear his name.
  • White Sheep (RWBY): Weiss explains that she's getting on Ruby's case about copying Jaune's homework not because she enjoys the other girl's suffering, but because neither the school exams nor the Grimm will care that Ruby's two years younger than everyone else. If anything, Ruby's age means she has to work and study harder than everyone else so she doesn't fail or die.

    Films — Animation 
  • In Frozen, 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.
  • In The Incredibles, Mr. Incredible is actually quite reasonable when refusing Buddy as a sidekick. He apparently has given the kid merchandise for months, as thanks for him being a fan, while saying that he doesn't work with kids. Why? Because it's dangerous. When Buddy thwarts his attempts to stop Bomb Voyage by being oblivious to the danger he put himself in, Mr. Incredible saves his life and tells the cops to take Buddy home to his parents after stopping a runaway train. He's trying to avoid being responsible for a child's death. Buddy never considered there was a reason for "the cruel" part and assumed Mr. Incredible was being a jerk.
  • 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 The Simpsons Movie, his wife leaving with the kids is the emotional shock that jolts Homer into realizing he's become someone he doesn't want to be. Similarly, the shamaness describes Homer's lonely, bleak future so that he will start taking Springfield's impending annihilation seriously.
    Homer: In order to save myself, I have to save Springfield! (the branches clap and whoop in congratulation)
  • 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.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • 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.
  • In Day of the Outlaw, Captain Bruhn takes Gene's gun off him and orders him to give Tex his horse, telling him that he is being dismissed from the unit. Bruhn then rides off, leading the others, leaving Gene afoot in the snowy wilderness. However, he is actually doing this because he knows he is dying, and once he is dead, there will be nothing to stop Tex and Pace killing Gene. This way, Gene has a chance to survive, as he is still close enough to Bitters to make it back to town.
  • 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).
  • Jojo Rabbit: Klenzendorf manages to spare Jojo from a Soviet firing squad by ripping off a military jacket the boy was wearing, yelling and spitting at him to make the Russian soldiers think he's a Jew and send him away.
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring: After their narrow escape from the Mines of Moria, most of the Fellowship is extremely distraught at the loss of Gandalf that just happened and stop just outside the exit to mourn. However, Aragorn orders Boromir to get them on their feet and continue the journey, answering protests of not giving them a moment by noting that they don't have time: by nightfall, the whole area will be crawling with Orcs fully intent on killing them or worse, and the Fellowship must get to safety before dusk.
  • Mowgli: Bagheera intentionally targets Mowgli all throughout the Running and tackles him before he reaches the finish, causing him to fail. While fighting with a furious Baloo over it, Bagheera points out that by making him fail the Running, he hopes that it'll be enough to make him go to the man-village and be safe from Shere Khan.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest: Will is ordered to be flogged for a mistake on Davy Jones' 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.
  • 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; however, the truth is that Dan realizes that he's likely to be arrested, and is pushing Johnny away so he won't get arrested alongside him.

  • Blue Iguana: While working with the Ble Iguana Recovery Program, Clarice is sometimes forced to do things that make her sick to her stomach, like trapping iguanas and holding them still for the ordeal of tagging them, but she knows it's for the survival of the species.
  • 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.
  • A Court of Thorns and Roses: During Feyre's trials Under the Mountain, Tamlin appears to be ignoring her and barely reacting to what happens, to the point she thinks Amarantha has him under a spell. Lucien later explains that Tamlin is trying to stay neutral so that Amarantha can't detect what hurts Feyre the most and use it to torture them both more. Feyre notices he does react to some things, though he tries to keep it hidden.
  • The Dollmaker 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.
  • The Dresden Files:
    • With all of the really scary magic out there, Harry Dresden generally knows which lines to toe and which to burn. Many less talented individuals don't, so he pulls this trope during Fool Moon when he refuses to teach one about a certain kind of magical containment. He instructs her to drop it with no further explanation, knowing how dangerous it is, but a lack of communication about why she wanted to know about it (on both their parts) eventually leads to her death
    • 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. Wizards can stand up to a lot of dangerous supernatural threats (as Harry himself shows), but it requires a lot of knowledge, skill, and preparation. So anything less than brutal training leaves them incorrectly thinking they're prepared, which is a major disservice. Harry teaches Molly magical shields with snowballs, while he himself learned with baseballs, and Luccio, despite generally being a pretty nice person, taught Morgan to shield with rocks. Lea teaches Molly to fight by pitting her against real enemies. Mab teaches Harry Dresden, Winter Knight with months of highly lethal, very inventive surprise attacks.
  • 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 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 battles against the Buggers where they 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Immortals After Dark: Nix the Ever-Knowing often says, "Sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind," when she's using her precognition to set up people, including her own sisters, to go through terrible ordeals that result in happy endings.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • In Kaze no Stigma, Kazuma was a pariah to the Kannagi clan due to his complete inability with their traditional Enjutsu. Genma, knowing Kazuma would live a miserable life if he remained part of the clan, banished and disowned Kazuma to give him an opportunity to find his own path. When Kazuma returns years later having found immense success of his own, Genma is secretly proud.
  • "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.
  • 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 The Mental State, one of the tactics used by the protagonist to survive in prison is to try to reform as many inmates as possible. This means taking some extreme actions sometimes. However, the best example is probably the way he treats Officer Reed, an undercover cop trying to expose the prison drug addicts. After uncovering the truth about him, Zack tricks him into taking drugs himself and then blackmailing him so that he keeps taking them and enduring the humiliation the rest of the gang inflicts in him, essentially turning him into a junkie himself. He then reveals that this was simply his way of showing the officer how hard life is for addicts behind bars. Officer Reed then helps him to stage a coup and cut off the gang's drug supply, causing all the gang's members, including Officer Reed himself, to co cold turkey and curing them all. The officer realizes that Zack's method of reducing the use of drugs in prison was more successful than his own and starts to appreciate him more.
  • 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 Wings of Fire, Winter's brother Hailstorm is shown to care for his little brother, so it comes as 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 make Winter run away instead of futilely trying to fight off an ambush by Hailstorm's side.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 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.
  • Angel:
    • In "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:
      Wesley: You try not to get anybody killed, you wind up getting everybody killed.
    • In "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 "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".
  • It may not have been intentional, but in Arrow it's Oliver's vicious "The 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.
  • Babylon 5 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Criminal Minds:
    • An episode 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.
  • Dead Man's Gun: In "Snake Finger" the eponymous safecracker is goaded into a fight by a man whose blocked up the barrel of his gun. This maims Snake Finger's hand, but it wasn't done out of cruelty, but in order to ensure that he'd be unable to crack anymore safes and thus would be more inclined to stay with the woman who loves him, something Snake Finger seems to appreciate at the end.
  • Doctor Who:
    • "The Ark in Space": 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 Seventh Doctor (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.
    • The Eleventh Doctor 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.
    • In "Kill The Moon", when it's revealed that the moon is a gigantic egg and it's starting to hatch, which could result in worldwide catastrophes on Earth, it comes down to a Sadistic Choice whether or not to kill it. Rather than help, the Twelfth Doctor bails and makes the humans make the choice themselves. Despite all of humanity wanting to kill the creature, Clara decides to spare it, which turns out to be for the best as the creature ends up laying an egg that becomes a new moon after it is born, something the Doctor knew would happen. Unfortunately, his Secret Test of Character backfired horribly as Clara was upset with him for abandoning her and mankind like he did, with it nearly destroying their friendship beyond repair.
    • "Rosa": In order to keep history on the correct course, due to interference by an antagonistic time traveler, the Thirteenth Doctor and her companions Graham and Yaz are forced to stay on Rosa Parks' bus in order to make sure there are enough "white" (Yaz is of Pakistani descent, but was counted as white by the bus driver) passengers on board for Rosa to be asked to move, and they can't prevent her arrest. All of them, especially Graham, feel absolutely terrible about it.
  • ER's Peter Benton mercilessly criticizes his African-American intern Dennis Gant, genuinely believing that it's for the best, telling him, "You know you have to be twice as good to be considered even half as good (as the white doctors)" Unfortunately, it completely backfires, as Gant eventually breaks down and kills himself .
    • Several years later, Dr. Jing Mei Chen used the same excuse (albeit in regards to gender) as to why she's so hard on a female medical student, but in truth, she was jealous of her boyfriend's interest in the other woman.
  • 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 a hammer in a video game-style battle.
    • Taiga reasoned that telling Emu about his Bugster infection would be dangerous, so attacking him under pretense of trying to take his Gashats won't stress him because he expects Taiga to act like a jerk who wants to take his stuff. He is right.
  • Hawkeye did this to a patient on M*A*S*H once. A soldier was brought in who had hysterical paralysis. After consulting on the phone with Sidney Freeman, who warned him that being kind could make the patient feel guiltier, and he'd unconsciously make the paralysis permanent to avoid the guilt, 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 stands and Hawkeye apologizes for the treatment he gave him.
  • An episode of NCIS: New Orleans has this be the unintended instigator of a murder. A SEAL trainer is implicated in the murder of one of his recruits when he is revealed to have been training him more aggressivelynote  than the others during the water exercises. The trainer reveals that he believed the recruit had a mental block that made him unable to complete the exercisenote , and he realized too late that he didn't know how to overcome the recruit's fear and that being tougher on him wasn't going to work. Turns out the recruit had PTSD from being sexually abused as a teenager, and it was triggered by having his hands tied up, which his abuser would do to him to keep him from resisting.
  • 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.
  • 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:
    • Star Trek: The Original Series:
      • In "A Private Little War", 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.
      • "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 euthanizing their populations (simulating various battles and strategies) in a cheaper and less destructive way, and were doing this for 500 years before the Enterprise came along. 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. In the end, it works, and destroying the computers, putting the populations at risk, ends up saving their lives, while letting them continue would have cost more lives in the long run.
    • Star Trek: The Next Generation:
      • In "Q Who", Q introduces the Enterprise to the Borg, ending with the deaths of 18 crewmembers. But in the end, Picard privately remarks that "Q did the right thing for the wrong reason". Q isn't responsible for the Borg coming after the Federation later, because the attacks in "The Neutral Zone" are implied to be the result of the Borg, so they were on their way anyway. His actions actually give the Federation an advance warning about who the Borg are, even if people die as a result. This canon is later reinforced in Star Trek: Voyager, where it is revealed that Seven of Nine's parents were Federation scientists investigating the then-unknown Borg almost a decade before this episode. The whole family and their small ship were captured and assimilated. Which means that the Borg already possessed knowledge of the existence of humans and the Federation. What is new to them is the Galaxy-class starship Enterprise, hence their interest in assimilating it.
      • In "The Measure of a Man", a hearing is conducted to determine whether or not Data is a sentient lifeform in his own right, or just Starfleet property. Because the starbase the Enterprise is docked at lacks a proper legal team, the JAG officer is forced to draw from the crew, assigning Picard to defend Data and Riker to prosecute him. When Riker tries to refuse, the JAG threatens to rule summarily against Data if Riker doesn't do his job as prosecutor, and do it properly. Despite his misgivings, Riker's prosecution very nearly condemns Data, but fortunately Picard's defense is able to save him. At the end of the episode, Data personally thanks Riker for what he did, as if Riker hadn't played his part Data wouldn't even have been given the chance to defend himself.
    • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine:
  • 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.
  • The Twilight Zone (1985): In "What Are Friends For?", Jeff Mattingly's Not-So-Imaginary Friend Mike tells him that he was only pretending to be his friend and that he hates him after realizing that his presence is preventing Jeff from becoming friends with real children. Mike did this as he knew that it was the only way to convince Jeff to stop playing with him. The closing narration describes Mike, who previously appeared to Jeff's father Alex in his youth, as "one special friend, one who loved them both enough to vanish when the time was right."
  • 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.

  • 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.
  • In "The Night I Kidnapped Remo Drive" by Remo Drive, a song about the band's disillusionment with the part of their fanbase that fell in love with their material up to their first album and reject anything that came after, told from the point of view of a Loony Fan who kidnaps the band so he can try and convince them to return to their old sound.
    Just relax, struggling will only give you rope burn
    You know my terms, they're simple yet you disobey my orders
    I'd hate to see you hurt but how else will I ever get through to you?
    All I want, yes, all I want is what is the very best for you
  • In Taylor Swift's "All Too Well":
    And you call me up again just to break me like a promise
    So casually cruel in the name of being honest
    I'm a crumpled up piece of paper lying here
    'Cause I remember it all, all, all
    Too well

    Myths & Religion 

  • El Gallo, in the second act of The Fantasticks. "We all must die a bit before we grow again... I hurt them for that reason, and myself a little bit too."
  • Hamlet: The Trope Namer. It is generally considered as the origin of the Stock Phrase.

    Video Games 
  • 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 Devil May Cry 5, Dante constantly tried to distance Nero from Urizen as much as possible, even calling Nero dead weight at one point to shoo him away and criticizing V's decision to involve Nero. It's later revealed Dante did all of this to prevent Nero from unknowingly killing his own father, Urizen/Vergil, as Dante is all too familiar with living with that kind of guilt.
  • In Dwarf Fortress, a game known for its vast potentials for unwarranted cruelty, sometimes this has a reason. One incident arose where a dwarf was lying on the ground, suffering from internal bleeding, but none of the doctors would help him. The player, for fear of losing this dwarf, had to place a spike trap underneath him and activate it manually to cause external bleeding that the doctors would actually notice which might seem like a roundabout solution to a simple problem, but what else can you do besides hope the noticeable injuries aren't life threatening?
  • Inverted by The Matron in Evil Genius; one of her command responses is "You have to be cruel to be... cruel".
  • 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.
  • Finding Light: Vera kicks Mari out of the village again because the latter is in a funk over Abbie's disappearance. She hopes this will get Mari to find Abbie rather than mope around at home.
  • 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.
  • In the second .hack//G.U. 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.
  • Subverted by the Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning 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'.
  • In Knights of the Old Republic, one quest on Dantooine involves you looking for a woman's missing droid, which is the last memento of her dead husband. The Light Side option is to destroy the droid at said droid's request, then return to the woman and tell the truth (lying to her and saying the droid's still out there is the Dark Side option). The woman will be overcome with anguish at first, but will eventually meet and fall in love with a man, at which point she thanks you for what you did.
  • Mass Effect 2:
    • Admiral Shala'Raan declines to tell Tali precisely what the consequences were of her supposed "treason" against the Quarian Migrant Fleet until she and Shepard arrive among the fleet, resulting in Tali getting publicly blindsided with accusations that she fed information to the Geth which allowed them to capture her father. As harsh as this is, Raan later tells Tali that it was necessary, because Tali's honest shock helped prove that she had no intention of compromising the Migrant Fleet, whereas if she'd known the details in advance, she would have tried to compose herself and it might have made her look suspicious.
    • During Garrus' recruitment mission, as you leave the mercenary recruitment office, Shepard meets Jonn Whitson, a young man that wants to join in the hunt for "Archangel". The Paragon reaction involves Shepard breaking the kid's gun and telling him to get a refund. The act will make Shepard look like an asshole, as after the mission ends, you receive a message from Whitson, telling you that after Shepard broke his gun he went to a bar and got plastered in anger. But when the news broke of the massacre, he realized how bad it would have been for him, and he thanks you for stopping him. Indeed, allowing the kid to join the hunt for "Archangel" actually get him killed.
  • Peret em Heru: For the Prisoners: In order to keep Saori from killing themselves, you have to steal their Tragic Keepsake and refuse to return it until you've left the ruins. Giving it back too soon results in her taking her own life while everyone else is trying to escape the collapsing ruins.
  • In Project SEKAI, the Insatiable Pale Color shows that since middle school, when Ena told her dad she wanted to become an artist like him, he'd told her that she doesn't have any talent for art and that she wouldn't get recognition. His reason is that knowing firsthand how lonely and grueling the art industry is, and his daughter's personality, he believes it would only end in despair if she pursued art as a career.
  • 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.
  • Re:Kuroi: One of the kids working for the bandits helps the party escape, in exchange for them helping him take revenge on the bandits for killing his parents. Asha double crosses him and tells him not to try to take revenge, since the bandits probably know about his plan and because revenge won't improve his life.
  • SLAMMED!: This is what Super Horns thinks he/she's doing by betraying Solitary and pushing him off the scaffold before he can grab the title belt; Super Horns is convinced that Solitary has "spinal stenosis", a disease caused by damage to the spine that can lead to paralysis if left untreated, but Solitary refuses to let a doctor examine him for the disease, so Super Horns thinks if Solitary no longer has a title to defend, Solitary would have no choice but to get examined.
  • 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 Tears to Tiara 2, Hamil attempts 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.
  • In The World Ends with You, the Reaper's Game offers players a chance to return to life, but with a catch- they must give up what they value most as their "entry fee," and will only get it back if they win the Game. In the case of Rhyme, it's stated that since the person in question failed to complete the game (Rhyme was devoured by a shark Noise on Day 4, but later returned to life) her entry fee will never be returned. The Secret Reports suggest that this is the Composer's way of testing Players' ability to get through life without what they value most, and forcing them to re-evaluate how important said thing is.

    Visual Novels 
  • Ace Attorney:
    • In Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney – Justice For All, Moe the Clown brings Regina to Max's trial for her father's murder in order for her to see what her naïve behavior had caused (Acro, the actual culprit, had attempted to murder her in grief-stricken retaliation for an accident she caused through a Deadly Prank, which put his brother into an irreversible coma, and caused Acro himself to be confined to a wheelchair. Unfortunately, Regina's father came in Regina's stead, and Acro ended up killing him by mistake). 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.
  • Tamara from Double Homework is this to the protagonist in an attempt to make him a better person. By her own eventual admission, however, it doesn’t work very well.
  • 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 realizing 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.
  • In Piofiore: Fated Memories, in Dante and Nicola's routes, Nicola kidnapping and attempting to kill Lili, as well as their attempts to destroy all the mafia families and exile Dante into leaving the city, was done out of a genuine desire to protect Dante and free them from the role they were forced into.

  • 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.
  • Thinking Too Much to Think Positively: Discussed in "A Boy Named Sue 2: Electric Suegaloo"; as in the original song, Sue's dad named him that expecting him to be mocked for his Gender-Blender Name, which in turn would make him toughen up. However, people were actually very understanding, and Sue has instead become a kind and thoughtful man proud of his name, and was only seeking his father out to learn the reason for his unusual name. When he learns the truth, he's disappointed.
  • Tower of God: Khun's tactic for keeping the team around Bam. At a critical point, he rescinds his loyalty to Bam. The more honorable team members stuck to Bam to be the exact opposite of Khun. It worked, just as Khun wanted it to.

    Web Original 
  • 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.
  • Dream SMP: Played for Drama and ultimately deconstructed. Quackity, at least in the darkest parts of his spiral, seemed to view various events in his Trauma Conga Line of a life as "lessons" to be "learnt", e.g. not to trust others or to create emotional attachment (spoiler on the latter "lesson", he's a massive hypocrite about it), instead of genuinely traumatic events that no one should have to go through—or would have gone through if the DSMP weren't a Crapsack World to begin with. As a result of this, he shows this mentality in his third "Las Nevadas" stream and Tina's introduction to the server, rather aggressively projecting these "lessons" onto others in a Silly Rabbit, Idealism Is for Kids! sort of way, likely thinking it would spare others from the trauma he had gone through to "learn" those "lessons". For the most part, this is indicated to be a negative mentality to demonstrate the degree Quackity's fallen, and all of this ends up making his victims (for lack of a better word) either concerned for him and his mental well-being (e.g. Foolish and Slime/Charlie), question this mentality and his morality (e.g. Tina), or plot revenge against him (e.g. Purpled). Quackity did later admit some of those courses of action were pretty fucked up and apologized for doing so, but let's just say Purpled does not forgive easily, and Slime/Charlie eventually goes on to call him out for perpetuating the Cycle of Revenge and The Chain of Harm through this.

    Western Animation 
  • 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.
  • Captain Planet and the Planeteers: In "Two Futures", Wheeler "quits" the Planeteers by changing the past so that he'd never have joined the team. In order to get him to realize what it means for the world, Gaia makes MAL send him thirty-five years forward in time, and stops responding from the moment he goes to talk to Gi. She reappears only after the timeline is restored and Captain Planet saves the day. Now, in theory, she could have simply brought Wheeler to Hope Island, so that he could see the Bad Future on the Planet Vision; however, he might not have understood the lesson without the first-hand experience.
  • In Ed, Edd n Eddy 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. Sadly, Brian overestimated Peter's stupidity during that event.
    Brian: I'm not gonna call the hospital, because you won't learn anything if I do.
  • 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.
  • King of the Hill: Zig-zagged in "Pretty, Pretty Dresses". During the days leading to Christmas, Bill gets depressed over his ex-wife Lenore leaving him during this time, to the point that he tries to commit suicide, and after that fails, Hank and his friends take turns checking on him. Eventually, Hank tries to snap Bill out of his depression by trashing the gifts he bought for Lenore, but instead, this pushes him past his breaking point by making him believe he is Lenore himself. Later, Hank invokes Lenore's image and berates Bill to force him to stand up for himself, and this successfully snaps him out of his downturn.
  • 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". 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 Applejack to keep thinking her friends would stop loving her.
    • "Ponyville Confidential". 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. This can be considered moot however, when Rarity's confrontation with Sweetie Belle ends up being the punch they need to decide to stop the gossip column as, while she was just as mad at the fillies as the rest of Ponyville and had a right to call her out on saying mean things about her, she was being very reasonable. Also, while this did not happen, treating three fillies like criminals could very well haunt them forever, even if they did something really bad.
    • Subverted during the season 2 finale, where Twilight spends several times accusing Cadance (who is to become her brother's wife) of being an impostor 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 Cadance to tears, prompting her own brother, Shining Armor, to tell her off for hurting Cadance'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 Cadance she was suspicious of actually was a Changeling impostor who imprisoned the real Cadance 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. So in a way, Twilight actually carries the trope as while making outlandish claims against someone can make you seem mean, the fact that particular person is up to no good and could very well ruin the lives of those you care about is even more mean than simple accusations.
    • 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 the 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.
  • She-Ra and the Princesses of Power: Double Trouble gives a positively vicious "The Reason You Suck" Speech to Catra in Season 4, essentially throwing it in Catra's face that the reason so many of her friendships and other relationships have fallen apart is because of Catra herself, not because of some fault of the other party.
  • 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.

    Real Life 
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • Similarly, the idea that "I suffered, so you must too" sounds antiquated and abusive, but there's a reason for it. It's not to cause needless suffering; it's to help the child develop tenacity so they won't give up on a big goal just because it's getting hard to achieve. You can't grow without hardship; no one wants to suffer, but it's a necessary evil to allow someone to experience it so they will be willing to work through it.
  • 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 Hire Slow, Fire Fastnote , discussed in the link by Harvard Business Review. If an employee isn't a good fit for the company early on in the job, it's best to fire them and let them seek a job that suits them better, instead of wasting time and money trying to help fit them into the position.
  • 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. Not only that; but even before Hell Week, anyone who cannot keep up during the rigorous physical training during the preceding three weeks will also be cut. This is because if they couldn't handle that training, Hell Week would absolutely be far too much for them to take.
  • Drill sergeants could be considered a version of this: the reason the act so mean is to prepare the new recruits for the incredibly stressful and terrifying world they are about to enter. After all, an enemy during a battle obviously won't just patiently wait for the private to assemble his rifle before attacking.
  • In most contexts, using another person as a Human Shield against their will is considered, not only cruel, but downright cowardly. That is, unless you are a lifeguard saving a drowning victim, and you are about to be slammed against a hard surface by strong currents. In this case, putting the victim in front of yourself so they get hit instead of you is actually necessary to save both the victim and yourself. The logic being is that the lifeguard is the one who needs to be able to swim, meaning if they are injured, they will no longer be able to swim and both people will most likely end up drowning. Meanwhile, the drowning victim is already in danger, so it doesn't matter if they sustain any additional injuries during the rescue, as long as they still have a chance to be saved.
  • Safety Boards can seem cruel and bureaucratic to the layman, but if they're functioning correctly, safety boards always consider human error. Even if the investigators are fairly certain the people involved did everything right, human factors has to be involved. The reason for this is to be certain that the investigation will catch all the causes- and discover any unknown causes. Additionally, the human factors investigators may find something that gave the people involved an advantage, and in such a case those findings are included in the final report and recommendations. For example, after the crash of United Flight 232, the human factors specialists looking at the flight crew pointed to their successful use of Crew Resource Management as a factor in the survivability of the accident. Even though people were killed, it would have been far worse had the crew not been performing at the highest level of CRM. This led to the NTSB recommending that CRM be made law, and the FAA following suit. Meanwhile, the human factors investigators looking into the maintenance found a serious failure both in record keeping by the parts manufacturers who had made the faulty fan disk that caused the accident, and by United maintenance workers who had inspected the disk. The result was the implementation of better record keeping systems and more thorough inspection processes to increase the chances of preventing such an accident.
  • Homework, the bane of most children's life. However, it is important to the child's education, and also teaches time management.


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