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Greater Need Than Mine

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"Thy necessity is greater than mine."
Sir Philip Sidney, as reported in his friend Fulke Greville's biography

A character insists on someone else getting attention — usually medical, sometimes water or evacuation — before he does, even though he is in need himself.

It can be a logical request, if the other person really IS more in need, and mostly means that the character cares about others even when he's in a bad situation himself. On the other hand, it can be a stupid move by a Martyr Without a Cause who's letting heroism get in the way of sensible triage — or by a wounded character in too bad a stage of shock to understand, where The Medic may have to persuade the insisting character to accept any treatment — or (worse) that the other character is dead and so past help.


If both characters are conscious, it can lead to a More Hero Than Thou dispute.

In military situations, it is especially likely to occur when the Officer and a Gentleman or A Father to His Men must insist on it for his troops (see The Men First), but can also occur between those of equal rank. The Power of Friendship can power it, but it can also occur between strangers — a subtrope of A Friend in Need.

Can overlap with No One Gets Left Behind and Fire-Forged Friends. If the "need" is based on how important one character is as opposed to another, it's a form of More Expendable Than You. See Men Are the Expendable Gender for when men are expected to automatically consider the needs of women and children greater than their own, and some of the narrative consequences of this.



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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Dragonball Z, at the end of the Buu saga, Goku has Dende cure Vegeta of his wounds first, because he was the most damaged of them all.
    • Bulma from the future timeline wanted a world where the androids didn't exist and everyone she loves is still alive. To that end, she built a time machine knowing that even if they fixed the past, it would not change their timeline and they would still be stuck with the androids.
    • The Gohan of the same timeline lost his arm after a gruesome battle with the androids. There was only one Senzu Bean left in the world (Korin, who grew them, was one of the many heroes who had died in this timeline) which could have restored Gohan's arm, but Gohan instead used the bean to save Trunks, who was in critical condition.
  • Mahou Sensei Negima!: Negi and Asuna find themselves injured after a fight. There's only one Super Healing Macguffin. And Negi insists that Asuna get it.
  • Fushigi Yuugi presents us with an example in the sixth and seventh episodes. After Miaka stabs herself to save Tamahome, Hotohori, and Nuriko from the evil Mirror-Miaka, Tamahome and Hotohori donate blood to her — from the chest and the wrist, no less. The group is then taken to Mount Taikyoku so they can send Miaka home, but their injuries had to be healed first. Although Miaka's wound was far worse and nearly fatal while Tamahome and Hotohori didn't even bleed much, she insists that the two men be taken care of first.
    • Similarly, this is one of Takiko Okuda's biggest character traits in Fushigi Yuugi: Genbu Kaiden — and one of the reasons why she earns the respect of her Seishi. But it's also a deconstruction since Takiko has a serious case of Heroic Self-Deprecation and one of the "signs" is putting others before herself more than she should... so ultimately, Takiko's lack of self-worth is one of the reasons why she's devoured from the inside by Genbu itself.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! has an episode featuring a flashback to when Yugi's grandfather forfeited a duel over some water because his opponent was dying. Both are still alive, as both were rescued shortly after that.
  • One Piece: One of the core character traits of Monkey D. Luffy. It doesn't matter what condition he's in, his friends come first.
    • In the Drum arc, he begs for an ill Nami and injured Sanji to be saved while he himself is freezing to death.
    • Inverted in Impel Down. Luffy is injured, frozen, and has been horrifically poisoned. His ally, Bon Clay, was injured protecting Luffy. Luffy still begs Bon Clay be helped, despite his need being obviously greater. It's this very fact that gets them both help.
  • Fate/stay night: Shirou has a bad habit of being mostly dead. Frequently. Nevertheless, he makes damn sure that everyone else is okay before he passes out from blood loss. He's so self-sacrificing it actually pisses off Saber, who thinks his heroics border on suicidal.
  • In Maiden Rose, Azusa invokes this in a reversal of The Men First after he and Klaus were found at the riverbank. Though it makes sense due to the greater severity of Klaus' injuries, it's notable because the medics/troops were more keen to help him in spite of being lower in rank and less seriously injured.
  • In the showdown of the Record of Lodoss War TV series, Spark tells Garrakk that he will charge Naneel and take the hit of her deadly magic, so his friend can get close enough to her to kill her. Garrakk does not object to his plan, but when Spark counts down from three, he doesn't wait for him to finish and charges first, as it was his special mission to keep the other one alive at all cost.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist:
    • After Roy kills Lust, he insists that Havoc be treated before him.
    • Throughout the series, it becomes clear that while Ed and Al want to return both of their bodies back to normal, Ed definitely knows his own situation (missing an arm and leg but with fully functional replacements) is not nearly as bad as Al's (missing his entire body with a lot of Sense Loss Sadness). Ultimately, after Ed gets his arm back at the cost of Al's metal body, he sacrifices his alchemy to bring Al entirely back to normal and decides to just suck it up and live with the mechanical leg.
  • At the end of one of the botched timelines of Puella Magi Madoka Magica, Madoka uses her last Grief Seed to save Homura instead of herself. Then again, she knows that Homura is able to travel back in time and prevent her sacrifice from being necessary, but still.
  • Bleach:
    • After Byakuya rescues Rukia from Zommari, Isane and Hanatarou heal Rukia first. Byakuya had deliberately cut the tendons in his left arm and left leg during the battle, but Rukia had been brought to the point of death by Zommari's colleague Aaroniero. Even after Rukia has woken up, is almost completely healed and is concerned about her brother's injuries, Byakuya tells her to stay put until Isane and Hanatarou have finished healing her completely, despite the fact he's still bleeding merrily away. Although it's never overtly mentioned, the fact Isane and Hanatarou are healing Rukia means Isane must have healed Hanatarou first before both of them worked on Rukia's injuries, as a possessed Rukia had badly injured Hanatarou before Zommari was killed by Byakuya.
    • Unmasked reveals that after the battle at Karakura Town was over, it turned out that Harribel, who was thought of as dead, had actually survived being cut down by Aizen, and her Amazon Brigade had also lived after both cutting off their arms to create the monster Ayon and being torched alive. Nevertheless, when the Amazon Brigade approached Orihime for healing, they insisted on her healing Harribel first rather than them and utterly refused to have their massive injuries treated until they were sure that their leader would live.
  • A variation occurs in Spirited Away. Chihiro is gifted a medicine ball from a river god, which she plans to use to turn her parents into humans again. She ends up giving part of it to Haku to make him cough up Zeniba's seal/free him from Yubaba's control and the rest to No Face to make him throw up everything he ate in the bathhouse and turn him good again.

  • When Rogue first joined the X-Men, Wolverine was bitterly furious about it. However, after she and he went up against some enemies, and she took an attack meant for him and Mariko and was dying, he forced her to absorb his own Healing Factor — over her objections, as she pointed out he was injured, too.
  • Iron Man: Tony Stark has essentially killed himself at least twice for the sake of Steve Rogers:
    • During the Red Zone arc in The Avengers, Red Skull (who immunized himself) unleashed an airborne poison and trapped Steve Rogers inside of a room with it. Tony Stark, despite being safe inside of his suit due to the air filters in it, takes off his helmet to give Steve mouth-to-mouth in order to keep him alive long enough for the super-soldier serum to fight off the effects of the poison, even though Tony was well aware that he'd most likely end up dying by doing so. In his mental dialogue, he even says that Steve is far more important than he himself is. Don't worry, to the shock of all of the readers, they both get better.
    • At the climax of the Execute Program storyline in the Iron Man title, Steve is caught by the last of the rogue Iron Man armor and is about to be crushed. Without a single moment of hesitation (beyond a token yell of "STEVE!" ), Tony stops his own heart in order to shut the thing down, thus saving Steve's life at the cost of his own. Almost. He's dead for about half an hour, but then he's...well, fine.
      • It is worth noting that no one, Tony included, knew that he would get better or why.
  • A long-ago story arc in the Star Wars Expanded Universe comics involved a planet that was dying as its life-support systems failed. The missing component had been presented to an underworld boss years earlier by Han Solo (who thought it was junk, not knowing its purpose at the time), telling him it was an award from the Alliance for his courage. Lando & Han hatch an elaborate plan to steal it back, only to be captured. Upon finally learning what they were doing with his prized trophy and why, the crimelord tells them they must take it back. It was the one thing he'd had ever gotten for doing the right thing and he could not sully it by keeping it when others needed it now.

    Fan Works 
  • Subverted in Origin Story. After Bullseye's attack on their car causes a crash, grievously wounds Louise, and seriously injures Nico Minoru, Alex Harris takes the injured women to a hospital emergency room. While they are being treated, another doctor tries to corner Alex, pointing out that she (Alex) is covered in blood. Alex refuses his help, revealing to him that, as a Kryptonian, it would take a lot more than a car crash and a psychotic assassin to hurt her. The blood she's covered in all belongs to either Louise or Nico.
  • At the conclusion of The Mermaid and the Genie, Ariel sacrifices her third wish to free the Genie as she originally agreed even when he offers to make her human again (Ariel having used her second wish to undo all of Genie's previous wishes, including both Ursula's wishes and Ariel's wish to be human), feeling that the Genie deserves to live his dream after he helped her achieve hers.
  • In Origins, a Mass Effect/Star Wars/Borderlands/Halo Massive Multiplayer Crossover, nar tasi geth (those disconnected from the Consensus who avert Individuality Is Illegal) invoke this trope to Aria T'Loak, knowing they will end up dead/destroyed covering the organics' retreat.
  • In After the Fall of Giants, Kuno reveals that the reason for his family's madness is a mental illness, and that neither he or his father can take the medication necessary to cure it as both are allergic to it. When Chi reveals that he has brought an allergy-free version of the cure with him from the future, but only has one dose, Kuno tells Sasuke to give the cure to his father, reasoning that if the cure is truly from the future, he can wait for it to be developed, but he has no idea how much longer his father can cope.

    Film - Animated 
  • One of Aladdin's defining traits. In the first film, he and Abu went through a lot of trouble trying to steal a loaf of bread while avoiding the guards. Once they were in the clear, they were about to feast until they saw some hungry homeless kids digging for food in the trash. Aladdin (and reluctantly Abu) offer the bread to them.
    • In the second film, Aladdin steals the ill-gotten loot of Abis Mal and rains it down all over Agrabah, which Abu objects to. He tells the monkey that the poor people need the treasure more than they do.
  • Kronk's New Groove: Throughout the film Kronk has an opportunity to get something that he knows would make his father proud, which is the one thing he desires, in order to help out his friends, such as giving up his house on a hill so that the old folks can have someplace to live.
  • Onward: In the end, Ian chooses to hold off the dragon so Barley will be the one who gets to speak with their dad. As Ian has realized, while he never got to meet their dad, he at least had Barley as a Parental Substitute. Barley, on the other hand, needs to properly say goodbye to their father so he'll finally get closure and be able to move past his childhood trauma.

    Film - Live-Action 
  • In Casper, he has a potion to restore him to life. But the girl's dad fell off a cliff and turned into a ghost. Casper let him use the potion instead, saying "You need this more than I do".
  • Subverted in I, Robot, where Del Spooner (played by Will Smith) explains how he was once involved in a car accident that left him and a small girl trapped in sinking cars. A robot was on hand to save them, but despite his pleading, it chose him over the girl based on a calculated 11% probability of survival compared to his 35%.
    "That was somebody's baby. 11% is more than enough."
  • "The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one" is practically a mantra of the Star Trek movies; and its inversion is the premise of the third movie.
  • Subverted in We Were Soldiers. During one evacuation, a soldier is seen on a helicopter with a sling on his arm. He gets off to make room for a fellow soldier being taken on a medical litter. As the soldier who got off sends off the wounded one and wishes him well, he then gets shot in the head by an offscreen enemy soldier. The wounded soldier then attempts to hold onto the now dead guy as the helicopter takes off.
  • In Horns, Ig tries to give Merrin's cross, which he stole back from her killer, to her father. Her father tells Ig, "You need it more than I do". When Ig puts it on, it changes him back into a human without horns.

  • In William King's Warhammer 40,000 novel Space Wolf, Ragnar carries an injured Space Marine from a fight and gives him over to the priests for his injuries to be cared for. One priest inspects Ragnar's own injuries. Ragnar tells him to care for the other Space Marine — realizing it sounded stupid even as he said it — and the priest assures him that the man is being cared for and (gently) orders him to accept treatment.
  • In Louisa May Alcott's Little Men, the schoolboys capture their handyman and demand that he tell them a story. He tells them about his American Civil War experience; this includes the time he insisted that the wounded Confederate next to him be taken to the doctors first because his injuries were worse.
  • In The Dresden Files book Small Favor, during the rescue at the book's climax, Gentleman Johnnie Marcone insists that the first person to be evacuated be the Archive, a wounded and unconscious twelve-year-old girl. Harry Dresden remarks that it's stuff like this that makes it hard for him to file Marcone under "scumbag, criminal" and hate him.
  • During a drought in the Warrior Cats novel The Fourth Apprentice, Jayfeather suspects that Longtail is giving his water to Mousefur because he thinks she needs it more.
    • Clan leaders tend to do this a lot, seeing as they have nine lives to spare and their Clanmates only have one. It is even stated at one point that the whole reason they are given nine lives in the first place is so that they can be the first to charge into battle and the last to take food or medical treatment. Notable examples include Bluestar, Firestar, Crookedstar, Cloudstar, and Redstar.
  • In Frances Hodgson Burnett's novel A Little Princess, the heroine is very hungry and finds a coin in the street. With it, she buys six buns and gives all but one to a beggar child who is starving.
  • Trout in Chanters of Tremaris stops his friend from using her healing magic on his arrow wound and directs her to a teammate who has been stabbed in the chest with a spear.
  • In Codex Alera in the first book, a powerful knight insists the healing medics take care of more seriously injured men and not tend to the flesh wound above his eye. They do.When a dangerous and even stronger enemy knight faces him, the heroic knight holds him back but is blinded and distracted when blood flows into his eye. He dies during this moment of distraction.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In the pilot movie of the original Battlestar Galactica, in which Socialator Cassiopeia (basically a space Hooker with a Heart of Gold) insists "There are others in greater need than I" when Starbuck tries to get her medical attention for her broken arm.
    • In the ending of The War of the Gods arc, Apollo takes a blast for Count Iblis meant for Sheba. Of course, he got resurrected by the Beings of Light soon after.
  • The M*A*S*H episode "A Full Rich Day" in which a guy comes in with his wounded buddy, and holds the E.R. hostage until the buddy is taken care of. "You save my buddy or everyone here dies" kinda thing. It truly becomes an example of this trope when the doctors serve him up an angry What the Hell, Hero? speech upon saving his buddy... and he collapses on the floor front of them. The doctors then discover he is just as badly wounded as his friend.
  • Series/JAG: "[[JAGS 09 E 01 A Tangled Webb-Part II A Tangled Webb: Part II]]": In the previous episode, CIA man Clayton Webb had been brutally tortured by terrorists in Uruguay, but he escapes with the help of Gunnery Sergeant Galindez. They make it to a rural hospital with limited supplies. Seeing a woman suffering in the final part of her pregnancy, Clayton chooses to forgo any pain medication so it can be used for this mother. The woman is thankful and successfully births her son, who she names after Clayton.
  • Stargate Atlantis:
    • After the control room of Atlantis is blown up (again), Col. Sheppard finds Ronon sitting on the ground with a large shard of glass sticking out of his shoulder. Sheppard asks him why none of the medics are attending to him, and Ronon says he wouldn't let them, because others in the room need help more. Shepherd immediately calls BS on this, and orders one of the medics to see to Ronon's injuries. Ronon actually loves to pull this when he gets injured. Which isn't very often, actually.
    • More surprisingly, in the season 5 premiere, McKay is pulled out of the rubble of a building after an explosion so Dr. Keller starts tending to his injuries. McKay immediately tells her to tend to Major Lorne who has a broken leg. Keller is initially surprised (and jokes that he's Not Himself) since he tends to be selfish and a hypochondriac.

    Professional Wrestling 

    Web Original 
  • In Dept Heaven Apocrypha, Meria has been repeatedly using this excuse to avoid having her friends pry into the physical and emotional problems that landed her in the hospital. Then again, those friends are rape survivors and a stowaway demon, so...
  • In For The Spirit Of Creation, homeless Magical Girl Sara Aldred refuses food unless everyone else has eaten, and sleeps on the street so as not to deny someone else a bed at the homeless shelter. Luckily, her powers protect her from the physical effects of malnutrition and sleeping outside in freezing cold, but she still feels just as cold and hungry as anyone else would.


    Video Games 
  • There's an achievement in Left 4 Dead for healing someone when your own health is critical.
  • In Deus Ex: Human Revolution You meet up with your boss, David Sarif, who's a Cyberpunk CEO in the last level, and he tells you that he has wounded and that you have to move them out first.
  • In Mega Man 10, Roll comes down with Roboenza early in the plot but saves her medicine in case another robot needs it. Sure enough, after defeating all 8 bosses, Dr. Wily takes all the medicine... and then Mega Man comes down with Roboenza and there is no medicine. So Roll gives Mega Man her own medicine.
  • Discussed by Azama and Effie in Fire Emblem Fates. During the Invisible Kingdom campaign, their supports have her putting herself in great and potentially fatal danger several times to protect others; as he heals her wounds he tells her that she's being a Martyr Without a Cause for it, but she refuses to step down because she wants to help anyone who needs it. If they have a Relationship Upgrade, he will tell her that he wants to protect her from now on, and she accepts so that he may fight at her side because she now knows that her life is precious as well.
  • This is what Filia of Skullgirls ultimately decides to do with her wish on the Skull Heart, choosing to give her old friend Painwheel/Carol a better life instead of regaining her lost memories. She could live without them, but Carol's life was destroyed by her abduction and transformation by Lab Zero. It becomes a Bittersweet Ending when the Heart reveals that Filia will become the next Skullgirl, but it does slow her transformation to allow her to live out her remaining time happily with her friend.
  • In Trauma Center: Under the Knife 2, Emilio insists to Derek and Angie that they operate on Heather (his nurse) first when they're both infected with GUILT. In this case, Emilio did so because he thought his antibodies would help him endure the infection, but sadly, that wasn't the case, as they were antibodies for a different strain of GUILT.
  • At one point in The Walking Dead Season One, the characters are escaping a horde of walkers by boarding a train that's quickly gaining speed. Omid and Christa, a couple, are both running to hop on the boxcar, and no matter who you choose to help up first, they'll berate you for not picking the other; Omid, because Christa is a woman, and Christa, because Omid's leg has just been wounded.

    Real Life 
  • Frederick Banting, the man who discovered insulin, died in a plane crash. He died because he insisted on saving the life of the pilot instead of treating his own wounds.
  • As Fulke Greville recounts in his Life of Sir Philip Sidney:
    ...being thirstie with excess of bleeding, he called for drink, which was presently brought him; but as he was putting the bottle to his mouth, he saw a poor Souldier carryed along, who had eaten his last at the same Feast, gastly casting up his eyes at the bottle. Which Sir Philip perceiving, took it from his head, before he drank, and delivered it to the poor man, with these words, Thy necessity is greater than mine. And when he had pledged this poor souldier, he was presently carried to Arnheim.
  • An even more heroic example came from the crash of Air Florida Flight 90 into the Potomac River when one of the men in the water kept passing the rescue helicopter rope to other people. He tragically perished, but a nearby bridge was renamed in his honor.
  • The group of people who give the highest percentage of their income to charity? Not the rich, but the working class. Similarly, poor individuals, including those actually below the US federal poverty limit, contribute more volunteer hours than any other class.
    • During a spate of severe flooding in the 1990s, the United Kingdom received a charitable donation... from the people of Mozambique, which had itself experienced far more deadly floods earlier the same decade. This aid was offered, it seems, in gratitude for the offering of British Aid during their own natural disaster.
  • Archduke Franz Ferdinand tried to get medical attention to his wife after they were shot. They both died nonetheless.
  • Saint Maximilian Maria Kolbe. A Franciscan friar in Poland and ex-missionaire, he was a bold critic of Those Wacky Nazis which, coupled with him opening his friary to Jewish refugees, got him sentenced to Auschwitz. While there, he often stepped out of the ration line when rumors broke that they were running out. In July 1941, an escape happened, and ten men from the escaped man's block were to be randomly chosen to starve to death in punishment. When one of the condemned (a Polish sergeant named Franciszek Gajowniczek) broke down in tears over never seeing his wife and children again, Kolbe volunteered to take the man's place. Kolbe lasted three weeks, tending to the other condemned as best he could. The man whom he replaced? Gajowniczek survived Auschwitz and lived long enough to see Kolbe canonized in 1982.
  • Tibor Rubin was a Corporal in the USA Army during the Korean War. He was captured and placed in a POW Camp. Barely given any food and seeing his fellow soldiers, this man who survived the Holocaust risked his own life to help his comrades. This excerpt narrating his actions comes from the ceremony awarding him the Congressional Medal of Honor:
    "Corporal Rubin disregarded his own personal safety and immediately began sneaking out of the camp at night in search of food for his comrades. Breaking into enemy food storehouses and gardens, he risked certain torture or death if caught. Corporal Rubin provided not only food to the starving Soldiers, but also desperately needed medical care and moral support for the sick and wounded of the POW camp. His brave, selfless efforts were directly attributed to saving the lives of as many as forty of his fellow prisoners. Corporal Rubin's gallant actions in close contact with the enemy and unyielding courage and bravery while a prisoner of war are in the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself and the United States Army."


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