Sometimes, a character who has committed wicked deeds or screwed up enormously manages to redeem themselves, but at a cost. A toned-down cousin of Redemption Equals Death, this trope describes a situation where the redeemed character does not die, but is crippled or afflicted somehow or suffers a huge and meaningful loss.
This trope exists, like Redemption Equals Death, for the benefit of the audience, in order to stop the redeemed character from becoming a Karma Houdini who might never pay for the horrible things they did before.
Compare Redemption Demotion and Karma Houdini Warranty, and compare Restrained Revenge and My Fist Forgives You if it's a character invoking this to the reformed character. Compare also Break the Haughty, which can overlap with this if the person took great pride in whatever they had to lose to earn redemption. See also Being Good Sucks. Contrast Redemption Earns Life.
- In a flashback in Rurouni Kenshin, while on an assassination mission, Kenshin Himura, received a cut to his face from his target's bodyguard (whom he immediately dispatched as well). Because the cut refused to heal it was theorized by Kenshin's peers that he had been struck by an innocent man and his wound was penance. The wound only finally stopped bleeding some months later when the famous cross-shaped-scar was completed by his dying wife, who he had accidentally struck during a battle (and who had been the fiancee of the man he murdered before). Kenshin holds the belief that the cross-shaped-scar will vanish when he has fully atoned for his sins. He also doesn't believe that is possible though by the end of the manga it has indeed begun to heal.
- In Fairy Tail, Laxus Dreyar gets this in spades. In the Galuna Island and Phantom Lord arcs, he's merely a disliked background character, but he becomes a full-blown Arc Villain in the Fighting Festival arc (where he tries to take over Fairy Tail by force in an effort to make the guild stronger). He fails and is excommunicated as punishment, but he rises to his former guildmates' aid against Master Hades of Grimoire Heart in the Tenrou Island arc. When he is reinstated for the events of the Grand Magic Games arc, Laxus shows his guildmates (and the audience) just how many levels in kindness he has taken during both the titular Games and the Eclipse Gate dragon invasion that follows. Unfortunately, he is ultimately punished for mending his ways at the beginning of the Tartaros arc when the demon Tempester tries to poison an entire town with Magical Barrier Particles, and Laxus makes a Heroic Sacrifice by inhaling as much of the poison as his Dragon Slayer powers will let him, spending the entire rest of the arc in a coma as a result. We learn in the events of the Alvarez Empire arc (more than a year later) that he's still carrying the scars of Tartaros, and it takes a bit of in-the-nick-of-time trickery on his part to finally be cured of his affliction.
- In Fullmetal Alchemist Doctor Marchoh has his face disfigured by Scar after regretting everything he did in the Ishbalan war. This has a practical purpose on top of the symbolism as he's on the run and changing his face will help stop him from being caught.
- In Naruto, this happens to Sasuke Uchiha after he FINALLY performs his HeelFace Turn at the end of the main series. Notably, this is in spite of the fact that He could've easily gotten a prosthetic like Naruto. Presumably, him choosing not to leaves him with a reminder of what he used to be before becoming The Atoner.
- In Snow White and Seven Dwarfs, while Fujimaru pulls off his HeelFace Turn early on, him pushing himself to his limits in the finale is at least partly to atone for everything he's done, and is what leads to him suffering from the permanent consequences to his body in the epilogue (i.e. severe headaches and possibly being a cripple).
- In Tokyo Ghoul, Shuu Tsukiyama is a vicious and remorseless killer that seeks to befriend the protagonist for the sake of eating him. But over the course of several months, he comes to genuinely care for his new comrades and only realizes his true feelings when it's too late. In the sequel, he's reintroduced as an Ill Boy that has spent the last two and a half years in an inconsolable Angst Coma. Too emaciated to even walk, he spends some time in a wheelchair and is presented as a much more sympathetic and kind person. Even after he recovers from his lengthy illness, he remains deeply humbled by everything that he's gone through.
- In The Shattering of Oz, it's revealed that after he left Oz, the Wizard has spent the last year being tortured by the Nome King for the theft of the Emeralds and gradually coming to regret the crimes he committed while still in power - in particular, ordering his daughter's assassination. When Elphaba finds him, he's crippled, barely able to walk, horribly scarred and badly traumatized from all the torture... but he's also willing to help her.
- A Certain Magical Index: Accelerator tries to redeem himself for slaughtering over 10,000 clones by saving one who befriended him despite the aforementioned massacre. He succeeds, but gets shot in the head, something he easily could have avoided in any other situation where he wasn't saving said clone from a brain virus. He survives the shot but takes brain damage that impedes his motor skills, leaving him unable to walk or talk, let alone perform the calculations required for his powers. He ends up receiving an electrode to provide him with the brainpower of the remaining clones, but their inferior computation ability as well as the electrode's short battery life means that he's nowhere near as powerful as he used to be. Not that this completely stops him from delivering Curbstomp Battles, as Awaki can attest to.
- Mr Rochester in Jane Eyre treated Jane quite badly, pulling an Operation: Jealousy on her and then trying to induce her to unknowingly enter into a bigamous marriage with him. When his mad wife burns down his house, not only does he lose it but he also loses one hand and most of his eyesight trying to save her life. Jane returns to him.
- A Song of Ice and Fire:
- Ashes of Love: At the end of the series Run Yu atones for his actions by accepting an eternity of loneliness.
- Londo taking the Drakh Keeper toward the end of Babylon 5. One interpretation of Morella's prophecies regarding Londo ("Point of No Return") would have this be the consequence of "killing the one who is already dead" (which could be read, after a fashion, as Sheridan, Morden, or Refa—but Morden, or possibly rival-to-the-throne Refa, in this case)—although he has much else to redeem himself for—and the total loss of control represented by the Keeper could be read as the "greatest fear" which is then his final chance at redemption. At any rate, he bears the Keeper to avoid the Drakh detonating fusion bombs all over Centauri Prime, potentially killing millions. The Keeper is a living symbiote that can neurally exert control over his actions, as directed by a Drakh controller.
- Doctor Who:
- Thanks to a Trauma Conga Line, the Twelfth Doctor turns into a Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds as the Story Arc of Series 9 comes to its climax: willing to risk all space and time just to save his dear companion Clara from her fixed-point-in-time death. He eventually comes to a Heel Realization and returns to the side of good — at the cost of not only separating from her for good but undergoing a Mind Rape. He can reconstruct his memories of the adventures they had together, but not what made him love her so — i.e. her appearance, voice, specific things she told him, etc.
- This happens again in the following season's "Oxygen": Due to his Chronic Hero Syndrome, he decides that he and his companions Bill and Nardole will investigate a distressed space station despite both of them wanting to turn back; on top of this, he's supposed to be guarding the mysterious Vault back on Earth rather than venturing offworld. Soon they must survive a walk through the void of space — but Bill's spacesuit helmet isn't working correctly. The Doctor gives Bill his helmet so she can breathe. The temporary lack of oxygen blinds him. From there he is able to save her, Nardole, and the last members of the station, and afterward uses medical tech from the TARDIS to fix his blindness... but back on Earth he subsequently reveals that thanks to these events he is actually still blind; he lied to Bill and the crew. To make matters worse, he still needs to guard the Vault.
- The TV series of Rebecca featuring Charles Dance as Maxim de Winter, unlike the Hitchcock film, had Maxim kill his wife as in the original book. Reminiscent of Jane Eyre, Maxim suffers disfigurement in the fire trying to save Mrs Danvers in this version.
- In an attempt to atone for his actions in Season 6, Castiel in Supernatural absorbs Sam's mental trauma, and suffers a mental breakdown as a result.
- The Bible:
- King David had slept with Uriah's wife Bathsheba while sending him out to battle on the front line, which led to Uriah being killed. This angers God who had sent the Prophet Nathan to rebuke David for pulling the Uriah Gambit. David sincerely repents, but while God forgave him, He allowed David and Bathsheba's child to die in infancy, and David's life became quite complicated afterwards.
- Saul, later referred to as Paul, as described in the page quote. He used to be the most ardent persecutor of the early church who goes on a crusade to capture and kill as many Christians as he can. After an encounter with Jesus, Saul does a 180 degree and becomes one of the loudest preachers of the Gospel, leading him to suffer the same persecution he once inflicted on the followers of Christ.
- Mrs Erlynne from Lady Windermere's Fan is initially Lord Windermere's blackmailer. After having a My God, What Have I Done? moment, she saves Lady Windermere's reputation and her marriage from scandal by allowing herself to be seen in a compromising and scandalous position, even though this means being shut out of society.
- It seems as though William Shakespeare intended Shylock's forced conversion in The Merchant of Venice as this; the Jew's soul gets saved at the expense of his wealth. Unsurprisingly, modern audiences tend to disagree.
- At the end of Dragon Age: Origins, one of the possible outcomes of the plot is Big Bad Teyrn Loghain being forced into joining the Grey Wardens and helping the party battle the Archdemon in the Final Battle. Should he survive, he's redeemed himself from almost plunging Ferelden into a civil war but now has to spend the rest of his life with all of the nasty side effects of surviving the Warden joining process. Could also count as Redemption Equals Death, although said death would be decades down the road.