be cruel to be kind

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be cruel to be kind

To be blunt and honest with someone in order to help them realize something that may help them. This phrase expresses the idea that it is sometimes necessary to hurt someone's feelings in order to tell them the truth. I'm not going to sit here and tell Judith that she's a shoo-in when she's clearly not ready for her audition. Sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind.
See also: cruel, kind

be cruel to be kind

act towards someone in a way which seems harsh but will ultimately be of benefit.
In Shakespeare 's Hamlet, ‘I must be cruel only to be kind’ was Hamlet's explanation of his reasons for bullying his mother about her second marriage.
See also: cruel, kind

be ˌcruel to be ˈkind

use unpleasant methods because they are necessary to help somebody: I was worried about Katie getting too involved with Steve so I eventually told her about his drug addiction — you’ve got to be cruel to be kind sometimes. OPPOSITE: kill somebody with kindness
See also: cruel, kind