The Bleeding Heart: A Definition and a Critique

by Dom Nozzi

What is a bleeding heart?

A Definition

Wikipedia defines a bleeding heart this way: Someone regarded as excessively sympathetic, liberal in a political sense, or both. It is typically considered a derogatory remark.

My definition is more elaborate. For me, a bleeding heart is someone who is so excessively compassionate towards a minority such as an African-American, a woman, or a poor person that they are blinded to the fact that their efforts of compassion are, in many cases, ultimately harmful to the person being helped, the person doing the helping, the overall community, or a combination of these. The compassion of the bleeding heart is so passionate that they insist that their efforts are helpful despite the evidence, and that those who do not join them in their efforts are evil or callous.

It doesn’t matter that the compassion of the bleeding heart is unfair to those not being “helped.”

The Bleeding Heart Attitude Can Lead to Martyrdom 

A common outcome of the “excessively sympathetic” bleeding heart is that the person often overlooks or sacrifices their own needs to the point where they suffer from exhaustion, poor health, financial woes, failed relationships, loneliness, a decline in their appearance, depression, and anger. The happiness of the bleeding heart is secondary to helping others. Relationships with a significant other or family members can also suffer — for example, by overly neglecting their significant other or family members. The bleeding heart, in some ways, engages in what amounts to martyrdom. Their own lives suffer because too much of what they need is sacrificed to helping others. They become bitter people who are consumed by seeing the world as being constantly unfair or selfish.  The unintended consequence is that the bleeding heart, by leading a less happy or successful life, is less able to help others who are in need.

Victims and Outcomes

The bleeding heart tends to believe in permanent victimhood. That is, the “victimized” person or people they seek to help will forever be victims — be they Jews, African-Americans, or others who have a minority status due to something the victimized person cannot change (such as birth).

The bleeding heart also tends to believe that an unequal outcome is irrefutable evidence that they have been “victimized” by discrimination, racism or other forms of oppression. Examples of unequal outcomes include African-Americans or women or low-income people who are, among other possible outcomes, disproportionately unemployed, are not admitted to colleges in proportion to their numbers, have lower income, or have lower-status jobs.

For the bleeding heart, these unequal outcomes are nearly always fully explained due to discrimination or oppression, and are almost never due to irresponsibility, poor choices, lower-quality genes, or lack of hard work. Typically, the bleeding heart is never able to, in any way, blame their victims for their position in life.

All of us, according to this view, are generally born with the same skills, qualities, and abilities.

The bleeding heart usually has the habit of looking upon “victimized” individuals or groups as “noble savages.” Wikipedia defines a “noble savage” as the idea that in a state of nature, humans are essentially good. Examples of the noble savage, for the bleeding heart, are to see lower income people or African-Americans or women as, by definition, people that are born ethical, intelligent, fair, kind, compassionate, righteous, and supportive of human rights. Such oppressed people are almost never selfish or blameworthy.

In general, it is only white, Anglo-Saxon men who are fundamentally evil.

Double Standards

Specific examples of bleeding heart behavior, given the above, include instances where food or money is given to a panhandler. Or when the bleeding heart supports policies in which extra assistance is extended to African-Americans or women in college admissions – assistance that is not extended to “oppressor” white males. Or artificially tipping the scales in the direction of the “victim” or minority group in hiring or promotion in the job world. Or bleeding heart efforts intended to correct what is considered to be a “racist” or “sexist” imbalance of the college admittance, hiring or promotion of white males. Or speech codes which prohibit white males from using “derogatory” language toward minorities (who are assumed, by bleeding hearts, to be too “sensitive” to avoid being harmed by “racist” or “sexist” words).

It almost never occurs to the bleeding heart that in many cases, an imbalance is due to faults of the minority individual. Almost always, the imbalance can only be due to discrimination, because the bleeding heart almost always assumes that we are all born equal in abilities, and had it not been for oppression, there would not be any instance where societal benefits are disproportionately enjoyed by white, Anglo-Saxon males.

Victimhood is Forever

Our society, according to the bleeding heart, will always be required to give more assistance to such individuals as African-Americans or women than white, Anglo-Saxon males because discrimination is hard-wired into white, Anglo-Saxon males. Again, the victimization is assumed to be permanent.

What about using objective criteria to determine salary, hiring, or admission? Wouldn’t that be fair?


The bleeding heart has a handy retort to such a proposal – one that can be used forever: It is not possible to objectively measure competence or skills as a way to select or promote candidates, because such measures will inevitably be biased by and toward white, Anglo-Saxon males.

Double Standards Promote Discrimination

Ironically, the reverse discrimination that many bleeding hearts passionately justify (or turn a blind eye to) ends up contributing to and perpetuating the very discriminatory or racist attitudes that many bleeding hearts oppose so vehemently. This occurs because when a minority is promoted or hired or admitted or given another form of special treatment over white Anglo Saxon males even though they do not merit such special treatment (ie, there are white Anglo Saxon males who are more deserving due to superior skills or achievement), those who have racist or discriminatory beliefs will witness added confirmation of their beliefs. Others who were not discriminatory in the past may now feel that those who have discriminated against minorities previously may have been right in doing so.

The unfairly rewarded minority individual, for example, is likely to show their incompetence when they are promoted in a job, and this confirms to those who are at least borderline racist or discriminatory that such a minority is indeed inferior due to their gender or skin color or ethnicity.

For many bleeding hearts, two wrongs make a right. That is, the wrong of discrimination can be made right by using the wrong of unfairness against white Anglo Saxon males. And in the same vein, for many bleeding hearts, the ends justify the means. In this case, even if we unfairly treat white Anglo Saxon males, such a wrong is justified because doing so has produced equal outcomes for the victimized minority group. Besides, many bleeding hearts insist on the “justice” of “reparations” that must be suffered by white Anglo Saxon males to punish them and exact compensation for historic discrimination they engaged in.

Fairness is Unfair

In essence, for the bleeding heart, fairness must be sacrificed to ensure equal outcomes or equal societal rewards. It is not enough to provide equal opportunity. If there are unequal outcomes, it is by definition due to discrimination.

Besides, it is only “fair” to be unfair towards white males as compensation (or “reparations”) for past (and endless future) discrimination by white males.

Inevitably, this state of affairs leads to the utterly unfair acceptance of double standards. In many instances, it is perfectly acceptable, for example, for society or “victim” groups to discriminate when it comes to hiring, admissions, use of “derogatory” language, or sexual harassment.

As long as it is directed against white, Anglo-Saxon males.

A parting thought: For the record, even though atheists have suffered from horrible, cruel, open discrimination for several centuries throughout the world, I, as an atheist, am not in favor of offering special treatment to atheists in terms of hiring, promotion, political elections, admissions, or speech codes.


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