Pokémon's protagonist, Ash Ketchum, is mostly a good boy, but he's done some things that are more than a little terrible over the years. In fact, there have been occasions where Ash has acted like a complete jerk. Granted, these proved to be learning experiences that would help him grow as a person, but that doesn't change the fact that these actions were meanspirited and had consequences.
Whether he was mean, negligent, callous or naive, the following are five examples early in Ash's career that were the most explicit instances of his cruelty.
Ash Allowed Metapod To Get Captured (Then Blamed Someone Else)
One of the first terrible things Ash did in the early years of Pokémon is allowing Metapod to get captured by Beedrill in the fourth episode of the anime, "Challenge of the Samurai." Ash and a bug trainer samurai battle, resulting in two Metapod hardening as much as possible. Suddenly, a swarm of Beedrill comes and steals Ash's Metapod, placing him in their nest.
While Ash does rescue him, Metapod was only put in danger because Ash was irresponsible with his Pokémon. Naturally, however, when Ash saves Metapod, he blames the other kid for failing to protect Metapod. Metapod doesn't buy it, only regaining trust in Ash when he admits fault. Thankfully for Ash, this episode culminates in Metapod evolving into Butterfree.
Ash & AJ Disagree Over Training Methods
In the eighth episode of the Pokémon anime, "The Path to the Pokémon League," Ash meets AJ, an unofficial gym leader who engages in some pretty intense methods to train his Pokémon, especially Sandshrew. Ash sees these methods as borderline abusive, so he takes matters into his own hands to "save" AJ's Pokémon from him. While his friends try to understand AJ's methods and learn from his successful training, Ash just shoves AJ into a pool and attempts to "free" his Pokémon.
Ash's lesson here is that he learns that other trainers have different techniques and, so long as they love and care for their Pokémon, that's what matters. However, that doesn't change the fact Ash tried to ruin AJ's unofficial gym.
Ash Crossdresses to Invade a Women's Only Space
In the Pokémon anime, there are far more than eight gym leaders, meaning that Ash doesn't need to beat Erika to get into the Pokémon League, as you need to do in the original games. So, this makes Erika's policy of only letting women in more understandable. Ash, however, demands to get in, which leads him to the famous "masters" of disguise, Team Rocket.
In the 26th episode of Pokémon, Ash crossdresses to invade a women's only space to fight Erika. While this isn't an act of evil or cruelty, it shows callousness and invasiveness that is inappropriate. While Ash does prove his worth to Erika, he's ultimately breaking and entering.
Ash Can't Handle Defeat in the Indigo League
Ash's journey through the first season of Pokémon leads him to face off with Richie, a rival with similar skills as him. In the 79th and 80th episodes of the anime, Ash fights Richie, loses and then watches Richie lose himself. Ash is naturally devastated that his journey led to failure. Still, the way he deals with it is ultimately less than stellar, especially compared to how his rival Gary and Richie handle it.
Gary and Richie are each upset but can process their feelings. On the other hand, Ash wallows in self-pity and resentment until circumstances force him to work together with Richie. While Richie remains mostly unaware of Ash's smoldering resentment, Ash feels incredible guilt for essentially blaming Richie for ruining his dream.
Ash Yells at Bayleef
Ash is far from a flawless person, but he improved as a character after his defeat at the Indigo League. That improvement did not mean, however, he became perfect. In the 200th episode of the Pokémon anime, "Turning Over a New Bayleef," Bayleef, now evolved from Chikorita, doesn't realize her new size and ends up tackling Ash affectionately.
Ash yells at her, deeply hurting Bayleef's feelings. Throughout the episode, Ash constantly scolds Bayleef, leading her to run off on her own. Without even realizing it, Ash's treatment of Bayleef ultimately ends up seriously hurting her feelings. Thankfully, he eventually finds her, and the two make amends, but every bad thing that happens to Bayleef in this episode is, essentially, Ash's fault.