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On Words: Why Schadenfreude…?

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“I am convinced that we have a degree of delight, and that no small one, in the real misfortunes and pain of others” Edmund Burke

On Words: Why Schadenfreude...? The mask you disdain might soon be your own...

Schadenfreude is pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others.
Why do some people take delight in rejoicing over the misfortunes of others? What makes some of us think that when we chuckle at some tragic event that has ruined others lives, we are relieved of our own misery? I am often astonished when a bad event occurs, and I turn to a news report online… Usually, there are sympathetic comments and then extremely nasty ones by people hiding behind pseudonyms and fake handles. It happens to everyday people but particularly to people in the public eye. We see it happen, quite profoundly, where celebrities are concerned; one minute, they are on a pedestal, the next they are kicked in the head while crouched on the floor. It makes no sense to me at all.

“To wipe all tears from off all faces is a task too hard for mortals; but to alleviate misfortunes is often within the most limited power: yet the opportunities which every day affords of relieving the most wretched of human beings are overlooked…” Samuel Johnson

What is the human trigger that finds satisfaction in schadenfreude and what do we gain from it? Sure, some might suggest it is a fitting comeuppance for some snotty, self-absorbed stiff or even a way to even the playing field in the game of life. But, is it really? I mean, if we haven’t created a fulfilling life of our own where we can be joyful for the successes of others and sympathetic when they fail, what would celebrating the downfall of others do for us? NADA!

“Reflect upon your present blessings of which every man has many – not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some” Charles Dickens

On Words: Why Schadenfreude...? The orb of fortune is a precarious balance...

When Amy Winehouse died and even when Britney had her troubles, people lined up to cast aspersions and heap negativity on their heads. Even the recent and sad resignation of the brilliant Steve Jobs, as CEO of Apple,  might titillate some of the wicked who can’t applaud the creative genius he remains even as he battles ill-health. Why don’t we see that we are all diminished when we throw compassion out the window because jealously has taken hold of a heart? I don’t get it… What do you think? More below…

“We exaggerate misfortune and happiness alike. We are never as bad off or as happy as we say we are.” Honore de Balzac

On Words: Why Schadenfreude...? Sooner or later? One for all?

Kiana’s wedding day was fast approaching. Nothing could dampen her
excitement – not even her parent’s nasty divorce.
Her mother had found the PERFECT dress to wear, and would be the
best-dressed mother-of-the-bride ever!
A week later, Kiana was horrified to learn that her father’s new,
young wife had bought the exact same dress as her mother! Kiana asked her
father’s new young wife to exchange it, but she refused.
“Absolutely not! I look like a million bucks in this dress, and I’m wearing it,” she replied.
Kiana told her mother who graciously said, “Never mind sweetheart.
I’ll get another dress. After all, it’s your special day.”
A few days later, they went shopping, and did find another gorgeous
dress for her mother. When they stopped for lunch, Kiana asked her mother,
“Aren’t you going to return the other dress? You really don’t have
another occasion where you could wear it.”
Her mother just smiled and replied, “Of course I do, dear…..I’m
wearing it to the rehearsal dinner the night BEFORE the wedding.”

Sure, karma is a bitch, but must we sit around waiting for her to visit her wrath on the heads of our “enemies”? What a waste of precious time. Live life already! What is the moral of the story above? Do we say touche or why bother? You decide… What are your thoughts? What do you think about the subject of schadenfreude? I say replace it with a new word; Smilinfaith! Is there ever a time to rejoice over misfortune? Do share! Thank you. 😉

This post was inspired by a prompt from WP Daily Post: Make up a word and its definition.

Positive Motivation Tip: The misfortune we wish on others can boomerang back to us…Wish all well.

PHOTO CREDITS/ATTRIBUTIONS: All Photos MisfortuneAllegory of Fortune, via Wikipedia. Misfortune Cookie via Flickr

Until Next Time…
Ask. Believe. Receive. ©
Elizabeth Obih-Frank
Mirth and Motivation
Positive Kismet

40 Comments leave one →
  1. 26/08/2011 12:24 am

    Yes, when someone was deliberately mean and they get their comeuppance, I smile.
    I love the story of the mom — sounds like something my grandmother would have done. She was like that.
    Most times, I let things go. To get back at someone is to prolong the dance you have to do with them — sometimes we need to move on to other experiences. Not that we should overlook, mind you.

    • 26/08/2011 12:34 am

      Sure, we all go there sometimes, but it becomes a new level of evil when people go overboard with vitriol and cruel words in writing.
      That is self-poisoning in my opinion… I truly believe that a loving person will refrain after their initial gloat…
      If nothing else, but for the fear of that maxim… what goes around.
      TY! 😉

  2. 26/08/2011 12:25 am

    Schadenfreude (a German word) mostly a sign for a bad character. Maybe allowed vs. Gaddhafi, Libyen.

    • 26/08/2011 12:30 am

      Yes, definitely for bad character but I won’t point at who deserves it or not… What will it serve? Prolong the evil and bitterness, no? TY Frizztext!

      • 26/08/2011 1:01 am

        my example for Schadenfreude (with photo):
        it’s only a car – not a head …

      • 26/08/2011 1:22 am

        Okay, I will check it out. Must be quite interesting Frizztext! TY! 😉

  3. 26/08/2011 4:51 am

    I don’t understand people who rejoice in the misery of others.

    I love Kiana’s Mum. Do you mind if I use this story for my blog jokes?

    • 26/08/2011 5:37 am

      TY Tilly! I don’t get it either… or even those who point out reasons why another deserves to suffer. Urgh!
      You are welcome to use the story on your blog… It was sent to me via email and I’m happy to share it. 🙂

    • 30/08/2011 2:07 am

      No problema… enjoy it! 😉

  4. 26/08/2011 7:54 am

    I never rejoice in the misery of others, but sometimes I can see that perhaps karma paid a call.

  5. 26/08/2011 11:51 am

    Like you, I say let Karma do her thing; that is my position too… It is not my place to decide who deserves terror… Who am I to judge another? Why do some delight in it as if they are without sin? … TY! 🙂

  6. 26/08/2011 12:23 pm

    Do unto others as you would want others do unto you. What ever goes around, comes around. I believe in Karma-its totally what you put out-you receive- and if its bad Karma you put out-then you will receive bad karma back. Don’t judge least thee be judged- When pointing to someone, we have three fingers pointing back to self. No one is without sin, but we are each reponsible for our own acts. “Who can cast the first stone”? !! Great Post ElizOF

    • 30/08/2011 2:09 am

      TY Penny and I’ve always remembered the fingers pointing back at us… It is a huge reminder that we can’t cast aspersions so carelessly. I agree with you. TY! 🙂

  7. 26/08/2011 12:58 pm

    It is a fact that some people are cheered by the misfortunes of others, but it is not a soothing one. Others take a different but more cheering view of others circumstances.However the world would not be so complex if everyone was nice: sadly not everyone is’nt

    • 30/08/2011 2:11 am

      Sad but true…It is a complex world with people of all leanings and that is what keeps it interesting and, I suppose, gives us material to blog about. TY for your feedback Peter. 🙂

  8. 26/08/2011 4:33 pm

    There’s definitely a time to rejoice at misfortune–or, rather, at understanding what you once perceived as misfortune (say, a positive pregnancy test) is in fact itself something to rejoice, after a little delay to wrap your arms around it! :p

    That’s about the only time I can think of, and I confess it does require a little bit of gymnastics to get there.

    • 30/08/2011 2:12 am

      Yeah, I hear you on that one… the unexpected pregnancy…. Very interesting point there Deborah! TY! 🙂

  9. 26/08/2011 6:18 pm

    Since I am never jealous of another’s success, I rarely delight in their misfortune or “fall from grace.” But neither do I mourn their fall.

    When Osama bin Laden was killed, I didn’t rejoice. Nor did I mourn his death. I just said, “Good, one less terrorist in the world,” and went on about my business.

    When Tiger Woods got caught with his pants down, I didn’t understand why everyone wanted to jump into attack mode. Same with Governor Arnold. Perhaps people build up heros in their minds and resent being reminded that none of us here on Earth makes all the right choices.

    When do I delight in others “misfortune”?

    * When someone is abusing an animal and the animal fights back, I cheer for the animal.

    * When someone has abused a child and gets caught, I cheer.

    I would love it if we had a bit more Instant Karma in the world ~ if a rapist in the middle of the act could not proceed due to a malfunction of his member, that would delight me to no end.

    • 26/08/2011 6:22 pm

      Instant Karma would be a good thing, I agree!

    • 30/08/2011 2:15 am

      I hear you Nancy and all do get their just desserts at some point. I just don’t get into the gloat of it… and it is the fear of God and the recognition that we all suffer that keeps me mum.
      Instant karma would be great; and that way all will know that the consequences for wicked actions will be swift…. They do come but often slowly or indirectly. TY for your feedback! 😉

  10. 26/08/2011 6:27 pm

    One word springs to mind… Insecurity!! I think people are 1. so relieved it didn’t happen to them or 2. so happy to know that even (ie) celebrities have problems and make mistakes. I think it makes us feel better about ourselves… quite sad, really!

    • 30/08/2011 2:17 am

      It makes us feel better and maybe some feel superior when they gloat… but it is not a good thing or habit to learn… quite sad, yes. TY for the comment 🙂

  11. 26/08/2011 9:14 pm

    I love that story about the mother’s dress. I’ve heard it before and I think it is great.

    • 30/08/2011 2:17 am

      I liked it too and had to share it… What a funny one that… TY! 🙂

  12. 26/08/2011 11:23 pm

    My new idol is Kiana’s mom. She rocks!!! 🙂 That’s being smart! hahaha

    • 30/08/2011 2:18 am

      You are funny! you can adopt her style and do same when the time comes in your life to marry off a child… 😆 TY!

  13. 27/08/2011 3:18 am

    In Australia, we call it “knocking down the tall poppies”.

    • 30/08/2011 2:20 am

      TY Hakea! I love that description… Yeah, cutting them down to size, eh? People say that and yet it makes me wonder why it matters to them to knock anyone off anything…. 😆

  14. 27/08/2011 3:39 pm

    This post made me think of the “funniest homevideos” programs on tv. I really don’t get why these things are funny to anyone, it’s just cruel to laugh about other peoples’ pains!

    • 30/08/2011 2:21 am

      Now that is so true… I’ve watched some and winced and then there is all the humor around the pain… I find it all so odd, really! TY for the reminder. 🙂

  15. 28/08/2011 6:04 pm

    I am not familiar with the term shadenfreude but I am familiar with the description of it. I agree that there are too many people who take pleasure in others pain. It is fairly sadistic.

    • 30/08/2011 2:23 am

      It is quite sadistic especially on the internet where people can be anonymous and say very mean things about others pain…. It makes no sense to me as they seem to forget that they are human too and still have to live out their own karma. TY! 🙂

  16. 29/08/2011 1:30 am

    Love the story about the dress!
    It is sad how people laugh in the face of others misery….while you are busy laughing, it’s best to remember that one day you,too, will be facing some sort of misery and then how would you feel if another was laughing at you? 🙁

    • 30/08/2011 2:25 am

      I agree with you and that is why I don’t like to do that… It goes around and comes around… TY for your feedback Sharon . 🙂

  17. 29/08/2011 3:20 pm

    Why don’t we see that we are all diminished when we throw compassion out the window because jealously has taken hold of a heart?

    Excellent question! I’ve never understood why people delight in the misfortune of others, especially knowing that it could well be your own. I really like the story about the dress. And your new word. 🙂

    • 30/08/2011 2:27 am

      TY for your comment Robin. I thought about it and it just seemed silly to be gloating when we haven’t accounted for our own stuff… and we can still fall prey to misery…. I’m glad you liked the question and post… yeah, that dress story is funny! TY! 🙂

  18. 01/09/2011 4:51 pm

    Holding a grudge is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.

    James –


  2. Word of the Week Wednesday: schadenfreude « On Language

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