Schadenfreude

A number of months back, I was awoken in the morning by the ringing and repeating of a word in my inner ear.

by Roger Hargreaves (source)

I got out of bed, opened my computer, and tried to spell out the word that had woken me up. Google made a slight correction to my spelling and offered up a possibility: schadenfreude.

That was it.

Though it may be common to many, I didn’t remember knowing it. Maybe the word was resurfacing from my years of German classes, maybe I heard it or read it somewhere and forgot, maybe God speaks to us.

However it came to find its way into my head, I knew why.

Around the time that I heard this word, I was thinking a lot about the shadow side of our public conversations and debates.

As social media becomes increasingly ubiquitous and any opinion can find a platform, it’s paramount that falsehood is pointed out and the truth is defended and promoted. It’s even more important when it comes to critiquing positions that harm and belittle others.

However, when it comes to our public conversations and debates, I get the feeling that there’s more going on in our hearts than simply the desire to defend the marginalized or to promote the truth.

What is it? It’s schadenfreude.

Often, it’s not the truth we want, it’s just for someone to pay. It’s for us to be right and the world to know that someone else is wrong. It’s for the other side to feel the humiliation that, for some reason, we’ve found them deserving of. If we are so fortunate as to see them get what they deserve, we feel pleasure. That’s schadenfreude.

Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.

Schadenfreude is the smoke coming from the fire that is burning our society down from within.

Look, it’s good to speak up for those who don’t have a voice. It’s good to call a spade a spade. It’s good to get the truth out there.

But, schadenfreude will ruin us.

Why? Because schadenfreude is not, and can never come from, love. And where love breaks down, life breaks down.

Every anxious bone in our body wants to make sure to not excuse the actions of a proud politician or a bad boss, but that’s not what the lack of schadenfreude is.

The lack of schadenfreude is the difficult, often untried, marriage of truth and love.

Many of us might not have the patience to live in the tension of this marriage.

We might still feel like our schadenfreude is justified, but it won’t matter once we’ve burned ourselves to the ground.

We don’t want to acknowledge the fire — so, we don’t talk about our schadenfreude.

Schadenfreude. We pretend we don’t know what it means.

Smother it and find the powerful, world-changing nuance that exists in the marriage of truth and love.


Schadenfreude is the “enjoyment obtained from the troubles of others”. (Source)


Hi, I’m Michael and this is my daily project where I write about diverse ideas.

This is Dose #126.

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