Taking Pleasure at the Misfortune of Others

By Anthony Gold

Have you ever wished or imagined misfortune visiting someone who offended or upset you in some way? Or perhaps felt some sense of satisfaction or even joy over their adversity?

The word is Schadenfreude – a German term for the pleasure derived from the misfortune of others.

While the philosopher Schopenhauer called this diabolic (“to feel envy is human, to savor schadenfreude is diabolic”), it is far more common than we may think. Especially if the other person / group has something we desire.

And the reason for such “sadistic” pleasure is that we feel better about ourselves. Self-interest is a very powerful motive indeed. There is a perverse sense of gain in another’s loss – or at the very least, a balancing in our personal scale of fairness.

Perhaps not surprisingly, research indicates that we are most likely to feel schadenfreude when we are down. In other words, the lower our self-esteem, the more satisfaction we derive from another’s pain.

Sounds awful, doesn’t it? As the old adage laments, “misery loves company”.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

The key is in recognizing there is no difference between the other person and us.

Your brother is your friend because his Father created him like you. There is no difference. (T-24.I.7)

Sure, the body’s eyes might perceive physical differences, but the divinity within everyone – excluding no one – is shared across all of us. The oneness of spirit unites everything, seeing no differences.

The ego separates through the body. Spirit reaches through it to others … see[ing] them all the same and like yourself. (T-8.VII.2; T-15.V.8)

When we are joined with the ego mind as our teacher, we relish the thought of our rival’s failure. And anyone who threatens our peace is readily accepted into the role of rival.

Your brother is your “enemy” because you see in him the rival for your peace; a plunderer who takes his joy from you, and leaves you nothing but a black despair. (W-pI.195.3)

Conversely, from the spirit mind, we not only see no differences amongst everyone, but we realize that our brother is our savior.

Before your brother’s holiness the world is still, and peace descends on it in gentleness and blessing so complete that not one trace of conflict still remains to haunt you in the darkness of the night. He is your savior. (T-24.VI.1)

Thus every situation becomes an opportunity to join with a brother – not to exalt him nor revel in his loss – but as an occasion to truly find ourselves.

When you meet anyone, remember it is a holy encounter. As you see him you will see yourself. As you treat him you will treat yourself. As you think of him you will think of yourself. Never forget this, for in him you will find yourself or lose yourself. (T-8.III.4)

Join us in Monday’s class where we’ll explore the nature of schadenfreude and how we can avoid such diabolic thinking. I look forward to seeing you then.

One thought on “Taking Pleasure at the Misfortune of Others

  1. In my study I have been gaining more and more comfort with the message of Atonement and Revelation. Each day understanding more about the illusion, and the breath of the Holy Spirit through me….. then as I started to think OK, this is all good, I GOT this… I learn that I have to gain the Atonement by giving to my brothers….UGH. back to asking the Holy Spirit to help me change my perception….LOL.

    Sometimes when I think about another’s misgiving to make myself feel justified, I stop and pray that they receive just the opposite. The positive, just to push the ego out of the way. Francine.

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